Friday, June 18, 2010

So I had this food column in Austin once but,

I'm not your stereotypical Texan, and Simon isn't your classical Swede. His hair isn't blond, his eyes are not blue, and sadly for him I am by no means a cowgirl. I live in Austin, he lives in Stockholm, and though I seem to have grown quite (in)famous for my hedonistic enjoyment of food, wine, cocktails, and general indulgence here... I figured why not expand and taste what wonders what might lie over there? I have traveled and dined extensively, but never taken the time to write or even adequately explore the treats that stretch north of the usual American tourist latitudes of Berlin and Paris.

3 years ago, trip 1
It's been a long time since I've had my first taste of Sweden. It's been almost as long since I got my first taste of truly fine cuisine. I was a Swedophile long before a oenophile, and well? Now it's time to combine the two. To go back to Stockholm, a city I saw all too briefly just once but immediately loved, and try to grasp the true meaning of "Fika." Lounging on my dirty, carpeted apartment floor this morning idly chatting with Simon over Skype I asked him, "What is fika?" I knew the paper-answer which would be that it is to sit with loved one's and have coffee and maybe some sweet breads, cookies, or biscuits and talk in the afternoon. I had heard of it from other Swedish friends, and they all likened it to being as Swedish as little red houses, that strangely painted horse, and the Vikings. Fika is a true representation of the culture of Sweden, they say. It is hard to see how something so common as coffee and sweet morsels with family or friends (or as Simon tells me even co-workers in public offices) would be something one could attribute to a specific way of life, but I can tell there's something there and and I want to understand it. So I asked Simon a follow up question, "What makes 'fika' fika?" He paused and hmm'ed and with his usual cautious approach to words, "Fika is a gathering. It is collective. I used to not think of that way, but I read that in Sweden we are collective. We reach decisions over fika even. We want everyone in the group to have a say." Ah, those Nordic near-socialists... "Maybe fika is a coming together, perhaps?"

My eyes sparkled with their usual mischief and I replied, "I want to learn what fika is really about." So here I am. A few days shy of my flight to Stockholm. Sure, there's more to the tale, and my story with Simon and this trip is much more involved than a potential travel blog on the ways of life, restaurants, and overall dining in Sweden. For now, dear friends let me say that Sweden is more intricate, wonderful, and even beautiful than our American travel shows have thus far displayed. Case in point, my beloved Bourdain on "No Reservations." Since telling, or rather showing Simon this blog he has retracted his statement as "Mostly bullshit," but had no other answer to offer. Swedes think that fika is uniquely Swedish and impossible to explain in so many words which is not surprising for a culture not quite fond of ever using many words, or at least very slowly and carefully selecting the few they do. I guess it's up to me to find the right ones.

I leave in just 3 days, my stomach is already in knots and my decision to try out 30 days as a vegan (which has spilled into 35 days of a thus far indefinite period) has me questioning just how much or what I'm willing to try. I have to swallow my seemingly fadish American diet and/or beliefs and swallow the whole smorgasbord of princessatorte, lingonberry jam, pickled fish, potatoes, and even beer as well. Okay, so maybe me swallowing alcohol isn't too much of a sacrifice? Good thing I bought new running shoes today. Unless I want to look like a "fat American tourist" on sight, I'm going to need them.

1 comment:

  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE!! Please take me with you!!!!
    I swear i want talk @ all!!!!