Tag archives for Waffles

Waffle Day: The Good, the Bad, and the Sold Out

Imagine you live in a magical, far-away land. A land clothed in graceful swathes of Lollipop Woods and Gumdrop Mountains, populated by chocolate monsters and gingerbread people. Imagine a world where licorice is king and waffles get their own holiday… Oh wait. Sorry, that’s Sweden.

In a totally improbable turn of events, Sweden celebrates “Waffle Day”—an unofficial holiday whose sole reason for existing is a phonetic mix-up—on March 25. This year, my Waffle Day (or Våffeldagen) started in Swedish class. At that point, I wasn’t even aware of the significance of the seemingly-ordinary Friday. What a fool I was! An innocent! A naïve!

Fortunately, my Swedish class is not exactly, shall we say, “goal-oriented,” so we spent quite a bit of time discussing Waffle Day and its history in Sweden. Waffle Day was never intended to be a holiday as such, but March 25 is nine months before Christmas, and therefore a feast day for the Holy Mary. In Swedish, “Our Lady” is “Vår Fru,” and if you mumble determinedly enough, “Vår Fru” sounds a lot like “Våfflor,” which means waffles. Vår Fru Dagen becomes Våfflor Dagen, and all of a sudden Sweden has a Waffle Day.

Being the foreigner that I am, I find all this a little difficult to grasp. Like, you mean to tell me that people just started mispronouncing the name of a religious holiday en masse, and then they just kept going with it? Did they all just collectively say, “Meh. I like waffles better than church anyway?” Is this really possible?

I don’t know what the opposite of “the heights of religious fervor” is, but I think that Waffle Day comes pretty close.

I’ve also read that Swedes celebrate Waffle Day because it’s spring and back in the olden days, they were happy to finally have fresh milk and eggs, but I’m not sure I really believe that. If that were true, it could be “Practically Any Freshly-Baked Bread-like Item Day.” Plus, the Waffle/Our Lady thing seems a lot more convincing.

After discussing the Waffle Day situation for almost a half hour in class, we were instructed to write an essay on whether men or women drive better, and since I don’t really feel that passionately about the topic, I spent most of the next hour and a half thinking about waffles.

I rallied the troops—two other American girls with Swedish boyfriends—and we went off in search of a Real Cultural Experience. Unfortunately, we met with more disappointment than success. We went to Ebbas Skafferi, a really great café and coffee spot in Lund where I was sure they would have waffles. After confirming that they were on the menu for the day, we each ordered one… only to be told that the Swedish waffles had been sold out for the day and that all they were currently serving were Belgian waffles. The horrors!

Our Belgian waffles did not meet expectations.

We’re not that picky, so we ate them anyway. It felt a little wrong, though.

Waffles! A Real Cultural Experience! (Almost.)

Fortunately, I was soon able to rectify the Belgian waffle snafu. Our friends Gustaf and Malin invited us over for dinner on Saturday, and in honor of an extended Waffle Day weekend, they suggested that we have waffles for dessert. I got unreasonably excited (At last! Real Swedish Waffles!), and then Malin and Gustaf realized that they weren’t really sure where their waffle press was since they just moved. They started going through some boxes, but to no avail. Not being the type to give up, though, they decided to just buy a new one so that we could go through with the plan.

Malin didn't let a silly thing like not having a waffle iron stand in her way.

At last! Real Swedish waffles! A day late, but just as delicious as expected.

 

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To see some photos of “real Swedish waffles” with an American twist, check out Lola Akinmade Åkerström’s “Chicken and Waffles, Swedish Style,” also from blogs.sweden.se.

Welcome to the neighborhood!

My first encounter with Sweden came in Italy, when I was a student at the University for Foreigners in Perugia. I started dating a Swede within the first couple of months, and my Italian roommates had some cautionary words for me.

Svedessi sono freddi. Cold, like their country. Just a little frightening.

The man on the right (my roommate Giuseppe) was responsible for the pearls of wisdom about Swedish people, but clearly we're coming from a very different perspective in any case.

I kept dating the Swede, though, and then I went back to the United States for my last year of college. I got used to fielding questions about Sweden and Swedish people, a country I had still only spent five days in.

No, they don’t have Swedish fish (American gummy candy). Yes, they are really quite blond, generally speaking. No, they’re not all crazy socialists (it’s a parliamentary democracy, duh). Yes, they are really good-looking.

I also got to see my own culture through foreign eyes for the first time: to see how different it is to need a car for life in the suburbs, to appreciate how warm and welcoming Americans are, to experience the joy of actually receiving service with a smile and the delight of unlimited soda refills.

My first trip to Sweden, my first Midsummer in Stockholm, my first encounter with herring.

After I graduated, I went to Sweden for two and a half months during the summer, just short of the 90 days I was allowed to stay in the country without a visa.

I fell in love with the warm summer days, the easy-going lifestyle, the fact that the whole country seemed to be on vacation, and the bicycles. I learned that waffles are a dessert item, not a breakfast food, and that the best way to eat them is covered in jam made of cloudberries, a sought-after yellow berry that grows only in the far north of Sweden.

I also brought parts of America with me, in the form of a 4th of July barbeque party, Mexican food nights, and real American pancakes with maple syrup.

Swedish-style dessert waffles at Skansen, an open air museum and zoo in Stockholm. Note the gooey yellow stuff on the waffle: that's the cloudberry jam!

Another summer ended, and I returned yet again to the United States. I worked in Washington, D.C. first as a waitress and then as an English language teacher at an international language school while applying to other jobs throughout the world. I was aiming for a job just about anywhere in Europe so that I could take a step closer to Simon and to Sweden.

It took awhile for me to figure out that I could actually apply for what my family jokingly referred to as “a love visa” to Sweden just on the basis of my relationship with my Swede. It seemed ludicrous at first. I can get a legitimate visa to Sweden just on the basis of “planning to marry or cohabit with a Swedish citizen?” This is clearly a land both inhabited and legislated by starry-eyed lovers.

I filed the application, and in the meantime, I got a job in Vienna, Austria. I moved there in January 2010, and about a week after I accepted a year-long position there as a project manager, my visa application to Sweden was accepted. Of course.

In May, after a few more months of shuttling back and forth between Vienna and Lund, I gave notice at my job and filed my residency papers for Sweden. In July, Simon and I drove halfway across the continent with a trunk full of my things, headed for the land of Vikings and meatballs, crayfish and Aquavit, long winters and long summer days, Maypole dances and government-mandated coffee breaks.

Two friendly Swedes illustrating the finer points of mushroom picking.

For the last seven months, I’ve had the opportunity to be immersed in Swedish culture as an American abroad, and it feels like I have a foot in both cultures.

My friends are almost all Swedish, and they’ve included me as part of their group and done their best to humor my questions and explain what’s going on. (Now tell me again, why does Lucia wear candles on her head? And why are the boys dressed like wizards?) I’ve been enrolled in my free government “Swedish for Immigrant” classes, where I meet other immigrants and learn about Swedish culture from a pedagogical perspective.

At the same time, I’ve been able to introduce my own cultural traditions within my group of friends, with carving pumpkins for Halloween, hosting our very own Thanksgiving, and baking chocolate chip cookies.

Eating Swedish meatballs in Sweden used to be an exotic and photo-worthy happening. No more.

Welcome to my expat blog at Sweden.se! Skål!