My favorite part about academics at DIS is how deep your Core Course dives into a relatively narrow focus area, whether it’s my course on Sustainable Food or anything from Prostitution and the Sex Trade in Europe to Cognitive Neuroscience of Creativity. This is especially true during Core Course Week, which consists of a three day short study tour somewhere in Denmark or a neighboring country and two days of workshops in Copenhagen. It sounds like a lot to do for just one course, but it’s kept interesting through a mix of learning experiences…and great food. In this post, I’ll walk through my Core Course week in photos – at least the trips we took where I was permitted to take pictures (looking at you Danish Crown).
Days 1 & 2 – Copenhagen
The morning session consisted of a quick lecture on scenario planning, a planning method which pushes you to consider alternative future realities, evaluate their potential consequences, and then think how to best prepare for these scenarios. We then broke off into groups and worked through detailed scenario plans of the future of food by brainstorming how certain structural uncertainties could pan out in the coming decades. I had never heard of this planning method before, so it was a great way to get a quick overview of it and then dive into using it from start to finish.
We spent the afternoon out in the city doing some field work focused on comparing prices of items at a traditional supermarket to those at a local market that could be considered a solution to some common food problem – food waste in our case. Our group was assigned to check out Wefood, a shop with three locations across Denmark that “sells goods that supermarkets, suppliers, wholesalers and manufacturers are not interested in because they are either produced in excessive quantities, are close to expiration date or the packaging is broken.” Food waste is such a frustrating, upsetting topic, and touted solutions to the problem are often aimed at tweaking individual behaviors. It was refreshing to see an approach which considered various stakeholders and addressed a wide variety of ills.
We started Tuesday with a few other DIS courses and watched Wasted! The Story of Food Waste at a local theater. I’m a big fan of food documentaries and have no idea how I hadn’t seen this one before! It was fantastic and featured a lot of big names in the food world (Dan Barber, Massimo Bottura, and Anthony Bourdain to name a few) to get their perspectives on food waste. I’d absolutely recommend it to anyone as it’s incredibly informative and highlights some solutions currently in place to get the most out of food.
In the afternoon, we learned about how aquaponic agriculture operates and how it could be a welcomes, sustainable solution to food production from Dr. Paul Kledal of the Institute of Global Food & Farming. Then, we worked with Legos in a session facilitated by DIS’s Learning Technology Manager – one of the coolest titles I’ve ever heard. We were challenged to build models of food related issues individually and then share our representations within groups. We were all skeptical of this activity at first, but it turned out to be really fun and thought provoking.
We had a few hours off before meeting at H15 for dinner, the first of many incredible shared meals throughout the week. All of the dishes were vegan, and my favorite had to be the endive salad with the best cashew based cheese I’ve ever had. The best part of all these shared meals wasn’t just the food, but getting to know almost everyone in my class through candid conversations about our activities that day.
Wednesday – Day off!
I didn’t do much beyond prepping for the travel portion of the week. The highlight of the day was definitely the chocolate gelato I had at Is à Bella in Torvehallerne.
Day 3 – “This Kombucha tastes like the earth”
This was by far my favorite day of the Core Course Week!
We started the day at Svanholm Gods – an organic farming commune that operates under a consensus democracy and shared economy. We toured the grounds and got to hang out with the dairy cows during lunch time.
Next up was Muld, a self-sufficient organic farm and restaurant for a quick tour and an unmatched lunch. This was one of the best meals I’ve ever had, which is impressive given we’re in the dead of winter and they grow everything they serve.
The fantastic lunch at Muld got us as ready as we could be to forage on the cold and rainy coast around Dragsholm Slot. I’ve always wanted to forage, but have been hesitant to since you can get quite sick if you eat the wrong things. Thankfully, our guide (featured in this CNN piece) led us to the good stuff.
We spent the night at Jyderup Højskole, one of the many Danish Folk High Schools, an education metod unique to the country. We talked to students in the “Green Guerilla” program about environmental policy discrepancies between Denmark and the U.S.
Day 4 – “Look how happy the pigs are to come to the slaughterhouse!”
There is no worse way to start your day than a tour of Europe’s largest pig slaughterhouse, Danish Crown. While I believe it was a very important experience to have, especially for those who don’t make the true connection between a hot dog coming from a sentient being, it was emotionally draining. We saw the whole slaughter process from start to finish, but after steps one through three, I was as numbed as could be from the smells and sounds of the place.
The first few steps consisted of the live pigs being ushered in, put into crowded pens to “relax” for a couple hours, because a stressed pig apparently makes for bad meat, and then the gassing of the pigs to sedate them. Then they’re “stuck” in the carotid artery to remove their blood – the actual cause of death. I grabbed one of the postcards they had laying around and the slogan communicates the vibe I picked up pretty well – “It’s all about food.”
If you want to know more about my experience at Danish Crown, please reach out. I don’t really have anything positive to say and would rather not air my grievances for paragraphs on end.
Next, we visited Troldgaarden to get a feel for the organic, free range approach to pig slaughter. Again, this was a strange experience, because although I found some much needed peace in petting the pigs, their fate was no different than the ones we had just seen at Danish Crown.
It had been over 24 hours since a top notch meal out, so naturally it was time for a group dinner at Frederiksgade 42 in Denmark’s second largest city – Aarhus.
A bunch of us went bar hopping afterwards (would recommend Fa!rbar), and I ended the night with my first late night snack in Denmark. That falafel has a special place in my heart, although it could become an issue now that I know I can get one on nearly every corner. A shout out to my friend for ordering in Danish at 2 AM and making me look like the only American in the place.
Day 5 – My first Smørrebrød
The morning was open to do whatever we pleased, but most of us went to the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, probably because DIS paid for admission and college students have a predilection for free things.
We reconvened for lunch at Langhoff & Juul, and I finally got to try Denmark’s beloved national lunch of Smørrebrød. It’s basically an open faced sandwich on a dark rye bread.
To wrap up Core Course Week, we visited Ørnberg Vineyard following a ferry ride from Aarhus. I’m not usually a fan of white wine, but the two kinds we sampled here were quite good.
On our closing bus ride back to Copenhagen, everyone shared with the class an exclamation point (something shocking), a question mark (something that piqued your curiosity), and a heart (somewhere you left your heart)
For me, it was:
!: Danish Crown slaughterhouse
?: What inspired the chefs that cooked our incredible, often inventive meals?
❤: Svanholm Gods
I’ll be back tomorrow with Meatless Monday #2!