Thursday, August 25, 2005

Svensk Kaffe (Swedish Coffee)

In this, our second Swedish culinary episode, we will discuss Swedish coffee.

Scandinavians drink more coffee per capita than anyone else in the world. In fact they ingest 12.5 kilos per year of raw beans per adult. By comparison in the USA we yanks only comsume 4.4 kilos per person per year. And in jolly olde England the teabaggers go through only 500 grams of coffee beans per person per year.

Typically, Swedes rather drink strong acidic drip coffee made from medium quality beans from South America, Colombia in particular.

A typical adult Swede will drink coffee two, three or even four times per day; in the morning with breakfast, an optional mid-morning coffee break, a uniquely Swedish mid-afternoon coffee break called "fika" (consisting of coffee and sweet pastry or cake), and optionally after a large or important dinner.

The best-selling brand is the cool-looking and sounding Löfbergs Lila, which comes in a 500mg purple bag and costs about SEK 20 (US $3.00).

Stockholm and in fact most parts of Sweden are full of "kaféer" or coffee houses where you can sit and relax for hours if you wish. Once you buy a cup of coffee it is a general rule that you can refill one time (called påtår) for free although in theory I guess you could do it more times if you really want to get wired.

Typically Swedes drink coffee with milk and optionally sugar, and for those who like cream (like me) kaffe grädde (coffee cream).

For those of you who like your beans decaf, rest assured that the Swedish will stare blankly at you. Most are unaware such a thing exists, and you will not find decaf amongst the relatively large selection of beans in the supermarkets. Tourist restaurants will of course accomodate you.

The most famous coffee house in Stockholm is perhaps Vetekatten, and surely a viable place to get a nice cup of joe. For the hipsters, more bohemian java joints are littered throughout the city.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Grecian Formula #1

Spent the last week or so in Greece. It was my first time there and the last country in Western Europe that I can cross off my list, Liechtenstein notwithstanding.

For those of you have never had the pleasure of seeing it for yourselves, Greece is a fantastic blend of ancient and modern, East and West. The people are fantastic and alive, if sometimes a little smelly and hairy. I definitely feel comfortable there. In fact I think if there were 9 million people just like me they would build a country pretty much like Greece.

There are some great things about Greece:

feta cheese, olives, sunshine, sandals, ouzo, islands, wines, calamari, tsatsiki, moussaka, 30 degrees Celsius by noon, mountains, boats, beaches, and crystal blue waters.

We spent two days in Athens drinking in the shadow of the Acropolis and the island of Salamina (unfortunately no salami there) and six days in Samos, which is a small island in the Aegean next to Turkey where my grandfather was born. Samos is the place to go if you want to relax and be surrounded by Mediterranean beauty. It makes me wonder what the fuck my ancestors were thinking when they moved from that paradise island to landlocked Pennsylvania.

On the island we visited the cave of Pythagoras, where he lived in the 6th Century BC and invented strange drinking cups and geometry.

We hung out with an old friend Triphonas from London and Linda'a ex-roomate Stephanos, and Linda's sister P. and her new Greek bf Philipos, who looks a lot like me only even more Greek and anti-Bush.

It was great being in a country where people don't speak English. At all. Greece is the worst in Europe BY FAR at it. We are almost talking Mexico bad at English... like don't even try it. So bad they make Italy look like freakin' English teachers. This makes getting around fairly difficult. Oh yeah, and the Greeks who do speak English give horrible directions.

Too bad I got sick or I would probably not have left. I don't know what happened but I definitely got something. See you again when I recover. Until then, YIASOU.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Summer's Almost Gone

A Swedish joke translated for you...

"Summer is the nicest day of the year."

Of course that's pathetic but on the 59th parallel unfortunately true. This Summer has reminded me a lot lately of Seattle in October.

But no need to worry as Linda and I are heading to Greece tomorrow, where it's going to be stinking hot for another two months at least. I might end up staying longer than the prescribed week.

Pass the Ouzo and the sunglasses, details to come.

Sunday, August 07, 2005



What is it?
It's what's for breakfast (and sometimes lunch) in Sweden. It's similar to runny yoghurt only it uses different bacteria cultures. It tastes slightly tarter and more healthy than yoghurt. You can buy it in the store or else make your own by pouring regular milk in a bowl of leftover filmjölk, covering it with a cloth, and letting it sit overnight.

What do I do with it?
You pour it in a ceral bowl and then put stuff in it like any combination of jams and cereals. I prefer muesli.

Why should I care?
It's addicting, plus it's good for the intestinal tract so it's a great way to start the day.

What else do I eat for breakfast in Sweden?
Depends where you are, but normally you eat any combination of buttered bread (crispy Wasa knäckebröd or soft brown bread), cheese, jam, cucumbers, liver paté, sliced meats, caviar, and hard boiled eggs.

Why are you writing about breakfast foods all of a sudden?
I am trying to make this site interesting to people to want to know more about Swedish life and ahem, culture.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Okay... nobody look suspicious!

This was emailed in in from Dafydd, who took me to the best hamburger restaurant in Hampstead and possibly the world.