Sweden is, to many, a nice, friendly Viking country. Although saying that I was brought up in another culture IS too extreme, it is definite to say that Swedish culture influenced my childhood. That’s not to say I used to sit in snow, play with reindeers, sit in saunas and listen to ABBA all day. I lived in England and attended an English school, but with family coming over frequently, frequent trips to Sweden (before we had a house there), I definitely have an insight, which English people do not have. I used to watch my mum’s old favourite children’s programmes like Emil, Pippi Langstrump (Longstocking to you fools), read Bamse comics, read Mrs Pepperpot stories, and love the Moomins. I had Moomin bedsheets, which I recently refound and used as my bedding again, because as a 21 year old I am so very, very cool. When I watched Prometheus I couldn’t help but feel comforted because, although Noomi Rapace’s accent is stronger than my mum’s, the calming Englishy-Swedishy tone is the accent I have always been surrounded by.
But what I remember most, and love most even today about Sweden is the FOOD… we all know about meatballs and potatoes. Wally the Walrus in Woody the Woodpecker showed us that enough. So here are my top 5 things to try in Sweden, food that you may have never have heard of before:
1. Bilar: Cars
Formally known as “Ahlgrens Bilar”, these are sweet marshmellowy goodness and “Sweden’s most bought cars”. They were manufactured in Gavle, where my grandparents live, so we’ve always had an extra affinity with them. We always have these stocked in the house for a few weeks after going to Sweden. They come in three ‘flavours’ although I never notice the difference, so I call them colours: pink, white and green. They now have a promotion line where you can buy a specific colour of car, and also have them coated in sugar for a more sweeter taste. I personally think that they’re quintessentially Swedish, but I’ve had mixed reviews for taste. I personally don’t like marshmellow – but these are chewy yumminess. They also last a long time, and I only just finished the pack which I got for my birthday. These are very popular in Sweden, and if you want a taste of Sweden, this is a definite must. They can be bought at Ocado in England for £2.35.
2. Chockladballor: Chocolate Balls
Cafe Culture in Sweden is prominent. Not in the sense of Vienna or Paris, which was dominanted by psychoanalyst types (Vienna) and the artistic bohemians (Paris). Sweden’s populace like to sit in a non-riff-raff surroundings, and have a simple cup of tea and a dessert. There are rarely any cakes with icing, which I always find disappointing, but firm favourites are Bullar – Swedish cinammon buns, which everyone seems to like, except me. Bullar can be made in many different ways, although I’ve seen that pistachio is a clear favourite. Chocolate balls, however, are my calling. This Swedish delicacy is chocolate and oats mixed together, and despite their size, can take a long time to eat when you’re drinking a coffee. They are very easy to make, so why not try it out yourself?
3. Raggmunk: Potato Pancakes
Although we have potato pancakes in England and throughout Europe, it is less customary to have them in a meal. However, in Sweden it is normal to have your main meal at lunch time, with a cheaper set meal called “Dagens”, i.e. “the daily dish”. One of my favourite meals to have is a meat dish: particularly pork, or bacon, with potato pancakes. Potato pancakes in Sweden are usually accompanied by cranberry or lingonberry sauce and provide a sweet taste to accompany the onion-flour mix of the pancakes. Swedish people don’t like to fuss. These, like chocolate balls, are incredibly easy to make, hearty and warming food.
4. Swedish bread
The thing I could never get my head around was that Sweden doesn’t have loaves of bread. I think the phrase “it’s the best thing since sliced bread” would almost be lost on them, frankly. While my dad prefers crisp bread, my favourite bread is Mjukkaka which originates from Northern Sweden, where many Sami people live. It’s right near the top of the arctic circle and recipes have been handed down through oral tradition. The company, Polarbröd (literally: polar bread), have capitalised on this, and sell Mjukkaka in most Swedish supermarkets. I am absolutely DESPERATE to find somewhere that sells them in England, because when I bring them back from Sweden they only last a few days. I usually have mine with butter and cognacmedwurst. I’m unsure of the translation, but it’s meat. Hopefully not horse meat, but you never know nowadays. I would try them with a thick, not too strong salami, or with ham, because the bread is quite sweet. I regularly have this for breakfast, and occasionally lunch… and sometimes dinner.
5. Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate!
You might have heard of Daim, which although is now owned by Kraft (like Cadbury’s, sob sob). But what about the marvously milky Marabou? Or the wafery wonders of Kex? All these three brands produce a lot of chocolate for a country which has only 9 million people, my favourite – and definite recommendation, is a chocolate with caramel in the middle, and it’s called…