Thursday, March 22, 2012

Traveling: Delicious Food In Sweden

A couple weeks ago, I had an unexpected trip to Sweden, for my beloved great-uncle's memorial service (he was 98).  He was like a grandfather to me, and my parents brought my sister and I for the funeral and family gathering that took place afterwards.  I am forever grateful.
The statue is the crane, the symbol of the town
I lived in Tranås, Sweden, with my father's cousin, Bebbe, for a year when I was 16 and 17 years old.  I went to high school there, in the Natural Science program, and learned Swedish.  It helped that I was living with a 3 year old, who didn't take "I don't speak Swedish" for an answer.  She was quite insistent.

And now, she's turning 22 in a couple of months.

Life simply isn't fair, I tell you.
Picture from

I was so very happy to get to see my Swedish family again!  I hadn't been back to Sweden since 1999, so it's been a while... I was also very happy that my Swedish has held up, and I was chattering away like normal without many problems.  Always nice to practice.

But, you may ask, isn't this blog supposed to be about the food?

Ask, and ye shall receive!

First, I wanted to give a nod to Air France for their excellent food.  Seriously.  How often have you had airline food and said, "Wow, I need to figure out how to make that at home!!"  We had a pearl couscous with smoked tuna, chicken in wine sauce with egg noodles, delicious crepes with fruit compote, salmon with a side that I don't quite recall... all with wine or champagne if you would like, and also some of the nicest flight attendants I have ever had the pleasure of flying with.  I don't have any food pictures from the flights, but take my word for it.  If you have a chance to fly Air France, do so, if only for the meals!

When we arrived in Charles de Gaul on the way to Sweden, we had a little time before we had to catch our flight to Stockholm.  Long enough for some pastries!  I got a chocolate macaron, and my father got some little sugar pastries to share.
I was so tired, I could barely stand... but I was able to eat a delicious macaron!  
The macaron was delicious.  I have never had one before, though I have seen them all over the blogosphere.  And now I understand why.  The one I had tasted like a fluffy brownie. 

When we arrived to Sweden, we had to drive to Tranås, which is about a 3 1/2 hour drive south.  Along the way, we stopped for a light lunch at a little roadside cafe.

I had what my family always fondly refers to as a Ferryboat sandwich, because we first encountered it on a ferry between Denmark and Sweden.  It is a slice of bread (all Swedish sandwiches, or smörgåsar, are open-faced), topped with some mayonnaise, lettuce, shrimp, hard boiled egg, dill, tomato, and cucumber.  So incredibly delicious.

My sister got a smörgås on a piece of dark bread with pickled beet salad, halved Swedish meatballs, tomato, and cucumber.

My mother got a simple snack of a piece of Wasa bread with butter and a milk.  I don't remember if my father got anything. I don't think so.

Once we arrived in Tranås, everyone else took naps at the hotel, but I was too excited to be "home."  I decided to go out for a little walk, to reacquaint myself with things.  Because I am me, I ended up browsing through the grocery stores, ICA and Hemköp.

I wish that I had easy access to Swedish grocery store fare here!  Do you like spreads on your sandwiches?  How about an entire spread section?

A small sampling includes Smoked cheese spread, shrimp cheese spread, bacon cheese spread, crayfish cheese spread, Brie cheese spread, mushroom cheese spread...

Just *drool* - truly.  And they are good, too!

You know how sandwich thins come in packages of 6 or 8, and they are gone before you know it?  How about a nice package of 25?  Wouldn't that be nice?

Why yes, I do have kebab dreams.  And in Sweden, I could get them in potato chip form.

I brought some of these home - heart shaped cheese and onion puffed potato snacks. The kids love them.  They are like a milder, puffier funion.  Totally delicious.  (Also, totally gone.. *sigh*)

They also have them in star shaped, sour cream and onion flavor.  Mmm!

These snacks are peanut rings.  They are delicious.  They wouldn't fly for anyone allergic, but they are delicious.

Sweden is home to Wasa, and how I wish we had these little Wasa fruit cups here!  They look like such a good idea - perfect for school snacks....

They also have a whole aisle of just hard bread, more than the three kinds of Wasa that most grocery stores around here seem to carry...

And yogurt.  Pourable yogurt is very popular on cereal, and there are many many choices.  Apple vanilla and cinnamon.   Doesn't that sound yummy?  Forest berries?  Yum!

"Sweden's most purchased cars"  Oh my, we love these!

Oh, and the candy.  Don't get me started on the candy...

I've read someplace that Swedes have the highest candy consumption per capita in the world...

This is in a regular grocery store.

Seriously, I love Sweden.  Another language lesson for you - godis is the Swedish word for candy.  Mmmm, goodies for everyone!

Back out on the town with me, and I saw some fun restaurants.  "Swedish meals, Chinese Food, Mongolian BBQ, Thai food." I bet they also have pizza. 

Mostly pizzerias.  In Sweden, kebab pizza is popular.  They have a lot of middle-eastern refuges, and they have an influence...This is the menu board from my favorite pizzeria in Tranås, Pizzeria Shalom.  Now that's fusion.  Some of the combinations available would make your head spin.   We went here for dinner the first night in town, after my family had woken up for a nap.  My aunt and uncle from Boston joined us.

We began with pizza salad - it's basically a stripped down, vinegar based cole slaw.  And it is wonderful.

I dream of this pizza. Mamma Mia - tomato sauce, kebab meat (shaved mutton), kebab sauce... I have been tasting this in my dreams for years. I need to figure out how to make it at home.

Mom & Dad's pizza - shrimp, crab, maybe also crawfish, peppers, cheese (I think)

My sister got what was basically a Mamma Mia with some french fries on it!  The menu said pommes, and I thought that would be sliced potatoes... nope.  Fries.  It was an interesting addition... 

My uncle's pizza - possibly the most "American" pizza on the menu - cheese with "meat sauce." This is a typical children's pizza.

My aunt's pizza - veggies! Olives, mushrooms, peppers, onion, artichoke hearts.

A bite of my Mamma Mia.  Man... wish I had that for lunch today!

Yes, I agree, Pizzeria Shalom.  I agree.

Our hotel, Hotel Åberg, had the most lovely breakfast spread.  With delicious coffee.

They had plenty of hard bread, homemade soft breads, pickled herring, cold cuts, liver pate from the local company, Pastejköket, cheeses, bread and butter pickles, muesli, pourable yogurt or filmjölk (which I have never gotten the taste for, but my family loves...), fresh fruit, and so much else...

If you have never tried pickled herring with a (preferably soft) boiled egg, I urge you to give it a try.

We all ate too much for breakfasts when were there, but how could you not?

At the reception after the services for my great uncle, we were served a fantastic late lunch.

Beef roll in a wonderful sauce, scalloped potatoes, and a bundle of veggies wrapped in bacon. I wish I had gotten a better picture of the veggie bundle.  It was really lovely.

There was also an assortment of delectable cakes with coffee, but I didn't get any pictures of them.

I finally got the chance to meet the fantastic Sverker, the dog with his own blog.

Sverker and his owner, my dad's cousin Bebbe, had us all over for fika - a wonderful Swedish tradition of coffee with cakes and cookies and other treats.  

We had delicious chocolate cake, cardamom cookies, and some other cookies with a drizzle of chocolate... and plenty of coffee.

After fika, we went to dinner with another of my father's cousins, who made this incredible fish soup.  As near as I can see, it is a version of this soup - but I think there is no tomato paste in her version.  It was rich, and totally wonderful.

The next day for lunch, we went to the cafe above Åhlens, where I had a giant falafel wrap.  It may look huge, but it was mostly lettuce... 

A bit of shopping around the town, including a flea market where I found this kitchen tool.. I didn't buy it, but any guesses what it might be for?

For dinner that night, we had a spaghetti that my cousin made, along with a chili-inspired spaghetti sauce.  Yum!

And, here is another cousin, showing off Sweden's favorite condiment.  Yes, ketchup.

They put ketchup on top of this beautiful spaghetti sauce.  And on top of so much else.  I don't eat ketchup anymore (except on rare occasions) because my time in Sweden scarred me.  lol.

For dessert, we had semlor, which I have made before... but in Sweden, you can buy the buns already made.  They have a touch of cardamom in them (which I am totally doing when I make them next!), and admittedly, the rolls are softer than I can readily make at home...

There's the way I like to eat them, in a bowl of warm milk, with cinnamon sugar and fresh whipped cream...

Or, there's the way that my (no longer 3 year old) cousin likes to eat them.  Demolished.

The next morning was our last in Tranås, and we had one less fika at Bebbe's before heading out to Stockholm to catch our flight.  We had Swedish bullar, which I have made (mini) before, along with plenty of coffee (or tea).

Once at the airport, we got some dinner at a "sports bar" there.  I got a "Triple B Burger" - a burger with bernaise sauce, bbq sauce, and bacon.  Totally delicious.

My parents shared a grilled salmon with roasted sweet potatoes and a little salsa.  I didn't get a picture of what my sister got.

Air France was delightful, and we spent the night in (a hotel next to the airport in) Paris.  The hotel did not include breakfast, but it was available for 18-25 Euros per person.  No thank you!  We had to hurry to the airport anyhow... 

Once we got through security, we needed to eat something, even though we knew our wonderful Air France flight would feed us well (it did.. we got crepes or omelettes about an hour and a half into the flight...)  We found a cafe and each got a small pastry and a juice.  I got a coffee.  For four people, this cost 29.50 Euros.  That's about $40.  And the pastries were small...
Forbidden macarons!
Probably the funniest picture of this whole trip was taken next... I saw a shop next to the place we ate breakfast, and they had beautiful displays of macarons of all sorts.  I quickly snapped a picture, and was about to take another, when a grumpy lady snapped at me "It is forbidden!"  I'm so sorry, France.  I didn't mean to steal your national secrets on how to artfully stack macarons.  But, I'm so happy that I got a picture.  And they are beautiful, aren't they?

After a long flight back home, we had to drive back to Vermont from NYC, and along the way, we decided to take a little detour at Penzey's in Hartford, CT.  I restrained myself, but my father had a $50 gift card to spend... 

You see where I get it?  He spent over his gift card, giggling the whole time... I come by this all naturally.  

Now, I've been back for a couple weeks. I've had time to settle back into normal life (including a play I was in the week after we got back... we got back Sunday evening, and Monday I worked all day and had practice all night, then again on Tuesday and Wednesday.. with the shows Friday, Saturday, and Sunday!  I'm still recovering from the exhaustion... but it was fun!)  I look back fondly on our trip to Sweden, and am forever grateful that I was able to go to say a final goodbye to my great-uncle.  He always loved to feed me (I had many fikas at his place...), so I think he would have appreciated this blog entry.  

To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites.
- Robert Heinlein

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  1. I've got tears in my eyes now, remembering fika with Lasse - the last time I saw him - which he had proudly baked single-handedly, well into his 90s.

    A fitting tribute indeed... thanks for sharing.

    1. I think he would have approved. :)

  2. After reading this, and seen all the pictures I wish I lived in Sweden. Oh, that's right, I do that! I'm so lucky!

  3. What a wonderful post Astrid!!! So happy for you that you had the chance to say goodbye to your great-uncle and be with all your family.

  4. Great post! I absolutely love the food here so I can relate! Beautiful tribute at the end.