Let’s Hygge Together!

David is enjoying some down-home hygge wearing his favorite t-shirt while snuggled on the couch with a stuffed animal.


Such a marvelously serpentine-looking word, isn’t it? Interestingly, it doesn’t sound at all like it looks. It’s pronounced hoo-guh, but I always see “higgy.”  Then I think “jiggy.” Then I think, well, all sorts of athletic bed gymnastics–so let’s not go down that rabbit hole together, shall we? Especially as I’m at my mom’s home helping her get set up, stocked up, and stay safe.

Hygge is a Danish and Norwegian word that means “a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment.” It’s about self-care, connecting with loved ones, and dis-connecting from some of those odious, angst-producing elements in our lives. Like the news, for example. Or people who go on Sunday drives during Thursday rush hour, or shockingly long eyebrow hairs, or the color puce.


When I browsed the Internet for examples of hygge, I came across the most gorgeous Nordic people doing gorgeously Nordic things, while lounging on gorgeous Nordic throws, pillow, and blankets. I also noticed that you can’t hygge (can that word be a verb?) without a cup of coffee nearby and a string of lights haphazardly hung behind you.

A model practicing hygge with a dog asleep on a pillow beside her, a book open on her lap, and a cup of coffee and plate of cookies beside her.

But it doesn’t take a booker at the Wilhelmina Agency to know they’re models! All those chiseled jaws, broad shoulders, and pantingly good looks. And that’s just the women. Don’t get me started on the men. They’re all 10s!

A model with a cup of coffee demonstrating hygge.

And that’s why I made this video: I wanted to give you a glimpse of what real-life hygge looks like down here among us 4s to 6s.

That’s me at the top in my favorite T-shirt made by our very talented niece, Megan, who creates all kinds of cool items. If you’re wondering where my triple chin and chipmunk cheeks went, so does The One. Ah, the wonders of Photoshop! If I can’t be a model, at least I can try to look like one. And while there was no white furry four-legger around–and my mom’s cat Charlie would never stand to be held–I grabbed one of the stuffed animals from the menagerie on the living room couch. And to give a truly Scandinavian ambiance to the photo, that’s a 100-percent authentic mid-century Danish modern table behind my head.

Mama Leite, dressed in an ancient workshirt of my late dad’s, has been spending these days as she has for the past several decades–at her computer in the breezeway clacking away at the Prayer Net, which she and my dad created for their church.

Me? Since Sunday, I’ve been living in my very hygge-like shearling slippers, sweats, and “Enjoy Chouriço” shirt. I’m spending my time in the dining room working away on the new computer I bought Mama, which she’s too scared to use right now.

Precisely at 7:00 PM, the computers are put to sleep, and we sit and watch “Wheel of Fortune” then “Jeopardy,” shouting out answers and dissing the contestants who mess up. (Yes, we’re evil and we love it.)

Since Mama Leite has hung up her spatula for good, all she eats is prepared and frozen foods, so there’s no cooking while I’m visiting her. I’ve been happily living on–que surpresa–chouriço sandwiches from Cinderella Bakery in Fall River.


Tomorrow, I return to The One and to another kind of hygge. This one is all about cooking, binge-watching “Hillary,” “Upstairs Downstairs” (the 2010 version), and, Lord help me, reruns of “Antiques Road Show.” The One will continue reading Death in Strange Country while I’ll finally finish Ethan Frome and The Song of Achilles. Devil Cat will burrow into our chests as he’s wont to do.

Tell me: How do you hygge?

In the comments below, tell me what are you making, baking, cooking, doing, playing, enjoying, fighting about? Share ideas, share pictures, share the love!

Let’s see if we can take care of each other, make each other laugh, and enjoy ourselves during this tough time. Remember, hygge!


About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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  1. Oh my goodness David, this made me laugh out loud! I had a serious knee injury while visiting my mom and her husband in Connecticut and had to stay with them (both in their 80s) for two weeks while my torn meniscus healed. What is it with Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy? Haha! Boy, it’s like a semi-religious experience for them.

    I’m back in MA now, doing the self-isolation thing, as I may possibly have been exposed to Covid-19 through my workplace. My pantry is always completely stocked, same with my freezer, oh, so the biggest challenge for me is safely going out to shop for fresh produce & dairy items. Oh, and all the markets around here are out of toilet paper, what’s up with that?

    I am listening to music, doing a little bit of meditating, watching lots of movies and binge-watching shows I have missed, and also doing a lot of reading, which has always been an escape from anxiety and a lifesaver for me since childhood.

    Already made a lot of baked goods for Lord knows who that are in the freezer, and I’m trying to cut down on the cooking a little because it’s only me. But it has been comfort-food city around here, for the most part. And lots of dips and things to dip them into. Lol.

    We finally have a sunny day here today, so I’m going outside to start prepping my garden and do a little raking…fresh air feels heavenly! Thank you for sharing a glimpse into your life. I really enjoyed this so much.

    Stay safe and healthy, everybody, and please please take the social distancing directives seriously! Blessings.

    1. Kim, sorry about your knee. I hope it’s ok now. Please keep us posted about possible Covid-19. I hope you don’t have it. And it seems as if you have this self-isolation thing (I prefer to think of it as solitude) down pat! Stay well and keep on cooking and baking!

  2. I’ve run to the store for me and Mom a couple of times – we’ve gotten almost everything we need but who the heck is hoarding all the Lactaid cottage cheese? – and we’ve each been prepping food to share with each other for our freezers: I make sweet potato gunk (kinda like hash with *really good chorizo from a butcher in some faraway place where only my brother goes); she makes gumbo. I make more sweet potato gunk; she makes the slow-cooker pea soup from this site that we’ve adapted to the stove with some tweaks to the ingredients. I make more sweet potato gunk; she makes vegetable beef soup. And gumbo. And lasagna. (I help her cook when I’m at her house, after making grocery runs and wiping down her counters with bleach water.)

    Haven’t quite settled into the coziness of being home but as this becomes more normal, I’m sure that will come.

    I have a string of Christmas lights in the living room. I pile most of them on the spider of a lamp and then let the rest hang down the base toward the outlet. Really can’t beat that glow!

    Hugs to you all! We’ll get through this!

    1. Beth! You two are definitely in the groove! We need to rethink the name of that positively beguiling-sounding dish. “Sweet Potato Gunk” doesn’t do it justice, I’m sure! Please give my love to Mama K. xoxox

      1. Love has been given to Mama K!

        As for Sweet Potato Gunk, we’re not fancy people. We also make a dish that’s affectionately known as Cousin Betty’s Chicken Goop.

        But the Gunk is equal parts diced onion and green pepper (I probably use two cups of each), sautéed in a large frying pan over medium-high heat with some salted butter with a bit of extra salt to sweat the veggies a bit. Then a pound of chorizo (good stuff from a butcher, not the stuff in tubes that’s mostly fat) goes in and is cooked through more or less, then shredded sweet potato. (Peel ’em first! No human needs that degree of fiber moving through them.) I use five or six medium-to-large-ish tubers. Mound it into the frying pan and lower the heat to a medium-low. I set my timer for 10-minute increments and get up and give it a repositioning each time as it cooks down, turning it carefully so as not to make a mess. What begins as a Matterhorn of shredded sweet potato eventually ends up even with the top of the pan.

        It’s delish with grated cheese on top – Pepper Jack if you want a bit more zing or extra-sharp white or yellow cheddar is good, too – with a fried egg or two over that if you want a heartier meal.

        If you like mushrooms, add ’em! If you’re vegetarian, maybe skip the chorizo and add some hot sauce when you eat it! There are no rules!

          1. Mom reminded me that we also like Ham, Macaroni, and Cheese All In One Glob.
            We are epicures to the nth degree!

  3. Nice Article 🙂 You’re a good son, but I think we already knew that.

    I find comfort in hugging my cup of green tea, cooking a lot: Lucinda Quinn’s Eggplant Parmesan (2 times so far); adobe BBQ Chicken (2 times); baking blueberry buckles, maple nut blondies with cream cheese maple frosting (my word is that delicious)! Elizabeth David’s chocolate mousse and baking your chocolate chunk skillet cookie is on my list.

    Slow breathing my lavender oil which brings me back to beautiful Provence. Most of all Facetiming/chatting with my son, family, and friends. Thank heavens for technology. All these bring me comforting moments during these surreal days. Wishing you and all at Leite’s many hygge moments.