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Northern Europe

Often derided for being bland, the food of Northern Europe typically formed out of necessity, not luxury. Historically, produce was hard to come by and fishing was difficult during long harsh winters. As a result, local diets evolved to rely mainly on meat, salted and preserved fish (herring, cod), and a variety of hearty tubers, like potatoes. Herring has been indispensable here since at least the Neolithic. By one account, a Finnish girl was not ready for marriage until she could prepare herring 25 different ways. Along with herring, variations of gravlax -- smoked salmon cured in sugar, salt, and dill -- are still quite popular in Sweden, Norway, and Finland, often served as part of a smorgasbord or on top of open-faced sandwiches. An acquired taste, the Icelandic delicacy hakarl is made of rotted, air-dried shark flesh, and is a source of pride and strength to those who partake in the dish. Across the Baltic Sea from Scandinavia, fish is also common in Latvia and Lithuania, although the cuisines are more influenced by their Eastern European neighbors.
 

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