In celebration of Cinnamon Bun Day, I grabbed some kanelbullar and vanilla ice-cream, my friend Anja baked a yummy apple pie, and we convened at our mutual friend’s, Laura’s place to fika our hearts out.
My total foodie friend Sandra suggested we check out a small joint (Jin & Peeters) along Kungsholms Strand that served only three items on their minimalist menu – Dumplings, Rotisserie Chicken, and Belgian Waffles. Intrigued by the odd pairing of dumplings and chicken, we tried it out and were pleasantly surprised. That chicken – sliced right off the spit – tasted as juicy and succulent as it looks.
One of the biggest contrasts that I noticed about Sweden was the difference in diet. I found that people are much more conscious and even knowledgeable about the food they eat everyday. It is important that every meal fulfills all nutritional requirements. While it is without a doubt Swedes enjoy their candy, I feel they are much more concerned about having a balanced diet with the occasional sweet treat.
The same can be said for school lunches. Any other school I have been to has had a cafeteria full of fried or microwaved food, something you would not find in Sweden. I had to always bring a lunch because the school cafeteria was full of junk.
One of the best things about studying in Sweden is definitely the school lunches. I would buy my lunch everyday at school if I could afford it. The lunches are made fresh and there are always lots of options to choose from. The hot and fresh meals are a much welcome change from the fried, unhealthy options I had before.
There are usually many typical household Swedish food to choose from, even some delicious Thai options. The best way to try some real Swedish household food is to buy a few lunches in the school cafeteria. Homemade pannbiff (hamburger steak) with lingonberry jam or pyttipanna (potatoes, onions and ham, chopped and fried together) are just some of the options.
And of course, you cannot forget about Thursdays ärtsoppa (pea soup) and pannkakor (pancakes). This traditional yellow pea soup usually includes pork and is served with mustard, hard bread and salad. To follow this hearty soup, thin pancakes are usually served with jam and whipped cream. Take a trip to any cafeteria or restaurant on a Thursday and you will be sure to find this on the menu.
These healthy hot lunches are even served free in primary and elementary schools. The nutritious meals cover all food groups and contribute to an overall healthy lifestyle. In addition, much research shows that children who eat healthy balanced meals also improve their behavior and focus in the afternoon. This can also have a great impact on a future healthy lifestyle.
You will never find a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, pizza or some frozen unknown concoction in a Swedish school. And, unlike most of the meals served in my old schools for lunch, you can surely pronounce all the ingredients. Instead what you get is freshly cooked, healthy, hot and delicious meals.
Once a month, I often meet up with a couple expat girlfriends for “ladies’ night” where we pick a restaurant and have dinner together. It truly feels like an extended family; a sisterhood of sorts in which we laugh, cry, support, and just enjoy each other’s company. Last week, we were at Sonjas grek - a Greek restaurant located in Södermalm, Stockholm.
Finally! I could have cried out when I put the brown paper bag under my kitchen sink a few weeks ago. Now I din’t, since after all I’m a rather sober-minded Swede. But nevertheless it’s great to – at last – be able to leave my organic waste for composting and biogas-production.
Since I moved to Stockholm in 2004 I have been suffering a little bit every time I’ve had to throw vetegable peelings or half-mouldy leftovers from last week’s dinner (that I have kept in the fridge, hoping the day would come to eat them…) in the waste bin. Burning organic materials, knowing that it would make excellent new soil, is just a big shame.
In many Swedish cities it’s a matter of course that the inhabitants sort out their organic waste and leave it in separate bins. But not in all cities. Yet.
One of the Swedish national environment objectives for 2010 was to recycle 35 percent of the organic waste from households, restaurants, institutional kitchens and shops. But when last year had passed, only 20 percent of our food waste was taken care of biologically. Now a new objective has been proposed: to reach 40 percent by 2015. In that case we have a lot to do.
When I moved to my own flat after years of living in other people’s apartments, I realised I ought to do something about my bad organic waste-throwing conscience. But things don’t always go fast… After trying to make my building society interested in starting a food compost behind our laundry room (which didn’t awake the euphoric reactions I had hoped for. More like “What about the smell? And will there be rats?”) someone kindly tipped me that the city of Stockholm could do the work for me.
And – tada – suddenly we’ve got the city’s containers for organic waste, being emptied every week. The waste becomes bio fertilizer for the farms around Stockholm, or biogas that runs garbage trucks, buses or ordinary cars. One tonne of food waste equals 67 litres of petrol.
Not causing me bad conscience anymore. Photo: Sara Jeswani.
It’s always nice to enjoy the fruits of hard work… but in this case I have to admit it hasn’t even been much work. The incredible thing with growing vegetables together with others is that it’s so easy.
Last year I joined a group in a practical study circle about urban foodgrowing. A local gardening association, Vintervikens trädgård kindly let us use some of their land and off we went. And it turned out to be so fun that we decided to continue this year.
It might sound like a hobby without very big yields, but the truth is this: If I would have tried doing this on my own there wouldn’t have been much more left than a few dry sticks by now, since I left town for five weeks during the peak of the summer. Now, after digging a little bit, planting and sowing, and looking after the plot during a few weeks in June, I get my kitchen full of incredibly fresh beetroots, chard, ruccola salad, carrots, green beans, squash, potatoes and tomatoes. And on top of it I get to spend time in the garden with some really nice people.
Last week we had a harvest lunch, tasting some of what the garden plot had to give. Do I need to say it was absolutely delicious? Then I went home with some difficulties to keep the bike straight, since it was heacily loaded with vegetables.
Last week was also the time for celebrating my friend Cecilia’s birthday. My gift to her this year was a picnic before one of the concerts of Parkteatern here in Stockholm. And it feels like a nice luxury being able to serve her mini pies with homegrown chard and potato/squash/carrot/Jerusalem artichoke soup with very local roots…
I usually avoid touristy Gamla stan unless I’m on my way to the mothership. And Stortorget, the main square right smack in the middle of old town is the most visited part of the city. However, there is a certain cup (rather, bowl) of hot chocolate that Café Chokladkoppen sells that draws residents (myself included) there with reckless abandon.
Now, whether it’s worth the padded “center-of-town” price is another story…