Meet Nikka, the 99-year-old wafer doyenne – The people we met on the way

I met Nikka Myren Grønning in April 2016, while doing a story on ski-touring in central Norway, with photographer River Thompson

Nikka Myren Grønning has three words of English, but they’re good ones: “I love you”, she says, as we leave her kitchen in central Norway, with a big hug (I’m six foot seven; she’s a lot less). But, while our interview is mostly done through the PR from the Juvet Landscape Hotel up the road—they serve Nikka’s crisp wafers at the gorgeous modern hotel—you can tell a lot about Nikka just from the glint in her eye, and the curious warmth in her kitchen, which looks a bit like it should be in a museum.

Nikka is 99, and jumps up from her chair to show us a local newspaper article about her and three local contemporaries who are about to turn a hundred. She chatters away to us in Norwegian, smiling and laughing, and it doesn’t seem to matter much that we don’t really know what she’s saying. The PR is too charmed to do much translating. We just laugh along.

Still, we do gather some details, albeit not quite a full picture. Nikka always lived around the Valldal Valley in central Norway, and has been in the same clapboard farmhouse since World War II, when she would sneak food and supplies out the back to Russian soldiers who were fleeing the Nazis. She started baking her sweet and more-ish signature Norwegian wafers some time in the 1970s, using traditional moulds. But she’s also a master baker, and today her much younger neighbour Nina Otterlei is in getting tips from the master.    

Nikka has been in the same house since World War II, when she would sneak food and supplies out the back to Russian soldiers who were fleeing the Nazis 

Nikka’s a widow, but still has a large family, and she was excited when beardy British TV chefs The Hairy Bikers came to visit a few years back. But she has become almost as famous in her own right in Norway, with state broadcasters NRK making regular trips to this pretty little corner of Norway to speak to her and get tips on life and baking.

We’re on a tight schedule, and – after a quick phone shot (see below) – have to leave (our story is really about ski-touring and modish Scandi design). On the way out, I tell Nikka something I don’t tell too many interviewees: “I love you too”.  

Nikka has since passed a hundred, with her birthday party making the national news in Norway. You can see her Facebook page here, though all the news and baking recipes are in Norwegian.

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