Something Swedish

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Something Swedish finally has it’s own FACEBOOK fan page! It’s still being set up and doesn’t have anything fun yet – but don’t miss out! Start following it today to read the day to day in between tidbits that might not make it to the blog. Stop by and say HEJ by clicking the link below and LIKING!

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Julbord: Christmas Table

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I’ve eaten Christmas dinner in Sweden four times now, but it wasn’t until this year that I realized how traditional it really is. A week before Christmas we had lunch at a restaurant, which happened to be serving a “Julbord.” Christmas in Sweden is all about the Julbord – think “Smörgåsbord” but with all the classic Christmas foods. The restaurant Julbord was serving the exact same Christmas foods as I’ve eaten in Sweden the last few years; it’s not just a family tradition.

Come noon on December 24th (Swede’s celebrate on the eve, or afton) our Julbord looks something like this every year:

Except this year we somehow forgot the boiled eggs – a Swedish tragedy. So, whats on this Christmas Table? Let’s see!

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Julskinka: Naturally, The Christmas Ham – only eaten after smothered in mustard.

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Dopp i gryta: “Dip in the pot” -  Using the rich flavored Christmas Ham broth, it is very traditional to dip dark bread and to eat the soaked bread along with Christmas dinner.

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Janssons Frestelse:  “Janssons Temptation”a delicious dish with very thinly cut potato ‘sticks’ is cooked in the oven with a secret ingredient that makes many non-swedes squirm…

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Anchovies. and anchovy juice.  Sounds gross, I know, but it’s awesome and full of flavor!

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Kålpudding:  Cabbage pudding. Thinly chopped cabbage, fried with syrup, baked with a thick layer of seasoned ground beef in the middle.

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Some Kålpudding and Janssons Frestelse  preparation.

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Fläskkorv: large pork sausage

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Prinskorv: “Prince sausage”  mini hotdog-like sausages

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Köttbullar: The homemade meatballs, of course.

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Brunkål: Brown Cabbage, served as a side dish. Cabbage is boiled and fried and seasoned with vinegar, salt and syrup.

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Christmas Bread

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Cheese, bread, butter, and salad.

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My Christmas feast. Bottom center is the Kålpudding and Janssons Frestelse.

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Alongside we drank Julmust, beer, and snaps.

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Julmust is a very popular cola beverage that is Christmas themed and has a distinctly different “holiday” flavor.

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After dinner and before the presents we eat Struva and glögg - a Swedish mulled spiced wine served warm with raisins and almonds.

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Later that evening we enjoyed Swedish cheesecake, icecream, jam, and cream with coffee, tea, and liquor.

If we had any young kids in the family our Christmas eve festivities would be very different, having to schedule around the must-watch 3:00pm Christmas cartoon, “Kalle Anka,” or as we know him – Donald Duck.  Every year half of Sweden faithfully sits around the television and watches “Kalle Anke och hans vänner önskar God Jul” or “Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas.”

Which would probably be followed by a mysterious Santa knocking on the door and giving out presents.

Christmas eve is also filled with tons of chocolate treats and candy, both as dessert and presents.

On Christmas Day, as if we aren’t full enough, we have our next food tradition – Lutfisk served with boiled potatoes.

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Lutefisk is a white fish that is air dried to later be re-hydrated with water and lye. The fish soaks in the lye water for weeks before it is ready to be cooked. The fish has a strange consistency the first time you eat it, but it is easily forgotten because it is served with a ton of white sauce, salt, and pepper. There are very small bones in the fish,  so be careful!

One last thing – it is very popular to make gingerbread houses in Sweden, as well as to eat ginger bread cookies throughout the month.

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Swedish Santa: Tomte

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In Sweden you’ll find all sorts of Santas – some more familiar than others. Some hardly recognizable as “Santa.” While you’ll see Jolly ‘ol Saint Nick from time to time, you’re much more likely to find depictions closer to what we have as elves, which a few years ago I was surprised to find out are Swedish Santas or “Tomten.”

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I’ve gotten used to the fact that my beloved childhood Santa Claus doesn’t live in Sweden, and that every country has it’s own version. I’m pretty happy that Sweden has such cute little fellas, which such rich history! – So, what is tomten…and why are they so small!?

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Tomten (sometimes called Nisse) hasn’t always been the Swedish Santa (replacing the Yule Goat); actually originating as a mythical creature in Scandinavian lore that played a role more similar to a “house gnome.” The tomten would secretly live in, or under, a house and protect the children and animals from evil or misfortune. Sometimes a tomten would even help with chores or farm work. Despite being tiny, they were also known to have a temper, playing tricks or killing livestock if offended by rudeness.

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It wasn’t until the 1840′s that  tomten became Jultomten, or “Christmas tomten,” and  started to play the role of Santa after being depicted  as wearing a red cap and having a white beard – and of course tomten started delivering Christmas gifts.  Jultomten didn’t replace tomten, but nowadays when people talk about “tomten” they are normally referring to the Swedish Santa. The traditional “house gnome” tomten is called a hustomte or tomtar.

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When a tomten delivers 2012-12-03 15.27.32Christmas gifts, he doesn’t use the chimney, but comes straight through the front door. This coincides with the Swedish tradition of many households having their very own Santa simply walk in and hand out presents. If a family has young kids, it is common for someone to dress up and play the role with these costumes found in stores (My husband was Santa for his nephew for many years).

Jultomtens don’t live  in the North Pole,  like Santa, or in peoples houses, like traditional tomtens, but is believed to instead live in nearby forests. Much like leaving Santa cookies and milk, tomten likes porridge, or rather requires it. If not gifted with porridge, tomten would stop helping and leave the house or, even worse, cause mischief. And don’t forget to include the almond and butter.

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Tomten is sometimes shown carrying a pig, which is also a popular Christmas decoration in Sweden.

This year was the first time I saw Santa out and  about. Unlike in New York where you will find a Santa in every big store with a long queue or children waiting to sit on his lap, the “Mall Santa” is not a popular thing in Sweden.

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A few weeks ago we spotted Santa sitting under the towns (outdoor) Christmas tree with a dozen children huddled around. There was no long line, no one taking/selling photos, no one collecting money for a turn to talk to Santa.

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We talk about “writing our Christmas lists,” but whenever we go to see Santa we normally just say what we want. In Sweden those lists are key. Every single kid had a list in his or her hand, either written neatly before or scribbled right then and there on scraps, backs of envelopes, or wrinkled receipts.

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When asked if he would take a photo by the decorated tree nearby, he posed for us – with his baskets of wish list letters.

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Hope everyone had a Great Christmas!! – More about Swedish Christmas (Traditions, Food, and decorations) coming up soon!

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Trip to the Tivoli Christmas Market

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Tivoli is always a beautiful place, especially at night, but with all the extra Christmas decorations and lights, with dozens of fun stores filled with presents and ornaments, it was extra special!  ~ Enjoy!

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Hope all those photos put you in the Christmas spirit! This week I sent out all of my U.S bound Christmas cards and exchanged my first presents! It really is around the corner!

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Swedish Health Care

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My first Swedish doctors appointment was not the experience I expected. When you arrive in Sweden as an immigrant you are given a list of clinics to choose from and sign up to after you receive your personnummer. You are quickly approved to start going to your new health clinic. One of the only things people know about Sweden is that we pay high taxes and in return we get socialized medical coverage - something I looked forward to when I found out I would be moving here, since I hadn’t had medical insurance for almost two years at that point. That being said, I was excited to utilize this aspect of my new Swedish life.

I went in and explained to them that I wanted to be seen since I have not had a check up in about two years. As an immigrant you are given a free one-on-one sit down with a nurse the first time you come in, to talk about your condition, what you are there for, what they provide, and how they can help you. I wasn’t asked to fill out any forms.

The nurse was polite and helpful, but the information she gave me was surprising.

View the pictures →

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Lösgodis – Loose Candy

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In the U.S we have a certain image of Swedish people. Tall, blonde, beautiful, and built like Norse Gods/Goddesses. Upon my arrival here I learned that resisting the temptation of sweets was not their secret. Did you know that Sweden eats the most loose candy per capita in the world? It is also the largest importer of candy in the world. (Think about there only being around 10 million people in Sweden- that’s about the total population of New York City) The amount of loose candy eaten in Sweden is said to make up for 4% of the country’s total sugar consumption!

I know I have talked a lot about Swedish pastries and treats (Here, here, here, here, and here), and true to both American and Swedish form I have eaten my fair share of these delicious baked goods. However! This Swedish candy culture has never passed my lips. That’s right. I have not fallen weak to the loose candy craze! I have not picked up a shovel and filled a colorful paper bag*  with anything my sweet tooth desires. I really am proud of myself because no matter what type of store you step foot in, small or large, food or none, you are met with this: (*similar to a bag or bucket of popcorn from the movie  theater, eaten with absent yet impressive speed)

This is not a candy store but a place to buy movies. The Lösgodis take up about 1/4 of this store while the rest is filled with DVDs and blue-ray movies to buy. Maybe a movie store is a bad example, as there is usually some (small) selection of treats, but that pales in comparison. The concept of loose goodies is not an unfamiliar one, but never to such a extent unless it was an actual candy store. Even then, the loose candy selection would only make up for a rather small part.

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Americans are known for overeating unhealthy food and having a heavy sweet tooth, so I was caught off guard when I saw such quantities of candy in a seemingly health conscious country.

This candy craze is so integrated into the Swedish culture that there is even such a tradition as “Lördagsgodis” which means Saturday Candy. In the 1950′s  it was recommended by the Board of Health to limit children’s candy intake to once a week instead of daily in an effort to slow down tooth decay. I have read on a few blogs of attempts to get their children off of the candy by giving them money on Saturdays instead of the sweet treats. It seems there is almost no getting around having a candy-filled child in Sweden, as the Lösgodis are everywhere and all the other kids are eating them.

It is not only the children that love Lösgodis. I have seen bags of Lösgodis given as presents (to adults) and met with excitement- Swedes do love their candy. Even if they didn’t pick it themselves, they are sure to enjoy what ever is inside because all of the candy is classic.

Classic to Swedes. This past weekend my husbands nephew had some Lösgodis that we were picking from and I was embarrassed to admit that I didn’t like any of them. To the point that I had to spit them out. The family laughed and was shocked because they are all beloved classic flavors. Two types of favorites I have noticed are marshmallow candies and salty black liquorice. There is also a selection of hard candies, coated candies, gummy, caramel, and chocolate.

To be honest I am a bit skeptical to even try any Lösgodis because I have not yet tasted any Swedish candy that suits my Americanized taste buds. I’ve been told that the difference is that Americans prefer a more sugary and sweeter taste, which seems true. Of course I have only tried a very small fraction of the selection, so I am not yet a complete candy outcast.

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