With its embrace of wild swimming, foraging, and stargazing, this cultural trend is spot-on for the modern world.
As much as I really do love the Danish and Swedish lifestyle concepts of hygge and lagom, to be honest, there’s only so much coziness and coffee I can take. Yes, candles and cuddly socks are great, but it’s almost as if it’s too wholesome, if that’s possible. Maybe it’s the New Yorker in me, but I need a little edge.
Which is why I’m now smitten with “coorie” – and if the world isn’t overbaked with cultural wellness concepts already, coorie could serves as wonderful inspiration for all to embrace.Writer Gabriella Bennett appears to be the movement’s most vocal ambassador, and I love what she says about coorie in The Times. Noting the popularity of hygge and lagom, she writes: "Turns out the UK had its own version all along, hidden in glens of ancient woodland and under the surface of pitch-black lochs."
Ancient woodlands and pitch-black lochs? Sign me up.
Bennett, author of the book The Art of Coorie, writes that it is about using what’s around you to find contentment – that applies as much to the rugged landscape as it does to homemade food and traditional craft.
“In Scotland the word was historically interchangeable with “cuddle” or “snuggle”, but it is now used to describe a feeling of cool, contemporary Caledonia,” she writes. “One that looks forward while also paying respect to our oldest traditions.”
Here are some of the ways in which Scots embrace coorie:
Wild swimming: “Swimming in land-bound lochs or crystal-clear seas is the ultimate coorie activity,” Bennett writes. One need only read environmentalist Roger Deakin’s incomparable Waterlog: A Swimmer's Journey Through Britain or Robert MacFarlane’s Landmarks (one of my very favorite books) to get a sense of how thoroughly life-affirming wild swimming can be. I may not have a pitch-black loch nearby my Brooklyn home, but I can say that a long dip in a clear frigid swimming hole upstate last month changed me for the foreseeable future.
Bag a Munro: Which is Scottish for climb a mountain – specifically, one of the 282 mountains in Scotland that are at least 3,000 feet high. Bennet promises that it will be hard, “but at the peak, every hardship endured will melt away for a moment of raw exhilaration and pride.”
Cooking (and eating) outside: Bennet suggests smoking local foods outdoors. “Extra coorie points if your smoked supper is eaten round a campfire.” And in general, she says that coorie cooking looks to traditional Scottish dishes given a modern spin.
Knit a Fair Isle jumper: Another nod to tradition, but done so with a more contemporary twist.
Harvest pine needles for cocktail and desserts: No need to live in Scotland for this beauty of a foraging trick. “Top chefs are bashing Douglas fir pine needles and flavouring marshmallows and salmon with their oil, but it’s just as easy to recreate the experience at home,” Bennet writes. While she is referring to home as in Scotland, anyone is an area with pine trees can do this. Gather pine needles, wash them, add to vodka, voila. You can also dry them, process in a food processor, and use them in baking or to garnish desserts.
Stargaze: Find darkness, get comfortable, raise head, devour the heavens. This one takes no further explanation.
And then … get cozy: The real beauty of coorie to me seems to be the balance of exertion and comfort. Yes, swim in cold wild bodies of water and climb mountains, but then eat smoked food around a campfire wearing handknit sweaters and drinking pine-needle cocktails! It’s a mix of rigor and relaxation, but in which both actions are equally rewarding, and more so for their having been done in tandem.
And this embrace of the wild followed by coziness is not exclusive to Scotland: Hot chocolate after ice skating on a lake, the après ski lodge after being on the slopes, and so on. We can’t all live in Scotland, but we can surely adopt some components of coorie to become more familiar with our wild places and to enrich our well-being in the meantime.
A New York City version may mean a long romp through Central Park during a blizzard and having friends over for homemade hard cider after. We could call it faux coorie ... and while it may not have the wilds of Scotland for its backdrop, we all have traditions we can embrace and stars to gaze at, wherever we are.