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.

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