osthyvel = cheese slicer

You may wonder why in the world I'm writing a post about cheese slicers, also known as an osthyvel. Ost means cheese. Hyvel means "plane" like you'd use for wood working.

The osthyvel is quite an important instrument for Swedish households, offices, etc... our rented apartment has 4 or so. In my department at Uppsala University, we must have close to ten for our weekly department "fika" (coffee)-- more on fika in a different post.

One skill we've been working on is how to use a cheese slicer as efficiently as possible. It's harder than it looks. Some cheese (like that pictured to the left) is just perfectly wide enough for the cheese slicer. Or maybe the cheese slicer is wide enough for the cheese?

Anyway, on our trip to Norway, we heard more than a few references to its invention in Norway. In the book I was reading about the Lillehammer Olympics, there was a proud reference to the cheese slicer. However, Swedes are utterly convinced that it was invented in Sweden. We asked a friend about it and heard a 10 minute answer how the Norwegians couldn't have invented something like this. (A different post at some point on the dynamics between Sweden and Norway).

Curiosity piqued, we finally looked up the genesis of the osthyvel. Norwegians win this one. Invented in 1925 by a Norwegian carpenter in Lillehammer, Thor Bjørklund, he was apparently tired of not being able to slice cheese consistently. He experimented with different shop tools and came up with the plane. We'll take it as a truth, as Sweden's most well known cheese company-- Västerbottensost-- also references this as a Norwegian invention.

Good news is that Stephen found an osthyvel for me as a Christmas present in Lillehammer... we'll have our very own to bring back to the U.S. (though I also remember growing up with one in the house-- even if it's around as a tool, it's certainly not everywhere like here).

Want to know more? Here's a short article on the necessity of this invention: