Sunday, October 4, 2015

Happy birthday Victoria!

Whether it be blowing out candles, receiving birthday spanks or smashing open a piñata, every culture and family has their own unique birthday traditions. I've experienced birthday celebrations in the United States, Australia and Italy but nothing compares to the Ravn-Rahbek family's Danish festivities!

Victoria explained to me that every year her family has rented tents and thrown a huge, backyard birthday party for her with all their neighbors, friends and family. However, this year, she said that she wanted to do something a bit more low-key and small only with her closest friends and family because she's turning 19 now and is becoming more of an adult (psh whatever you say Victoria...).  

My Danish sis Vicky <3

So our "low-key" celebration included not one but three lavish dinner parties at the Ravn-Rahbek home. Victoria's mom, Susanne, loves celebrating her youngest daughter's birthday because it was a "victory" childbirth (hence Victoria's name). She was in labor for less than 20 minutes!

The first dinner was two days before Victoria’s birthday and included the usual family members, me, Federico and Alexandria plus the guests, Victoria’s aunt and uncle who live down the street. We drank wine and feasted on quiche, potatoes, salad, and last but not least pork tenderloin. However, this wasn’t just any old pork tenderloin. It was pork tenderloin bought from the same meat supplier that the restaurant Noma buys their meat. If you’ve never heard of Noma before, let me fill you in. Noma, located in Copenhagen, was rated the world’s best restaurant from 2009 to 2014, excluding 2013 when it only got second place, by Restaurant magazine. The type of food served is "re-invented" Nordic cuisine with an emphasis on organic ingredients collected from nearby forests and shores. A tasting plate is around $300 per person along with a $200 wine pairing. Not only do you need the $$$ to eat there but you also must book a reservation at least six months in advance, Victoria's dad, Olfort, told me. Ever since I found Noma's Instagram page a few months ago (seriously check it out, the food looks superb), it's been a dream of mine to eat there one day! However, of course, I didn't book a reservation in time so eating the pork tenderloin from the same meat supplier was the next best thing and geez did it taste good... so juicy and flavorful ahhhh I love good quality food, back in Ohio my family buys all of our meat grass-feed from a farm, so this pork was such a treat for me! Hopefully one day I'll come back to Copenhagen and eat at the world renowned Noma!

Sadly I never took a picture of the pork but this is the quiche!

Victoria's birthday was on Tuesday and the fact that it was a school day didn't dampen the festivities one bit! Bright and early before school, Victoria was woken up and told to follow the string that was tied to her toe, which led her all throughout the house and finally to her gifts! This is the Ravn-Rahbek family tradition. Everyone also waves Danish flags while the person who's birthday it is follows the string. I really liked this tradition, it was unique and really fun! Not to mention afterwards we ate a huge breakfast :)

Yay go find your presents Vicky! :)

After school on Victoria's birthday we visited the botanical gardens :)

Victoria's family spent hours preparing the second birthday dinner for Victoria that night. This dinner was just with Victoria's family, Federico, Alexandria and I, so no extra guests. They made smørrebrød, which are Danish open-faced sandwiches. I loved smørrebrød because it reminds me a lot of sushi. Both are like art, very intricate. The toppings on smørrebrød differed from shrimp to salami to mayonnaise to red onions and parsley but I'll just let you look at the pictures because I took about a million... ;)

Susanne slaving away!

Our beautiful dinner table

Marzipan birthday cake! mmm

Everyone minus Federico <3

After dinner, Victoria chatted with the rest of her old Italian host family on Skype. Back in Italy I spent a lot of time at Victoria's home so I got to know her host family and it was nice to say hi too! They were happy to see me as well and asked me to pronounce Villarbasse (the town where I lived in Italy) because they love hearing my American accent! It made me a little sad though because I barely talk to my Turin host family anymore. I message them on birthdays and holidays but that's about it. It's not that we don't get along but we just didn't click as well because we're very different. Oh well, no reason to dwell on the past, I still had an amazing exchange year in Italy!

The last birthday dinner party occurred later that week after Federico and Alexandria had left. I had mentioned to everyone that one time during my stay in Denmark, I wanted to make my signature American dessert, apple pie. Olfort and Susanne asked me if I could make the apple pie that night for the dinner party. In both Victoria and her aunt’s backyard, there’s an abundance of fresh apples falling from their apple trees, so we couldn’t let them go to waste! I spent at least three hours preparing two apple pies and a mini strawberry tart in hope of impressing all the Danes with my American baking skills!

In the Ravn-Rahbek family, everyone contributes and helps out around the house, including me! Wherever I stay I always offer to help cook or clean but Victoria's mom was the first one to take me up on my offer! I vacuumed, folded laundry, set the table and helped prepare dinner during my stay. She was surprised when I told her that back home in Ohio I have very little responsibility and said that my mom will be delighted to know that I'm learning how to do household chores! Surprisingly I didn't mind helping out at all, it actually made me feel like a part of the family. Victoria even said she felt like I was part of the fam! I mean I definitely look like I could be Victoria's sister! People often confused me as Danish and asked for directions and translations! 

The Danish fam! :)

Anyway, I made the apple pies and helped clean and prepare for the final birthday dinner party that night. Two families, both close friends of the Ravn-Rahbeks, joined us for dinner. After our meal, I warmed up my apple pies in the oven and brought them out nervously. I served everyone a piece and waited for their reactions... overwhelming "mmmm"'s came from everyone's stuffed mouths. They praised my pie as something you'd steal from the window of a bakery and complimented my extremely thin-slicing of the apples and use of cinnamon, nutmeg and sparingly sugar (the apples were already sweet enough on their own!). Apparently, cinnamon is a delicacy in Denmark. I was elated! Later, Susanne told me that those guests appreciate good food and wine and often travel to some of the best vineyards in France and Italy, so I was very pleased that they approved of my dessert!

That night I also discovered that Victoria's family has had 19 au pairs!! In case you don't know what an au pair is, it's a foreign live-in nanny that usually stays with a host family for at least a month. I met a couple German au pairs in Turin 3 years ago who were taking the same Italian fluency exam that I was,and ever since then the idea of being an au pair has intrigued me. The Ravn-Rahbeks have photos of their favorite au pairs on their fridge and still keep in touch with them. Victoria said that as a child she remembered connecting with them and making so many nice memories. During Susanne's gap year, she was an au pair herself in California and still keeps in touch with the girl she took care of; she actually planned the girl's wedding last year! Hearing them talk so fondly of their au pairs really makes me want to be one as well one day! To learn more about becoming an au pair click here!

Well that's all for now! :) Right now I'm actually in Germany but I'm so far behind on my blog posts... sorry!! I'm going to work hard on catching up so expect a new post very soon! 


  1. Thanks so very much for sharing your adventures! We are Norweigan, so I completely appreciate the Danish cuisine!

    1. Aw thank you so much for reading! :) Mmm Nordic cuisine is the best, I want to try genuine Norwegian salmon one day too!