O.K., if everybody could just take a seat. Feel free to pour your own coffee. Milk and sugar’s just over there. I also have some buns if anyone wants some. No? O.K., let’s get started.
During the Swedish summer, barbecues become almost as common as fikas. Photo: Anne Balonier
Now, you know me – Ben Mack, broke college student studying in Sweden, just like all of you. I called y’all here today ‘cuz ever since that last barbecue on campus, my life has been about as much fun as shaving with No. 2 sandpaper.
People whistling at me as I walk by. Feminine hygiene products in my cupboard in the kitchen. That wise guy who wrote his number on the door to my flat. Yeah, I’m not gonna call you, buddy.
But it’s all just so damn amusing I could bust.
So what if I don’t know how to barbecue? I’m not ashamed! Stop laughing, you damn hyenas! You ever try barbecuing in Boise? You’d burn the whole city down! So don’t blame me if the weather here in Sweden’s cool enough so you can actually cook outdoors!
Barbecues are a great way to spend time with friends and meet new people. Photo: Anne Balonier
The point is, you guys gotta stop mocking me! I can’t live like this! And whichever of you jerks changed the name on my shelf in the refrigerator to BENJAMINA – I will hunt you down!
You do damn too know what I mean: you idiots askin’ if I’ve had my Midol today. This is the 21st century. Let’s grow up.
O.K., so I let a girl start the fire and barbecue the sausages. At least I was able to admit I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, unlike the rest of you who conveniently found other things to do.
Hell, the rest of you were taking pictures of the Swedish sunset, which looked exactly the same as every other sunset during the other 364 days of the year. That’s pretty convenient! Or running off into the woods for a 15-minute “bathroom break.” If it really is taking you that long, maybe you should call a doctor.
Observing how to properly barbecue. Photo: Anne Balonier
You jokers have no idea how hard it is barbecuing. First you have to buy everything you need, including an overly large bag of charcoal that weighs half as much as you do. Then you have to fight the hordes of other people all over campus trying to get the same spot as you. Then you have to pour on the lighter fluid and ignite the charcoal without singing your eyebrows off. And lastly, you still have to make sure the meat is cooked all the way through and clean up after yourself.
Yeah, I grew up on a farm. And yeah, I come from the U.S. You think that automatically makes me the Grand Master of Grilling? Well, it doesn’t.
Barbecues are also fantastic ways to create lasting memories. Photo: Thomas Joly
I can admit I’ve never barbecued before. Why would I have? There’s no place to grill in Boise, and growing up in Oregon my Dad would’ve murdered me if I went anywhere near an open flame. Heck, he still barely trusts me enough to drive myself around town despite my perfect driving record.
Hey, it’s not that funny! I mean, students barbecue like every day during spring and summer here. If I don’t learn fast, this could be a real problem.
While usually not advised, playing with fire can sometimes be fun! Photo: Anne Balonier
At least I want to learn. Hey, if I figured out how to do a proper fika, I think I can make it through this.
I’m telling you, boys and girls, you know damn well how much Swedes like to barbecue. There’s a fire pit like every three meters on campus here. Seriously, the area around Lake Trummen is the most happenin’ place in all of Växjö. It’s like a zoo out there!
And I’m not the first guy a gal has barbecued for. Why just yesterday half the people I saw barbecuing were girls. There’s your famous Swedish equality for you. You all have been here long enough to know that. This country was one of the first to have equal rights, and also one of the first to have men and women serve together in the military. And of course y’all know that, tell your date you’re going to pay for her, and you’re just asking for trouble.
So why do all of you keep holding doors open for me and saying “Ladies first?”
When learning to barbecue, you need to start small. Photo: Anne Balonier
Not only that, but I looked up the laws of barbecuing. Doesn’t say anything about having to have chest hair in order to be qualified. So you just keep laughing, you monkeys, but some day some filly’s gonna come along and do something you can’t do.
Well, shoot – if you guys are just going to keep rolling around on the floor laughin’ and peltin’ me with pink tees, this meeting is done. I’m spending the rest of the day swimming. Yeah, it’s not very social, but at least no one will be asking if it’s that time of the month every time I miss a shot if I were playin’ basketball. And no one is going to question my manliness when it’s less than 20 degrees outside.
What? You already saw some people out sunbathing? Well, it is Sweden.
Funny you’re not out there.
The beauty of the Swedish sunset is unmatched. Photo: Ben Mack