Sweden is known for vikings, meatballs, Saabs, Abba and a ridiculously good-looking race of people. But did you know that the country also has a tradition of eating rotten herring and a celebration centered around eels? Here we share some slightly more obscure facts about the home of the Smörgåsbord.
That’s right — rotten herring is actually delicacy in Sweden. Traditionally the fish is fermented by being put into a wooden barrel filled with brine, which is left out in the sun for about two months. It’s then tinned and left to ferment for another six months before being sold. But beware: it’s scientifically proven that a freshly-opened can of surströmming is one of the most noxious smelling foods to exist. For this reason, it’s usually opened outside and then eaten inside, as the odor can attract flies. Some people even have to put a peg on their nose to be able to stomach it (others, we imagine, might have to drink away the pain with schnapps). Surströmming must not taste nearly as bad as it smells, seeing as the Swedes enjoy it with flatbread, almond potatoes, onions and sour cream.
If consuming copious amounts of liquor while wearing a paper bib and singing drinking songs sounds like your idea of a good time, then you’ll want to be in Sweden come August. Held during the peak of the crayfish season, Kräftskiva is a widely popular celebration where friends and families come together to celebrate summer over platters of crayfish boiled in salt water and beer, seasoned with dill, served cold and eaten with hands. This dish is accompanied by lots of alcohol, and kräftskiva is the sort of occasion where it’s totally acceptable to get rowdy — all in the name of crayfish, of course.
The Ålagille celebration has its origins in Skåne, southern Sweden. In fall, the night is dark and eels migrating to the Sargasso Sea can no longer see nets, so are easily trapped in large numbers. Female eels are considered a speciality. In mid-August to November, Ålagille sees up to 12 varieties of eel being served (it’s fried, boiled, smoked, grilled and stuffed) accompanied by — you guessed it — beer and schnapps. Some restaurants and students even have competitions who can pull the most live eels of out of a bucket, with the winner crowned ‘Eel King’.
D. Mårten Gås
People in southern Sweden also have a Mårten Gås feast in fall, where goose is the go. None of the bird is wasted — black soup is made from the blood and sausages are made from the liver. Even the entrails are used. For desert spettekaka is served, which translates to spit cake. Before you get any salivabased mental images, let us tell you that this desert is actually delicious and does not contain any bodily fluids. Instead, it is a towering cake made from egg and sugar and cooked on a spit over an open fire.
We could go on and on about Sweden and the things that make it so special (all employers are legally required to provide free massages to their workers; you can pay your tax via text message; the sun rises at 3:30am in summer and sets at 3:30pm in winter) but we guess you’ll just have to go there and see for yourself!