Scary Food: Comodifying Culinary Heritage as Meal Adventures

Szilvia Gyimóthy, Reidar Johan Mykletun

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This article portrays the changing status and use of a traditional Norwegian meal, Smalahove, in designing tourist experiences. Against all odds, this peculiar relic of Nordic gastronomy (salted, smoked and cooked sheep's head) has become a part of the destination brand of Voss, a small West Norwegian township, renowned for its topographic qualities related to extreme sports. In order to understand the recent success of Smalahove, we studied various culinary experience concepts offered to visitors. Based on data from a mixed-method case study approach, we found that entrepreneurs in the Voss region had developed a new commodifi cation approach to a culinary heritage. Smalahove is marketed not only as a nostalgic and authentic rural dish, but also as a challenging culinary trophy appealing to thrillseeking consumers. The implications of the Sheep's head case are twofold. First, it represents new commercial potentials for marketing ‘extreme' culinary specialties. Second, it is an example of innovative rural destination branding, by which local dishes are not mere idyllic expressions of an agricultural past, but an opportunity to open up potential new avenues for the co-branding of rural destinations and regional food products.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Vacation Marketing
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)259-273
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

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