Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sweet Sweden

Vronsky and I ventured to Stockholm this weekend to see one of my author's for Pegasus, Camilla Läckberg, who is the best-selling author in Swedish history. She's sold 3 million copies of her book, in a country of only 9 million people, and that includes babies and children and people who can't read. She was the sixth-bestselling writer in all of Europe this past year, and besides being super talented, she's a lot of fun and quite a foodie herself. She's written one cookbook and has another in the works that covers Swedish "coastal" cuisine.

I don't think Nordic cuisine as a rule gets too much love outside of Scandinavia, and at first glance, it is easy to see why, as much of the traditional Nordic diet is not in sync with the American palate, which borrows more from France, Italian, and in general, the more lighter "Mediterranean style" of cuisine, combined with the gamut of Asian and Hispanic flavors and style of cooking that now is part of many people's everyday culinary lexicon. Like Russian food, cold-water fish is a large part of the diet...think herring and cold-water shrimp, which are teeny-tiny, and smoked salmon, along with beets, kale, cabbage, lingon berries, cloudberries, carrots, potatoes, lots of pickled goodies, and of course lamb and steak with a wide range of diary products. Swedish meatballs, are of course, the trademark "Swedish" cuisine, and they are far from kosher. What makes them so delicious and different from say, Italian meatballs, is that the meat (usually a blend of game and steak) is mixed with cream before people made into meatballs. These meatballs are traditionally served with potatoes and lingon berries on the side.

But what really stood out to me during my short stay there was coffee and sweets. A huge basket of every type of toffee, chocolate, and sweet goodie was passed around during our flight over, and Camilla herself has told me that no one drinks more coffee than Swedes. It is a standard sign of hospitality to offer someone a cup of coffee as soon as they come into your home, whether it is in the heart of Stockholm or out in the countryside. And what gets served with said coffee? Something sweet. It can be chocolate or cake or some sort of biscuit or cookie, or, as prominently featured in The Ice Princess, some sort of pastry or cinnamon bun. The coffee I had in Sweden was thick and stronger than the usual garden variety here in the States (except what I brew from my french press each morning, which is up there with sludge, mmm), but compared to what I drank in France, Swedish coffee had a slight sweetness to it that came without even adding sugar. Perhaps it was just that the taste was already in my mouth from a zillion little toffees, but it was quite lovely and I can see how it perfectly matches icy winters and midnight summer "sun."

For a taste of Scandinavia here in NYC, Smogas Chef is a go-to favorite, or check out Camilla's book, out in June, with a cup of coffee and a cinnamon cake to much on while you become absorbed in the tiny coastal town of Fjällbacka and its secrets.


  1. People serve coffee or cakes in Sweden. Yummo!!! So Swedes like their coffee sweet eh have you ever tried mixing drinking chocolate with coffee? A wonderful combination..............

  2. When people picture Swedish cuisine this is usually generic. Most people don't know where it is for starters. Denmark, Norway Finland all are some 'frozen north' somewhere.
    Skewer a subway roll with a cocktail sausage stick-those ones they used to put cheese with pineapple with-& for most people that's Sweden or Denmark or Norway.
    As for coffeee!! For most coffee is synominous with Holland & its marijuana smoking coffee shops. You cannot say the word coffee without them getting as high as kites..........

  3. Jessica,
    There is one food which will hlp you depend upon this. Deeply search will find your Watership path easily.............but please mind Herman Hesses icy waters..........

  4. What's the point of selling books to people who can't read? Doesn't make sense. Cinnamon....that starts ringing alarm bells!!!It's like a slinky I suppose they go togeher some when......

  5. Production of mezcal

    A typical earthen oven for roasting maguey hearts.
    Roasted maguey (agave) hearts
    Grinding cooked maguey hearts.
    Gusano de Maguey in a bottle, waiting to be added to finished bottles of Mezcal.Traditionally, mezcal is produced by small-scale producers and is generally as handcrafted product, using the same techniques as were used 200 years ago.[2] A village can contain dozens of these, which are called fábricas or palenques.[6] Many mezcal craftspeople use methods that have been passed down from generation to generation.[11]

    The process begins by harvesting the plants, which can weigh forty kilograms, extracting the piña, or heart, by cutting off the plant’s leaves and roots.[9] The piñas are then cooked for about three days, often in pit ovens, which are earthen mounds over pits of hot rocks. This underground roasting gives mezcal its intense and distinctive smoky flavor.[3][6] These piñas are then crushed and mashed (traditionally by a stone wheel turned by a horse) and then left to ferment in large vats or barrels with water added.[9]

    This mash takes time to ferment, but as it does, the liquid begins to separate out.[10] The distilling process is usually done in either a clay or copper pot, which can change the flavor of the final product.[6] Old recipes for mezcal would require two chicken or one turkey breast to be placed in the mash during fermentation for flavor. Other recipes called for a capon. Today, variations that ferment the mash with cinnamon, pineapple slices, red bananas and sugar still exist. Each of these impart a particular flavor to the mezcal.[10] The distilled product is left to age in barrels. Most are aged from one month to four years, but some can be aged for as long as twelve years.[1][9] Mezcal can reach an alcohol content of 55%.[1]

    Mezcal is not considered to be as smooth as tequila, as it is generally distilled only once, and tequila is distilled twice.[3][5] Mezcal is made in many varieties, depending on the species of agave or maguey used and what additives, such as fruits and herbs are added during the distillation, creating types with names such as de gusano, tobalá, pechuga, blanco, minero, cedrón, de alacran, creme de café and more.[3]

    Not all bottles of mezcal contain a “worm” (actually a larva that can infest maguey plants), but if added, it is added during the bottling process.[10] There are conflicting stories as to why such would be added. Some state that it is a marketing ploy.[6] Others state that it is there to prove that the mezcal is fit to drink,[1] and still others state that the larva is there to impart flavor.[9][10

  6. The idea of the product was patented by General Foods research chemist William A. Mitchell in 1956.[1] The Pop Rocks candy was first offered to the public in 1975. Around 1983, General Foods stopped selling the candy. Some incorrectly believed that this was because of an urban legend that mixing Pop Rocks with carbonated soda could result in a person's stomach exploding. In fact the candy was withdrawn for reasons largely owing to its lack of success in the marketplace and to its relatively short shelf life.

    Distribution was initially controlled to ensure freshness, but with its increasing popularity unauthorized redistribution from market to market resulted in out-of-date product reaching consumers.[citation needed] In 1985, Kraft Foods bought the rights to the candy product and remarketed it as Action Candy through a company called Carbonated Candy. Since 1979, Zeta Espacial S.A., a company based in the municipality of Rubí in Barcelona, Spain, has manufactured, sold and exported the product under the brand name "Fizz Wiz".

    In 2006, Dr. Marvin J. Rudolph, who led the group assigned to bring Pop Rocks out of the laboratory and into the manufacturing plant, wrote a history of Pop Rocks development. The book, titled Pop Rocks: The Inside Story of America's Revolutionary Candy, was based on interviews with food technologists, engineers, marketing managers, and members of Billy Mitchell's family, along with the author's experience. In this book, Dr. Rudolph points out that HLEKS POPPING CANDY from Turkey flooded the market with popping candy in the year 2000s, who became the market leader in the world since then.

    A similar product, Cosmic Candy, and previously also called Space Dust, was in powdered form and was also manufactured by General Foods.[2]