Much talk on the interweb of something Danish called hygge – now I’m quite fond of the odd Danish export – pastries for instance, Vikings, Sandi Toksvig (in small doses), Pilsner, Hamlet, but I’m considerably less fond of Nordic Noir, marinated herring and Danish bacon.
Hygge sounds lovely – cosy nights with friends gathered around a real fire, wearing Fair Isle jumpers and hand-knitted socks, while drinking hot chocolate and having a good old laugh. But just in case the whole hygge thing leaves you feeling a bit overwhelmed, here is my alternative ‘hygge-lite’ for the slightly more socially anxious amongst us – it’s my tried and tested introverts recipe for surviving the cold winter months…
Light a few candles: I’m with the Danes on this one, candlelight always makes me feel relaxed. I dot them about the sitting room and kitchen, pillars and tea-lights mainly, bought from the blessed IKEA (isn’t it lovely that we Brits actually burn candles these days – it wasn’t until IKEA came to the UK with their cheap candles that we stopped dusting our single pair of red dinner candles off once a year at Christmas and lit them instead).
Pile up some duvets and blankets on the sofas: Probably as a result of having no functioning central heating for several years (happily now rectified), we’ve become used to wrapping ourselves in fleecy blankets or duvets on cold winter evenings while watching the TV.
Cook stews in a slowcooker: I’m such a fan of these ’70s throwbacks. Chuck a few vegetables, scrag end, a stock cube and tin of tomatoes into the cooker in the morning and when it’s dinner time you’ll have a delicious effortless meal ready to go and a house that smells wonderful. Make enough for two nights and slap a piece of ready-rolled puff pastry over the left-over stew to make a pie. (I’m a vegetarian now, but I still crave a pastry crust and lashings of thick gravy).
Pour yourself a glass of single malt whisky: There’s nothing better for keeping out the cold and making you feel mellow than a dram or two of whisky. Try something peaty from Islay, Laphroaig or Lagavulin, or if you’re feeling very brave (or have the ‘flu) try Talisker from Skye. If peaty flavours aren’t your thing, try Dalwhinnie or Bunnahabhain instead, both pure amber gorgeousness.
Read your way through a series of crime fiction or supernatural novels: My favourites are still the Cadfael books by Ellis Peters, the Inspector Rebus novels by Ian Rankin and Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins series set in the Welsh Marches. They’re easy enough to pick up in charity shops and by the time you’ve read them all it will probably be spring.
Curled up on the sofa, wrapped in a duvet with a glass of whisky and full up on stew, reading a whodunnit paperback while candles flicker in the hearth – that’ll be me…
How’s hygge for you? – any tips for embracing your inner Dane? Do tell…