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Author profile: Trina Hahnemann

Author profile: Trina Hahnemann
Trina Hahnemann, Danish author of The Nordic Diet talks to Zoe Perrett about Rye bread, The Rolling Stones and The Royal Cafe
Despite a self-confessed weakness for pecan pie, Trina Hahnemann diligently avoids the luscious, 3-inch deep version on the counter at Jaks cafe, opting instead for a hearty full English breakfast.
'I missed dinner last night', she says, tucking in with gusto and proving that diets don't have to be about self-denial. It's an ethos well-reflected in 'The Nordic Diet', Trina's second English-language book, and seventh overall. She tells me that spreading the word about the Nordic lifestyle is a real passion. It's always been the same message, but now the audience is much wider.'
It's no small wonder. The book enthusiastically champions fresh air, exercise and delicious seasonal food, wherever one happens to be in the world. Trina is excited by food from all corners of the globe, citing one of her earliest foodie memories as buying canned aubergines from the Middle Eastern shops for her beloved ratatouille, and being entranced by the sights and smells.
Growing up in a hippy commune in 1970s Denmark, Trina soon got to grips with all sorts of produce, beginning her cooking career with, 'all these hideous cakes that I made up myself and never really worked! But everyone said, 'it's fine, try again'!' The baking duly improved and, working as a chef to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden and the Rolling Stones she would often make Danish layer cakes for birthdays. She also hopes that, with her deliciously healthy menus, she made an impact.
Constantly surrounded by food, Trina’s convinced she’ll wake up one day and think ‘okay, now I've had it- enough! But it hasn’t happened yet. Her current favourite ingredient is kale, but it changes constantly, and she's joyful about the abundance available to us. 'Of course a bit of control is needed, but we should celebrate that all this food is available to us. 100 years ago we didn't have that access.' When I ask her which recipes are good to cook in the UK at the moment, she suggests 'the chicken with new season rhubarb' and, as perfect hangover (or jet-lag) food, the wonderfully named 'biksemad' (vegetable hash).
With all her travelling, Trina is a seasoned expert. I ask how on earth she maintains a healthy lifestyle on the go, and her advice is utterly pragmatic. 'There are lots of things I just avoid- like sugar, although if I go to a restaurant I'll have a nice pudding because I really like them. I always carry dried fruits and nuts because with fresh I'd always forget to take it out of the suitcase and get in trouble with Customs! I think about food choices, mainly stick to fish- but if I have a trip where I gain a few pounds, I lose it right away- just taking a week or two to really watch my diet.'
'And I have to exercise. I hate the gym, really hate it. I go sometimes when I'm travelling because I have to, but the air's wrong, the lighting... You Brits have way too negative an approach to bad weather. In Scandinavia, we get outside all year round. You need to be outside-fresh air's so important. Make sure during the day you get lots of natural movement - pilates, tennis and walking.
She's adamant that Britain's every bit as picturesque as her native Denmark. 'I love to walk along the South Bank, around Borough market, the City to see St Paul's cathedral...I went cycling in Cornwall in September, and on a foraging course- and walked the Scottish West Highland Way in a week. I love the British countryside, it's so beautiful.'
So what foodie discoveries has Trina made on her British expeditions? 'I love La Fromagerie and the Marylebone farmers' market on a Sunday. In Padstow I had fish and chips for the first time and liked it.
Back at home, Trina keeps Sundays sacred. 'My perfect day would be a really cold, bright winter day with plenty of light. I'd go to the woods and run, and in summer I'd drive to the beach and have a swim, then go back to my house and cook a lovely dinner, I'd have my whole family over- it's open invite, I will cook, and people will come. I'd also read the newspaper! '
Trina is keen for people to come and discover a healthier lifestyle by holidaying in Scandinavia. She's a mine of information, and needs little pressing for travel tips. 'It's really great fun to go biking in Demark in the Summer- we have the most beautiful beaches where the water is really clean, and it's very flat so cycling is good. Canoeing in Sweden is beautiful and peaceful- you have these campsites all around. Trekking in the fjords of Norway; that is so beautiful.
I'm keen to know Trina's Scandinavian restaurant tips. She tells me that healthy dining has become very fashionable in more expensive establishments, but, 'there's a few more middle range places now, like smorrebrod (open sandwich) cafes when fish is in season, and of course game, and lots of root vegetables because chefs do them in so many beautiful ways.
 'Noma is fantastic but really expensive. You can have a nice traditional experience with good produce at the Fiskebaren- fish bar. For more smorrebrod, try the Royal cafe- the decor is like modern Danish design meets Hans Christian Anderson! And in Stockholm, visit the Salu- food halls. They're very old fashioned, wooden... not fancy- cafes and open sandwich places and really good food. Very traditionally Swedish.'
Trina's a little bit rock and roll- and consequently, the perfect person to brief me on the hippest new Danish destination for foodies and culture vultures alike. 'Try and visit the meat district- it's a very new and upcoming area. It used to just be butchers, in a red light district, but now it's very fancy, with lots of galleries opened up and very nice restaurants.'
She's a proper food lover- with the most sensible approach to food and eating I've ever encountered. Although, for the most part a careful eater, avid exerciser and staunch devotee of rye bread, Trina loves a glass of wine, an apple-y pud, and jewel-like 'children's candy'. But even in her Cosmo it's got to be fresh juice- it’s all about balance.
For Trina's dining has to be a convivial experience, providing the opportunity to satisfy the body and soul on multiple levels- through both the eating itself, and the interactive experience. As we depart, I certainly feel well nourished, with a warm glow that stays with me all the way to the tube on a traditionally British, freezing, sleety afternoon.
'The Nordic Diet' by Trina Hahnemann is published by Quadrille, RRP £12.99
Strandgade 93
1401 Copenhagen K
Phone +45 32 96 32 97
Fiskebar Flæsketorvet 100
1711 Copenhagen V
Phone +45 32 15 56 56
 Royal Cafe
Amagertorv 6
DK - 1160 K
Phone +45 38 14 95 27
Read Foodtripper's review of The Nordic Diet






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29 January 2010
By: Zoe Perrett
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