Something Swedish

Cooking in Sweden: “Matlagning i Sverige”


Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew (as my hubby reminded me of yesterday as he rescued me from my own cooking). I’ve been finding a few difficulties as I start to cook more, and maybe its a mix of being in Sweden and “Meg…you don’t know how to cook.”  For now though lets ignore that small personal detail (Which I am getting better at – I have yet to kill anyone or have any major complaints) and talk about why Sweden is making my cooking even harder than it already is.

I thought it would be a great idea to make chicken potpie, something different and it seems easy enough… if you have the ingredients. Chicken: Check. Peas, corn, carrots, string beans, mushrooms: Check. Chicken broth or soup or condensed soup...Eh? No check. Okay…Pie crust, Don’t see those...lets make it simple and throw some biscuit mix like Bisquick or Jiffy on top to make a pie topping. Huh? Where IS this stuff? Okay, I’ll substitute. Condensed mushroom soup instead of chicken broth and croissant sheets for the pie top. Thankfully hubby stepped in once he knew what I was planning on cooking and helped out, because my substitutes weren’t cutting it and I was in over my head. So together we made an awesome meal, I love cooking together.

Tangent – Its great to have a Swedish husband- they know how to cook. No, seriously. Everyone in Sweden is required to take Home Economic classes, both boys and girls. Which means that men actually have a basis for cooking, cleaning, and sewing (for example). Now, I speak only from my own experience and knowledge but I haven’t heard of a high school having home ec except in T.V. shows (or at least NYC, or at least the schools I’m familiar with?) [also based on not knowing many/any guys who cook] I remember being told that it’s no longer taught in high schools, and I’m pretty sure those classes were 90% female students. – End Tangent

Getting back to Sweden messing with my cooking. It’s so hard to find what I am looking for. I understand translating the ingredients, that’s expected. But some of the things that I am so used to are no where to be found. Most of which are very insignificant, but sometimes I do find myself walking in circles desperately searching for something that either doesn’t exist or is packaged and categorized so differently there’s not way for me to find it. (The second obstacle being easily remedied over time).  I have found myself looking up recipes to ingredients of the main recipe that I would normally find in a can or a box, like corn bread or creamed corn. I know, I know – that’s not Sweden’s fault. Its a personal preference type of issue that I’ll adjust to.  HOWEVER it is partially the U.S.’s fault. There I said it! I am so used to everything being instant! Nothing is from scratch anymore, which is a great convenience but the knowledge and know how is also fading fast throughout generations. 

What do you mean I should make the pie topping out of flour and butter? (“You can do that?” “Yes…” “Well I never had to..”) But I have these handy dandy croissant sheets!  Yes, a lot of this just showcases my cooking ignorance, but the point remains that there are more quick/instant substitutes in the States. I know a lot of my friends in NY would have the same issues.

Going to the store to buy oatmeal (Havregryn), and not understanding what to look for. “This isn’t oatmeal! This is just a bag of grains.” “What do you think oatmeal is?” “Well, ours is instant.” “So is this.”  Yes, of course I know that this exists, I have some in my pantry N.Y. (That I used for a Swedish desert recipe one time…), but it’s not what I think of when I go shopping for oatmeal. I’m used to individual serving sized packages perfectly flavored for you. Easy Peasy! Now I’ve learned to add my own sugar and fruit and/or jam and a lot more milk than I’m used to.

I am not writing this as a complaint about missing rice-a-roni or mac-n-cheese (of course there very well might be all these things and more in Sweden, I am only referring to the local grocery store in a smallish town). I hate reading forum discussions of people badmouthing their new country because of its differences and things they “lack”. I just thought it was a cultural difference worth sharing.

On a food related note, last week I made sauce (from scratch, which came out good, but not great) for the first time and while shopping for the ingredients I picked up a fresh basil plant.  It was so tempting, I thought how nice it would be to have growing on our window sill. A small plant to brighten up our apartment, something to cook with and smells delicious. What a bad idea! Little did I know only a few hours later it would be seriously dying because it couldn’t survive leaving the store and being in the cold for the 5 minute walk. And so I used what I needed for the sauce, tried my best to keep it alive longer by watering it and keeping it away from the cold windowsill during the night and in the sunlight the next day. It was no use… BUT I did find that you can grow basil  from clippings being submerged in water. So, a week later and my baby basil is still alive and kicking! Looking 110% healthier and maybe even growing? But it still hasn’t formed roots, so we will see!


21 thoughts on “Cooking in Sweden: “Matlagning i Sverige”

  1. I do think you may have saved your basil plant after all, roots or no roots! Perhaps you should carry with you an insulated bag or just a thicker shopping bag to ‘sweater up’ your perishables against the cold weather home. Actually, I thought your sauce looked fabulous . . . I always add grated Parmesan cheese to the sauce as it is cooking, as well as coarsley ground black pepper, oregano. . . assume you sauteed chopped up garlic and onion before adding any sauce. If you like green pepper you can add it sliced to simmer, thereby adding flavor to your sauce as well as adding great vitamins to your diet!

    • Thanks AuntyRee! Yes, sauteed garlic but I did realize when I was finishing up that I forgot the onions, I think that made a big difference and was kicking myself about that! But next time I won’t forget! (I often forget onions in my recipes, I love them so its upsetting and I keep buying them because I forget all about having any!) I was thinking about pepper but I figured I would start adding to the sauce the second time around so I know what to expect 🙂

  2. Interesting post! I’m Swedish, and it has never occurred to me that anyone would _want_ ready made pie crust!? It takes like five minutes to do… But I understand how one could get used to all that premade stuff, of course (I use some prefabs to).

    If basil (or any other greens) get dry like that (whether it’s from cold or not doesn’t matter) you can always pick the leaves and put them in cold water for a while, before you need to use them, and they’ll be nice and fresh again!

    • Hey Liv,

      I’m glad I wasn’t observing something totally off beat- the amount of premade things that I’m accustomed to is astounding! Of course there are some instant things here, but not nearly as much. And I don’t mind, just a few more things I need to learn how to prepare that I’ve never even thought about. Good to know about the greens, I was distraught about my basil plant!

  3. Oh, and I was also surprised about the sugar in oatmeal thing. Never heard about that, oatmeal to me is just oatsmeal, water and a pinch of salt. And some appelsauce (or lingonberry jam) and milk, yum!! 🙂 But I love reading about food, so I’ll be happy to know mpre about the differences! We definately have a smaller selection of food here!

    • Haha, yea! That’s right! My husband was putting salt in his oatmeal! I almost forgot about that, I was (No offense but) grossed out! Its like the exact opposite taste! (And I’m sure you feel the same about me using sugar!) I need to find more of these differences! Thank you (And I have a few other food posts up my sleeve, can’t put them all at once though!)

      • Hehe, none taken, just interesting to learn about other ways to do stuff! I usually like sugar too (who doesn’t) but yes, it does sound a little… well, sweet… 😉 for breakfast (that’s when I eat oatmeal)! Looking forward to more food-related posts later!

      • And oh, I just realized we have ready made pizza dough here, it comes flat, rolled up. And since pizza is just as easy as pie, that would be pretty much the same level of laziness… 🙂 I have never bought it myself, seems unneccessary to pay extra for, but now I’m going to try it, just for fun, to see if it’s as good as homemade!

      • Let me know what you think! Yea, I’m finding out that there are a few premade doughs that I must have overlooked- But I still stand by and say that it is no where near as popular and standard as in the U.S.!

  4. I believe no one is ever too old to learn to cook, you just have to want to learn 😉

    well done on your home made sauce and good luck with your basil plant!

  5. Well, if you want an easy peasy chocolate recipe from scratch, I can give you one. I will even make a video for you 🙂

  6. Fresh basil — I’m impressed! One note about fresh herbs — they’re delicious, but they don’t hold up well in long cooking. So, start your recipe with dried herbs (you can crush them to release the flavor and toss them in with your sauteed garlic to heat before adding tomatoes. Save the fresh stuff for the last few minutes of cooking and you get a nice dose of intense, green flavor.

    Keep cooking, girl. So proud of you : )

  7. Yeah the food and cooking parts were very difficult for me also. I have been here 2 1/2 years and I am finally comfortable with knowing which cuts of meat to use. If you are looking for American foods they are out there, but they are expensive. City Gross has a small section with things like mac & cheese (not Kraft, but acceptable), pancake syrup and mix, fluff, etc. and Willy’s has Skippy peanut butter. There is an American Store in Malmö ( I am there every week and can check for anything special you are looking for) and I think there is one in Göteborg also and they have things like Bisquick and corn bread mix. It will take time and you will have to experiment. About the herbs, I too have never been able to get them to survive more than a couple of days. Now I just cut them off the root and roll them in a wet paper towel and put them in a plastic bag in the fridge. they stay fresh for a week that way and if you change the paper towel every three days or so they will last even longer.

    • Hi Monica- Glad to hear that I’m not alone. Right now I don’t buy meat without the hubby aside from meatballs, sausages, and chopped meat since I’m not comfortable with that either yet. It’s good to know that they are available but so far I’m okay without them- it’s only been a month and a half though, so we will see how weak I get! To me being in a different country does mean that you adjust to not having stuff you are used to, so it doesn’t bother me so much (And I’ll be going home once or twice a year to get my fix :P) But now I know who to ask and where to go if I get a craving ^^ Thank you for the paper towel tip.

  8. Re: The big oatmeal-a-thon: I must admit that brown sugar sprinkled on top of hot oatmeal is delicious!

  9. You made me think of this post 😉
    A swedes’ reaction to the ready made things in american stores.

    Your post also makes me think of a colleague who was over to the US. He was chatting with an american about how fun it is to make muffins with his kids. (I guess you see where this is going? 😉 She agreed and told him that she does that a lot and referred to some great muffins. He then got curious and asked what kind of recipe she was using? Turns out she always bought some muffin in a box of some kind, and didn’t have the faintest on how to make muffins, which made him really surprised, as he made them himself, without any “muffin in a box”.

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