I have visited many different countries in Europe, especially during my months of backpacking. Unfortunately, I’ve never been to any of the Nordic countries, which means that they’re still on my bucket list! This interview about Sweden and Swedish Food has brought Sweden up to the top.
Emmeline from Always Use Butter was born and raised in Sweden and lives there still. She taught us quite a bit about Sweden and Swedish food, including reindeer being one of the most commonly eaten foods….
I can’t wait for you to read this interview!
Tell me about your background with Sweden.
I was born and raised just outside of Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. My mom is Swedish and my dad is American so we had a bit of both worlds.
We lived in an apartment until I was about 8 and then moved to a cute little cottage on the Swedish countryside. It was so Swedish: a red little “stuga” with white trimmings – something you’ll see everywhere if you go around the countryside here. And around it there were just farms, forests and golf courses. I spent a lot of time playing in the forest, and later going to the stables for horseback riding. And cooking!
I started cooking at a very early age, first helping my parents and later cooking on my own. My favorite hobby at home was cooking and pretending I had my own cooking show. I would prep everything and then talk to “my audience” while cooking. Good practice for being a food blogger!
School was fun as a kid, but I always got in trouble. Not big trouble, but always speaking too much in class and sometimes being a bit mean to my classmates.
In Sweden there’s not much discipline in school, which makes it a very crazy environment at times. The worst that could happen to you was that they called your parents.
We started learning English already at age 9 (now I think it’s already at age 6!). I remember being so mad at my teacher because she was adamant about teaching us British English and insisted that I pronounced things wrong with my American English.
In reality, I was probably better at English than her. But she had just learned this one type of English in school and had no idea that “my” version was also correct. I think it’s a bit better these days!
Tell me about St. Lucia’s Day in Sweden. Is there any food that commemorates the holiday for you?
I love St Lucia’s Day! We really need it there in the middle of winter (it falls on December 13th each year), when it’s totally dark for most of the day.
On this day, the tradition is to in the morning, when it’s still dark, dress up in a long white nightgown. Then one girl puts a crown with candles on her head. The other girls instead put glitter on their heads and hold a candle in their hands.
And the boys usually put this cone with stars on top of their heads. It’s really very strange if you haven’t practiced the tradition every year growing up. I haven’t done this for many years – but as a kid you do it every year in school. These days I might go to church to watch it, just because it is such a cozy tradition.
We also eat the best Swedish baked good there is on this day. They’re called Swedish Saffron Buns or “Lussekatter”– and they mark the start of the Holidays.
What is your favorite part about being from Sweden? What do you wish people knew about Sweden?
I think the best part is that it’s a truly good country. Not everything is perfect, but nothing is really bad either. It’s, as we say in Sweden, “lagom” (means approximately “just enough”).
We do pay a lot of taxes and it’s hard to make a really good living here. But you are also pretty taken care off if something happens, at least compared to other countries.
I wish people knew that we are not the same country as Switzerland 😉 .
How does the unique landscape of Sweden affect the foods commonly eaten in the country? What about the seasons?
Sweden is a pretty cold country with a lot of fields, forests and lakes, so the traditional Swedish food is crops you could find or grow there. There’s a lot of fish, potatoes, grains and root vegetables like parsnips and beets.
Since we have cold winters the food eaten in winter was traditionally mainly food that could be stored for a long time. That’s why the food we eat for Christmas and Easter is not fancy food at all. Instead it’s the food they could store until then – mainly potatoes, cured ham, cured or smoked fish and pickled herring.
Tell me about Swedish Food.
We eat a lot of pork, beef and fish (salmon, herring, cod), and in the North they eat a lot of reindeer.
These days of course we have everything here, just as in the rest of the world, but the traditional vegetables I’d say are root vegetables – potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, celeriac.
For spices there’s a lot of pepper – black pepper of course, but we also use a lot of white pepper, as well as allspice (which we call “spice pepper”).
We also eat a lot of mustard, horseradish and dill in traditional Swedish food.
What is your everyday Swedish food? What types of things are common for breakfasts, dinners, snacks?
We love our “knäckebröd” in Sweden – it’s a hard bread that’s actually a lot better for you than regular bread. And, of course, it could be stored for a long time – which is something we like.
This is a common breakfast or snack, often together with eggs and “Kalles kaviar”, AKA a smelly paste made from fish roe, that some people really like (note: not me).
For dinner there’s usually some meat with potatoes or rice, and sauce. Except for Thursdays – which is traditionally pea soup and pancake day.
Is there anything eaten in Sweden that’s not eaten anywhere else in the world? Anything surprising?
I think pickled herring and salty licorice are the most special foods here.
However, the pizza in Sweden is also different to any pizza you’ll find anywhere else… We call it “Svenne-pizza” which is basically “Swedish pizza” – and while it has the same thin base as a real Italian pizza it can feature toppings like pineapple, ground beef, taco sauce, kebab, and anything else you could think off. There’s even one with a hamburger baked inside it! You’ll find pizzerias serving “Svenne-pizza” in every small town – most likely, several, even in a tiny town – and it’s a very common Friday night dinner.
What’s your very favorite recipe from Sweden? What is your least favorite food that is traditionally Swedish?
Apart from Lussekatter as mentioned above, I really like what we call “Skomakarlåda” or “Cobbler’s Box” – which is a piece of beef with mashed potatoes, bacon and red wine sauce.
I also really like our pork pancake, which is a pancake you make in the oven with bacon or salted pork and serve with lingonberry jam.
I don’t really like the pea soup that we eat on Thursdays. And I’m not a big fan of pickled herring either.
Are there any ingredients that you love that just aren’t the same unless you’re in Sweden?
Strawberries are the best in Sweden – especially early in summer, around Midsummer. They’re a bit smaller and so, so, sweet and full of taste. All other strawberries taste fake to me!
Tell me about your food blog! Why you started it, what it features, etc.
I started my food blog because I always shared recipes with my friends and colleagues anyways. Keeping them all on a blog made that so much easier.
I’m a firm believer that it doesn’t have to take a lot of time or be difficult to cook delicious food – which is why I’m passionate about quick & easy recipes. For example, I have loads of dinner recipes that take less than 15 minutes to make, sauces you can make in under 5 minutes and dinners that cook themselves in the oven.
I actually only have three really Swedish recipes on the blog – the Lussekatter recipe mentioned above and two versions of Gino – which is a delicious White Chocolate Fruit Bake that you serve over ice cream.
Did you like this post about Swedish Food? If so, leave a comment on this post letting me know what you thought!
You should also check out these other articles that detail food from around the world:
Thanks for featuring me, Alexandria! Let me know if you ever come by Stockholm and I’ll take you on a food tour 😉
The Foreign Fork says
Thank you so much for doing the interview with me Emmeline! It was wonderful speaking to you and learning about your culture 🙂