Fredagstacoen—The Friday Taco
A meditation on the history and culture of tacos in Norway.
Norway loves its taco. This might come as a surprise to some—lutefisk taken into consideration—yet, the Mexican staple has become a part of Norwegian culture: Fredagstacoen (The Friday Taco) is Norway’s third most popular dish after pasta and pizza.
Its Rich Beginnings
Norway’s infatuation with tacos can be traced back to the mid-sixties oil-boom. When Americans descended upon Stavanger—Norway’s de facto oil capital—they were less than impressed with the city’s grocery stores. Fiskeboller (balls of fish) and fårikål (mutton and cabbage) dominated the shelves, a far cry from what Houston oil magnates were used to.
Cashing in on this newfound demand, local grocer Allert Middelthon quickly found a way to import the appropriate taco staples. American expats flocked to his store, and the rest, as they say, is history. By the early nineties, Norwegians enjoyed Fredagstacoen as a full-fledged alternative to the popular Friday pizza.
With that in mind, you might ask yourself if Fredagstacoen can be enjoyed outside of Norway. The answer is, yes. Kind of.
Fredagstacoen is, as one would assume, enjoyed on Fridays or, in a pinch, on Saturdays. Any other day would only be considered philistine. Friday-tacos are for Fridays; that’s just how it is. Even the grocery stores make it clear:
Style-wise, Fredagstacoen is a facsimile of the Americanized grocery-store taco, with hard shells, ground beef, etc. Yet, similar as the two are, there are some curveballs to be aware of. Follow this recipe, and you can get well within the proximity of a Friday evening of Norwegian proportions:
The predictable part
Taco shells – From Old El Paso. Nothing else will do, except for lompe, a regional style of lefse. Old-school Norwegian taco-connoisseurs like myself will go with the lompe.
Salsa – Again, Old El Paso, preferably the mild Thick ’N Chunky. (Medium if you want to go crazy, but that’s not done in polite company.)
Shredded iceberg lettuce – For that extra crunch.
Ground beef – The high-fat stuff, with a pinch of Old El Paso taco seasoning. Emphasis on pinch. You don’t want any unnecessary flavors.
Things take a turn
Shredded cheese – But only Jarlsberg will do. Only. Jarlsberg.
Diced red pepper – I’m reasonably sure jalapeños wasn’t “a thing” when the taco hit Norway. Red peppers tend to be the pepper of choice in Norway.
Diced cucumber – I have no clue why, but I admire the chutzpah of whoever came up with the idea.
Where it gets tricky
Sour cream – I’m not talking just any sour cream. Norway knows its dairy, and it’s hard to beat the potency of seterrømme as far as sour creams go. It’s thick and hearty, traditionally used in rømmegrøt. The closest equivalent I can think of is Tillamook’s premium sour cream, but you might have to hunt down a boutique variety for the real experience.
Shell; meat; cheese; lettuce; corn; cucumber; red pepper; sour cream; salsa. A pretty predictable assembly.
Pair with a Solo. You can find this Norwegian Friday staple at Scandinavian Specialties. It’s an orange soda, and uniquely so, though I suppose a Fanta will do in a pinch.
Fredagstacoen is still alive and well in Norwegian culinary culture. Even with more traditional Mexican restaurants arriving, the old-school American-Norwegian taco will always be a part of the Norwegian soul. I have speculated if this style of taco found its popularity in the rest of Europe—as it did—thanks to Norway’s oil boom.
We might never know, but, in my heart, Fredagstacoen will always be a true example of a counter-culture revolution.
Rolv Christian Topdahl, Øystein Otterdal, and Ruth Einervoll Nilsen. “– Vi solgte taco og tortillachips før alle andre.” NRK. November 23, 2018. www.nrk.no/rogaland/_-vi-solgte-taco-og-tortillachips-for-alle-andre-1.14297697