Skjemat | means food eaten with a spoon in Norwegian | Norway

Skjemat is a Norwegian noun that means food eaten with a spoon - often before or after the main course at dinner. It could be porridge, soup, dessert, and more.
LA Dahlmann | talk NORWAY
A Norwegian nisse is ready for his Christmas porridge - skjemat - in the barn. Hopefully, he is willing to share. | Artwork: G.L.A.S. cc pdm.
A Norwegian nisse is ready for his Christmas porridge - skjemat - in the barn. Hopefully, he is willing to share. | Artwork: G.L.A.S. cc pdm.

Pronunciation

Skjemat

The grammar

A compound word made up of: skje + mat | noun | masculine | the indefinite form: en skjemat (a skjemat) | the definite form: skjematen (the skjemat).

What does the word mean?

Skje: means spoon.
Mat: means food.
Skjemat: means food eaten with a spoon. The word skeimat is a dialect variation of the word.

Kjell Sandaker (1926-2013) – who grew up on the Sandaker farm in Råde, Østfold, Norway – used the word skjemat. He pronounced it using a Norwegian «i»-sound, as indicated in the sound-file above.

Similar or related words

Suppe: soup.
Grøt: porridge.
Velling: gruel, a soup made of cereal or flour cooked in milk or water.
Etterrett: dessert or other food eaten after the main course, literally after-dish.
Kompott: compote, a sweet, cold dish made of fruit that has been cooked slowly with sugar.
Småmat: food cut into small pieces, literally tiny-food.

More on the historical context

The farmer’s wife’s responsibilities

One of the most important responsibilities of the historical farmer’s wife was to make sure that her flock got sufficient and nourishing food – all year round. During spring, summer, and autumn, the family worked hard to fill the farm’s storehouse, the stabbur, with as much food as the farm and its surroundings could provide.

Saving on the meat and the fish

Our foremothers put a lot of effort into composing every meal – making sure that they spent all available resources in the best possible way. Today, most of us do not think about the fact that having more than one course during a meal has a specific purpose. By serving a filling porridge or soup – skjemat – before the main course, the cook can save on the more precious main-course-foods, such as meat or fish. To take this even further, she also often serves skjemat as an after-dish.

The potato

We often think of the potato as the perfect stomach-filler. But this versatile vegetable did not become part of the Norwegian diet until well into the 1800s. It has since gained a significant place in the culinary consciousness of the Norwegians – and has to some extent taken over one of the roles of the old skjemat: to fill our bellies to save on other foods.

Examples from books and stories

Sigrid Holm Skaarer Smaalensmat: glimt av gamle mattradisjoner fra Østfold 1997
Det var alltid skjemat til middag for å drøye hovedretten. Det var vanlig med melkevelling eller suppe.
There was always skjemat as part of our dinner, to save on the main course. It was common to eat a milk-based gruel or soup.

Troels Troels-Lund Daglig liv i Norden i det sekstende århundre II 1940
Og ifølge gammel skikk skulde en spise grøt til slutt, mens grøten efter nyere opfatning var skjemat som var forrett.
According to old custom, one would eat porridge after the main course, but the more recent opinion is that the skjemat should be eaten before the meal.

Sources: Nasjonalbiblioteket nb.no | Einar Haugen’s Norwegian-English dictionary | Det Norske Akademis ordbok | Bokmålsordboka and Nynorskordboka.

Our most recent posts

My Norwegian heritage

Magne Løvstuen and his family adopted this moose calf after saving it from drowning in Lake Mjøsa.
It is said that all people are equal in Heaven. But the historical churchyard shows us that no such equality applied here on Earth.
For many, it may come as a surprise that the history of rose painting and its place in Norwegian folk art is not as old as one might think.
The land that we call Norway was once covered by a massive sheet of ice. In places, the glaciers were as much as 3,000 metres thick.
Lystring is a Norwegian verb that means catching fish or other water creatures in the dark, using a fire torch to attract the fish and a multi-pronged spear.
Skigard is a Norwegian noun that means wooden fence. It is made of split tree trunks, using simple tools. Fence making and mending was a task for early summer.
Once upon a time in the distant past, imagine yourself sitting in a small boat, facing this mighty gateway into the bowels of the land.
Skodje sogelag and Louis Giske wrote the history of the two Sortehaug farms and its inhabitants back in 1986.
Queen Maud of Norway was born in London in 1869, as Princess Maud of Wales. Her grandmother was none other than the formidable Queen Victoria.
Do you know the name of Norway’s capital city? Test yourself, friends, and family in this 10 multiple-choice questions quiz vol. 1. See the correct answer below each photo.
As far as palaces go, the main royal residence in Oslo is a modestly sized building. Here we see it from an unusual angle, painted by the architect himself.
The old Norwegian farming society was a self-sufficient and balanced world. Coins and notes were all but an alien concept.
In the old Norwegian farming society, a husmann was a man who was allowed to build his home on a small section of a farm’s land, and pay with his labour instead of rent.
The first Norwegian Buhund breed-standard came in 1926, based on a dog that had evolved, lived, and worked with the Norwegians since time immemorial.
As a first such an event in modern times: the Norwegian counties Sør-Trøndelag and Nord-Trøndelag have now merged.
In 1942, Hans Hyldbakk wrote the history of the local cotter's holdings in Surnadal, Nordmøre, Norway. The book was updated in 1966.
Kløvhest is a Norwegian noun that means packhorse. Well into our own time, the Norwegians used horses to help transport goods through a challenging landscape.
Klippfisk - or klipfish - is fish preserved through salting and drying. Since the early 1700s, the Norwegians have been large-scale klippfisk producers and exporters.
A photo is a snapshot of history - and a story and a history lesson in itself.
The Heddal stave church - stavkirke - is Norway's largest remaining building of its kind. It is a woodwork masterpiece, with a history that stretches back more than 800 years.
In 1935, Aslaug Engnæs published a guidance book on how to milk the cow.

Follow us on social media

Norwegian history