Swedish culture primer, part 4: Sweden is a very secular society, but there is one god we worship above all others. It is the great yellow fungus god of the woods:
Swedish culture primer #3: Since our fans demand more pictures of the summer cottage and its environs, I’ll take this opportunity to tell you about a strange Swedish custom. This is what is known as a lillstuga or “little cottage”:
As you can see, this looks pretty much like the regular summer cottage but smaller. Traditionally, when you have a child, you build a lillstuga near your summer cottage – not for the baby to sleep in, of course, but to symbolize that there is a new addition to the family. Then, next year, when the baby has grown, you tear down the old lillstuga and build a new, slightly larger one, to commemorate the passage of time. And so on. Every year, you tear down the old lillstuga and replace it with a slightly larger one. The remains are burnt on a pyre and much aquavit is consumed. This goes on until the child comes of age, which in Sweden is at 26. Then, the whole summer cottage property passes to the child and the parents have to sleep in the lillstuga. Charlotte is four now so we have 22 more years – let’s make them good ones!
Swedish culture primer, part 2: what you see below is the national dish of Sweden:
Now, other people might try to tell you that any number of other dishes are, in fact, the national dish of Sweden: boiled crayfish, pea soup with mustard and pancakes, meatballs and mashed potatoes, fermented herring, roast moose etc etc. They are all wrong. This is the de facto national dish of Sweden: it is eaten at every holiday, in summer and in winter, it can be a starter, a side dish, or a main course, it’s ingredients are always available in every store in Sweden, year-round. A couple of different kinds of pickled herring and potatoes, plus some sour cream and chives – it doesn’t get more everyday and versatile than that. Note also the absence of any kind of green vegetable (chives and dill are herbs, not veggies), another thing that is very typical of Swedish cooking. Since every Swede practically is only two or at most three generations removed from being a farmer, there is something deeply rooted in the national psyche, a disdainful voice that tells us that vegetables are animal food, not suitable for consumption by humans (unless they’ve been dried and robbed of all colour, as is the case of Swedish pea soup – it’s not green but a yellow colour reminiscent of sick). Real Swedes eat potatoes and fish, and meat on a Sunday.
Newsflash: London Beer Blog is currently in Sweden. So for the next few weeks, the blog will be given over to the primer to Swedish culture I know you’ve all been clamoring for. And also beer.
For lesson 1, I need to explain a simple concept: “Jetty beer”. The explanation has three parts, and since we live in the 21st century, I will be using audiovisual aids (sorry for the lack of Flash animation. For shame!).
This is your average Swedish summer cottage:
In this case, the summer cottage happens to be mine. And my brother’s. And he and his wife do most of the work on it. But still, my name is on the deed and that technically makes it part mine.