The Sami are the indigenous people of the Nordic countries, dispersed into Norway, Sweden, Finland in addition to the Kola peninsula of Russia. In Norway they make up 40,000 of 5,2 million people. Many of them live above the Arctic Circle.
Traditionally they were reindeer herders calling themselves boazovázzi, meaning “reindeer walker”, herding their reindeer on foot or on wooden planks from the tundra pasture to the summer pasture at sea. Nowadays though, the Sami do their herding driving an ATV or a snowmobile, common vehicles in the countryside in many parts of North of Norway, my homeplace included. Today only a minority, a mere 3000, of the Sami are reindeer herders.
Today the Sami of Norway have their own semi-autonomous parliament situated in Karasjok, but their history is the same as natives all over the world, of injustice and hardship. In Norway their traditional singing, joik, was forbidden and Sami children were taken from their parents to boarding schools in order to make them Norwegian. Hence their language and culture suffered.
The reindeer is their livelihood and staple food, but also fish and berries, particularly lingonberries and cloudberries, contribute to their diet. The Sami live by a nose to tail diet where the heart, blood, brain, fat, bones, even the hoofs, are utilized as food. Of the blood the Sami make blood sausages in reindeer intestines, blood pancakes and blodkams, a sort of dumpling. Whereas the blood sausages are served as side order with the meat, the blood pancakes are topped with sugar or cloudberry jam for dessert.
Drying is probably the oldest method of conservation. Only food low in fat is suitable and reindeer meat is perfect due to its fat content of two percent. Dried reindeer meat, similar to beef jerky, is above all handy in a wayfaring culture. Filled with energy and with long durability it is the perfect companion for a nomad, as dried cod was for the Vikings and other seafarers.
Today dried reindeer is little eaten outside the Sami culture, but in the midst of the shiny barcode buildings in Oslo, the restaurant Maaemo, has a signature dish that speaks both to old Norwegian food culture and the Sami culture: Sour cream porridge topped with dried reindeer meat.
Reindeer meat is healthier than red meat and high in omega 3 and vitamin B12. Their diet is a far-cry from the soya based concentrates industrialized food production from cattle to salmon rely on. The herds travel a long distance living on heather, herbs and berries in the summer and in the winter, lichen hidden beneath the snow.
Bidos is a stew the Sami serve at weddings or other special occasions. It consists of slow cooked reindeer meat, including the heart, potatoes and carrots. No seasoning is used, yet the stew has a rich taste reflecting the pasture of the reindeer.
2 tbsp flour
400 g reindeer meat
1 tbsp mustard (optional)
0,5 l water
6 shallot onions
salt and pepper
1. Season the meat and mix with the flour in a bowl.
2. Melt the butter in a wide pan. Fry the meat until turned grey.
3. Add the mustard and water and bring to boil.
4. Peel the vegetables and slice in cubes. Add to the pan and boil for about 45 minutes until the meat is tender.