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Author Archives: Bronte Aurell

Great Scandinavian idioms

October 7, 2014 | 68 Comments

Great Scandinavian idioms is something we’ve been meaning to write about for ages. Thank you to all those who shared their favourite idiom on Facebook the other day – we laughed so hard we cried at some of these.

We also realised we frequently use some of the expressions and idioms when we’re speaking English in the shop – and no wonder people look at us as if we’re a bit weird when we say things like ‘no cows on the ice’.

Enjoy the list.

The Kitchen People

 

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‘Låtsas som att det regnar’ (Pretend that it’s raining) (Swedish)

Meaning: To act normally, so as not to attract any attention

 

Finns det hjärterum så finns det stjärterum (If there’s room in heart there’s room for the arse) (Swedish)

Meaning: Everybody can fit in here)

 

Skägget i brevlådan – Caught with your beard in the mailbox (Swedish)

Meaning: “To be caught with your pants down.”

 

Näytän sulle, mistä kana pissii  – Let me show you where a chicken pees from (Finnish)

Meaning ‘Let me show you how it’s done’.

 

At træde i spinaten –  “to step in the spinach” (Danish)

Meaning: To make a mistake

 

Jeg er kold i røven – I’m cold in the ass (Danish)

Meaning: I don’t care

 

Dra dit pepperen gror – Go where the pepper grows (Swedish)

Meaning: Go to hell.

 

Även små grytor har öron – even small saucepans have ears (Swedish)

Meaning: the kids might hear

Det ligger en hund begraven här” –  there is a dog buried here (Swedish)

Meaning: there’s something fishy going on.

 

 

Det blæser en halv pelican – Its blowing half a pelican (Danish)

Meaning: It’s really windy

 

Født bak en brunost –  born behind a brown cheese (Norwegian)

Meaning: the person is a bit slow

 

Hej hopp i blåbärsskogen! – Hello jump in the blueberry forest!

Meaning: A cheerful expression to be used when you are a bit surprised (Swedish)

 

Han har taget billeten – he has taken the ticket (Danish)

Meaning: He’s dead

 

Oma lehmä ojassa – Own cow in the ditch  (Finnish).

Meaning: Someone has an ulterior selfish motive behind an action

 

Nu har du skitit i det blå skåpet: Now you have shit in the blue cupboard (Swedish)

Meaning: When you really have made a fool out of yourself.

 

Att lägga lök på laxen – To put onion on the salmon (Swedish)

Meaning: To make things even worse…

 

Bæsje på leggen – poop on your calf (Norwegian)

Meaning: Make a mistake

 

Inte för allt smör i hela Småland – Not for all the butter in Småland (SW)

Meaning: Not for all the tea in China.

 

Å svelge noen kameler  – To swallow some camels (Norwegian)

Meaning: to give in

 

Ligeved og næsten slår ingen mand af hasten – almost and close doesn’t knock a man off his horse (Danish)

Meaning: Close, but no cigar

 

å være midt i smørøyet – To be in the middle of the butter melting in the porridge (Norwegian)

Meaning:  to be in a very favourable place or situation

 

kiertää kuin kissa kuumaa puuroa – To pace around hot porridge like a cat (Finnish)

Meaning: To beat about the bush

 

Under isen – meaning “Under the ice” (Swedish)
Meaning: feeling a bit depressed

 

At hoppe på limpinden – to jump on the Prittstick (Danish)

Meaning: To take the bait

 

Ingen fara på taket – no danger on the roof (Swedish)

Meaning: No worries

 

Han tog benene på nakken. He took his legs on the back of his neck (Danish)

Meaning: He hurried

 

Der er ingen ko på isen – There are no cows on the ice (Swedish, Danish)

Meaning: Nothing to worry about

 

Han har stillet træskoene – “He took off his clogs” (Danish).

Meaning: “He died”.

 

Du er helt ude og cycle – You’re completely out cycling (Danish)

Meaning: You’re completely wrong

 

Dra dit pepperen gror –  Go where the pepper grows (Swedish)

Meaning: Go to hell!

 

Du har virkeligt skudt papegøjen – you’ve really shot the parrot (Danish) Meaning:  You’ve been lucky

 

Ingenting att hänga i julgranen – Nothing to hang on the Christmas tree (Swedish)

Meaning: Not special enough

 

Han har roterende fis i kasketten –  He’s  got rotating crap in his cap (Danish)

Meaning: He’s not quite all there

 

Er det hestens fødselsdag? – Is it the horse’s birthday? (Danish)

Meaning: The rye bread is too thick on my open sandwich

 

Sånt är livet när kjolen är randig – That’s life when the skirt is striped (Swedish)

Meaning: Such is life

 

Jeg aner ugler I mosen – I suspect there are owls in the moss (Danish)

Something fishy going on

 

At være oppe på lakridserne – to be up on the liquorices (Danish)

Meaning to be very attentive or busy

 

 

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A selection of great Swedish signs

October 2, 2014 | Leave a comment

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The infamous warning for what happens if you take your bin

the wrong way into the lift. The end.

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This sign says: Laziness is not a disability.

(From the town of Marknaryd)

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A sign in the Swedish Coop saying: “We’ve stopped selling battery hen farm eggs… have a seat in your trolley and you’ll see why”.

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This is how we confuse each other. No, not everything in Sweden is logic.

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We are really not sure why this one was necessary,

but then again: Just don’t do it.

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Homemade sign in the country saying

“Chickens don’t have great traffic knowledge”

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Obvious warning at a bus stop in Sweden about the dangers

of what happens if you stand on the bench.

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It just means speed humps. Go on, snigger again…

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20% of all road accidents in Sweden involve an Elk. Fact.

Quite a useful sign.

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The people of Malmö do not like balloons.

Oh no, no balloons on central station, please.

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Do not crawl into the big mincer machine. Just don’t.

 

What is Fika?

September 25, 2014 | 10 Comments

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Time for Fika

Every language contains a few untranslatable words.  In Denmark and Norway, “hygge” is generally used as an example for a general state of lovely cosiness.  In Sweden, the word that is hard to translate literally is ‘Fika’.

‘To Fika’ is a good old Swedish word that basically means to ‘meet up, have a coffee and a chit-chat’.  We Scandinavians love nothing more than to meet up for a Fika. This can be done at any time – and a Fika can take anything from 10 minutes to several hours, depending on how good you are at Fika-ing.  If you’re in Norway or Denmark you don’t use the actual word Fika, but the rules of the game are the same.

For a good Fika you’d be expected to serve good Scandinavian coffee.  People in the Nordic countries drink more coffee than anyone in the world, even the Italians.  This is because we love our filter coffee – and it needs to be very strong and served in abundance.  When you have a Fikarast (coffee break) at work or meet someone for a Fika it is not unlikely to polish off a good 2-3 cups of filter coffee in one sitting.  Each.  Perhaps this abuse of caffeine goes a little way to explain why the Norwegians always sounds so happy and why we’re one of the biggest producers of Europop: Our veins are constantly beating in tune to Basshunter hits.

Once upon a time, back in the day, when men were men and women wore twin-sets and went to bed with rollers in their hair, people knew how to treat their guests when they popped by for a Fika.  No pre-packaged cakes, no just popping out to M&S for a roll of digestives and a ham & egg sub.  No, no, back when Granny ruled the roost, things were made from scratch, guests were treated to coffee in the finest china and nobody had to help with the washing up.

Back in the forties, a book was published in Sweden entitled ”Sju Sorters Kakor” – meaning, Seven Kinds of Biscuits.  It does contain recipes for well over a hundred biscuits and cakes, but the reason for the title was simple: seven was the number of different homemade cakes a good housewife should offer any guests that popped over for Fika.  Hmmm, yes.  Six kinds and you were stingy (and probably lazy), any more than seven and you were a show off.  Lagom.

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This lovely book quickly became part of Swedish culture and every household owns at least 4 copies and swear by the fact it is the most influential book since the Bible. Almost.  Every time a distant relative dies, you are guaranteed to receive a few more copies.  Despite the fact that it is illegal to throw any copies of this book away, it is still in print and new editions are churned out every couple of years.  There is a fear Sweden may sink into the ocean one day from a surplus of Sju Sorters Kakor books. Seeing as very few people still offer you seven kinds of biscuits when you pop over, one can conclude that someone somewhere is slacking in the baking department.

In Denmark, a similar fashion arose at around the same time.  In the south of Denmark, near the German border, a tradition known now a days as Sønderjysk Kaffebord, literally Coffee Table from Sønderborg, seeks to rival the Swedish housewife’s offering.  There, you are also expected to serve seven sorts of biscuits – as well as seven sorts of soft cakes – from carrot cake to chocolate cake and layer cakes.  Considering the generation of South Danish ladies who lunched at each others’ houses did not have to be carried around by pick-up trucks, one must conclude that restraint is in the back bone of those Danes.

While the average Scandinavian household no longer has a mini production line of home baking going on (the same as most British household no longer serve high tea on a daily basis), Scandinavians still do love their coffee breaks and we always take time to fika when we can – it is simply part of our culture and still today, it is generally accepted you can pop over to visit your friends without having to synchronise your Blackberry diaries 2 week in advance.  Whether you choose to take your fika breaks with seven kinds of cake, or simply pop out for a skinny soya decaf with vanilla syrup in the sun, make sure you spare a thought for the poor grannies that had to stay at home baking all day fretting about how to look better than the neighbour without over stepping the ‘lagom’ rules – and maybe have a go at making a few of your own (Ask any Swede and they’re bound to have a few spare copies of ‘Seven Kinds of Cakes’ recipe books lying around).

 

 

 

Ten cool Vikings

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Let’s face it: We have quite a few to choose from. Here’s our selection

BlueTooth

Harold Bluetooth

Dear old Harold. Not only did he have a blue tooth, but he was really good at unifying and connecting places – such as Norway and Denmark, where he ruled for many years. And this is why Bluetooth is called Bluetooth today: all because of good ol’ Harold and his incredible social skills.

Ragnar

Ragnar Hairypants

Ragnar is our choice because he has a great name. Also known as Ragnar Lodbrok or Ragnar Hairybreeches, it is likely this Viking ruler wore pants made out of fur. Either this or he was extraordinarily hairy. The sagas say Ragnar Lodbrok may have worn those renowned breeches as protection from the venomous serpents he battled to court his second wife, Swedish princess Thora. Fathered a lot of sons – so many so that historians dispute whether he actually existed or was several different people.

Australian actor Travis Fimmel plays a Ragnor in ‘Vikings’ – although his character is only very loosely based on the real Ragnar. And no hairy pants.

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Freydis Eriksdottir

Our fearsome Viking lady. Freydis was the daughter of Erik the Red (of America fame), married to a spineless man called Thorvard, she joined him on expeditions around the world. One time, Thorvard left her behind in Vinland (North America), fought the natives on her own whilst pregnant, became a farmer, gave birth to her son – until Thorvard came back for her, eventually. She joined Thorvard  on several more expeditions, also taking part in battles. Later on she became a bit too brutal for her own good and was feared amongst other Vikings for slaying men and women regardless. She also invented the sleeping bag (apparently).

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Ogmund Tangle-Hair

Not much is known of this Viking, other than he probably had a bit of a bad hair do.

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Leif Eriksson

Son of Erik (see below), brother of Freydis (see above), Leif was the one to discover North America nearly 500 years beforeColumbus. For that alone, he is on our list. Most likely born in Iceland.

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Erik the Red

Our favourite ginger of all and founder of Norse settlement on Greenland (after he was thrown out of Iceland for murdering a few locals). A master of marketing, he deliberately named Greenland to be more appealing to other potential settlers (having seen what Iceland had done to itself by not naming their island ‘valleys of green and warm earth showers’). Father of Leif and Freydis.

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Eysteinn Fart

Actually, his real name was Eysteinn Hálfdansson, but in one of the sagas, he’s named as Eysteinn Fart. Why? We guess he had a bit of a flatulence problem. He was Norwegian, and in Norwegian he is known as Eysteinn Fjert, meaning fart. Lived 720-768 where he was blown off his ship by a ‘gust of wind’.

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Lagertha

This lady was rather awesome. Wife of the man with the hairy pants, Lagertha was a Viking shieldmaiden from Norway.  Her name most likely came from Hlaðgerðr.

‘Ladgerda, a skilled Amazon, who, though a maiden, had the courage of a man, and fought in front among the bravest with her hair loose over her shoulders. All-marveled at her matchless deeds, for her locks flying down her back betrayed that she was a woman.’

Ragnar dumped Lagertha to marry a Swedish princess, but when he got into trouble in battle, Lagertha still came to his aid bringing 120 ships for him.

The character in Vikings is loosely based on her.

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Thorfinn Skull-Splitter

The 10th-century Earl of Orkney, this fearsome named Viking was born on Orkney. The mother of his five sons was Grelad, a daughter of “Earl Dungad of Caithness” and Groa, herself a daughter of Thorstein the Red. Thorfinn died a very old man and is buried in Hoxa.  The modern Orcadian beer Skull Splitter is named after him.

King-Canute

Cnut

Cnut the Great (Old Norse: Knútr inn ríki) born c. 995, more commonly known as Canute.  King of Denmark, England, Norway, and ‘some Swedes’.  Son of the infamous Sweyn Forkbeard, his grandfather was Harold Bluetooth, so he was from good Viking stock.  Often had to be careful when spelling his own name.

Cnut is often described as being exceptionally handsome ‘except for his nose’.  Cnut was buried at Winchester Cathedral, where some remains are in chests above the choir.

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Some of our quirky little Scandi habits and ways…

September 18, 2014 | 17 Comments

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Scandi habits. Some of our quirky little ways…

We asked around on Facebook and Twitter today for what little ‘ways’ we Scandies have that others may find…. shall we say… quirky?

– Swedes especially like to make an announcement when they need to pee. Stand up in the middle of a board meeting and say : Jag måsta kissa (I need to pee) is perfectly acceptable. In Sweden.

– We may ask to ‘borrow’ your bathroom. Don’t worry, we always give it back.  It’s a literal translation. We may also ask to borrow a cigarette or a cup of sugar. But we especially like borrowing your bathroom. In turn, we find it odd that you are ON the bus and not IN the bus. It works both ways. We drive a bicycle, we don’t ride it.

– Inhale as we speak, especially when we say ‘Ja’ (yes). Try it. Go on, can you inhale and talk at the same time? We do.

– Eat liquorice. Strong, salty liquorice. Our favourite thing is to try and make you taste some of it, and laugh when you choke in disgust and nearly die.

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Add dill to things, many things. From sweet stuff to savoury stuff. From cheese to veg. Add some dill.


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Obsess about Eurovision. In Sweden, they have 5 regional heats before the final.

Eat jam with other stuff than bread. Cloudberry is for vanilla ice cream. Lingonberry is for meatballs. A nice dollop of strawberry jam on stinky cheese.

tubes

Stuff in tubes. Okay, so that’s mainly the Swedes, but there is a lot of it around. And not just puree and toothpaste. We’re talking cheese in tubes, mackerel in tubes. Cod roe kaviar in tubes. If you can squeeze it out of a tube, you’ll be able to buy it in Sweden. Add dill.


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Coffee, the real deal. Filter stuff, made from an unspeakable amount of ground beans. Not one cup, but several. Scandinavia has the highest coffee consumption in the world. We’re practically wired from morning to night. Our veins are like a Basshunter song.

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We like combining good things. Prawns? Good. Cheese? Good. Prawn cheese, anyone? It’s lovely. Ideally in tubes.

 


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– Shoes off. No shoes allowed in the house. Ever.

– Cover everything in Ketchup. We eat spaghetti or macaroni – with ketchup. No need for a fancy sauces here, just ketchup, please. We even put it on pizza. Ironically, we don’t tend to have ketchup with our fries. Why would you have ketchup with fries?

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Tacos. Our new national dish. We only ever eat it on Fridays, though, because Friday is Taco Night in Scandinavia.

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Candles. And darkness. Scandinavians love to turn off the lights and light candles. All the time. They especially like creating ‘atmosphere’ for evening dinner, sitting completely in the dark with only a candle lighting up the room. Some of us never get to see what we are eating.

Can you think of any more ways we are a bit quirky? Feel free to add your comments here.

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A very Danish coffee time in South Jutland

September 9, 2014 | 2 Comments

by Bronte Aurell

I have family in the southern part of Jutland (the part of Denmark that’s connected to continental Europe),  and one of the most vivid memories of my childhood is hearing of the elaborate gatherings known as ‘Sønderjysk Kaffebord’ – literally, a ‘Southern Jutland coffee table’.

Danes love meeting up for coffee and cake of course, but in the south of Jutland, they take it to the extreme. There, a normal coffee time features  seven types of soft cake, and seven kinds of biscuits. Anything less just won’t do.

Such gatherings first became popular in the mid-1800s, when indoor ovens became increasingly commonplace (communal ovens were the norm in  villages and on farms). As home baking became easier, the availability of recipe books led to people experimenting more, and the variety of coffee-time goodies increased accordingly.

While extreme rationing during the First World War meant that southern Jutland’s coffee times were a more austere affair, they took on a new significance during the Nazi occupation of Denmark in the Second World War. The occupiers outlawed public meetings, but welcoming guests for (ersatz) coffee in the home was permitted. So what better way to discuss resistance than doing it while stuffing your face full of delicious baking at the same time?

Of course, there was also an element of out-doing the neighbours. At communal coffee times at a village hall, each wife would bring her cake. But maybe Gerda would bring two different cakes, while Katrine down the road might attempt to outdo her with four types of biscuits. A bake-off gone nuts.

These days,  a typical Southern Jutland coffee table is served in hotels and restaurants, and also sometimes at weddings, christenings and funerals. In fact, the other day I called my dad, who was on his way to Sønderborg with my uncle. He told me that a distant relative had sadly passed away, and they were attending the funeral. I offered my condolences – to which I heard my uncle chirpily reply in the background : “Ah, but there’s a full coffee table afterwards!”.

How to do it – the original way

Present seven types of soft cakes and seven types of biscuits or hard cakes.

People gathered around the table to take one portion or slice of EACH soft cake on your plate AT THE SAME TIME. Yes, really.  You don’t have to do that any more, but that is the tradition. The reasoning was that if you got full up and hadn’t yet tasted Helle’s delicious strieftorte, it just would not do.

How to serve?

Start with the soft cakes, followed by the hard cakes. Always. Never the other way round.

There is a huge list to choose from – some that probably wouldn’t appeal to our pallets these days. The popular ones will always be layer cakes of all shapes and sizes, from strawberry with crème pâtisserie, to ones made with berries from the garden. You will probably always have someone attempting a rye bread layer cake (it’s an interesting thing). Kartoffelkage is another good one – literally ‘potato cake’, but it has nothing to do with potatoes. And then there are tarts, kringles – and so it goes on….

The hard items include fried wheat biscuits known as ‘klejner’, as well as the more familiar butter cookies.

My very favourite kaffebord item is a  biscuit called ‘Ingenting’ which literally means ‘nothing’.

Ingentings are the last biscuit served. A host would ask a guest what more they could eat, to which they would answer ‘ingenting’. And so the guest be offered precisely that – one of these deliciously light, soft meringue biscuits. Because there is always room for nothing.

ingenting

Ingentings Biscuits

Course: Fika
Servings: 30 biscuits
Author: Bronte Aurell

Ingredients

The biscuit

  • 200 g plain flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 125 g butter
  • 1 tbsp cream
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • lemon zest

The topping

  • 2 egg whites
  • tiny pinch of salt
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 1 large tsp vanilla sugar or vanilla essence
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • Optional: 3 tbsp finely chopped almonds

Instructions

  • Method:
  • In a food processor blitz the ingredients for the biscuits (if you don’t have a processor, crumble the cold butter into the flour, then incorporate the rest of the ingredients). Do not work the dough too much. When it is smooth, pop it in a plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to set.
  • Meanwhile, make the meringue topping. Whisk the egg whites with a teeny pinch of salt. Slowly add the sugar and vanilla sugar, bit by bit, and whisk on high speed until you have a shiny, glossy, firm mixture that forms sharp peaks. This will take quite a while. At the end, add the vinegar and – if using – the chopped almonds.
  • Roll the dough out on a floured surface to the same height as a digestive biscuit. Use a round cookie cutter to cut out the biscuits and place on a baking tray. Repeat until all dough has been used.
  • Either spoon out or use a piping bag to get the meringue mixture on to each biscuit. I like quite a thick layer (so the meringue stays gooey in the middle), but if you prefer less, this also works.
  • Bake in the middle of the oven at 150 degrees for around 15 minutes until the base is cooked. I usually leave mine in the over with the door open for a further fifteen minutes,but this is optional.
  • Variations: add colouring, different flavours and experiment. This really is a lovely light treat and worth the effort.

 

The 10 strangest Scandinavian dishes

September 5, 2014 | 1 Comment

Let’s face it: While the majority of our foods makes you want to dance across a Swedish meadow, naked and with joy in your Viking heart, not all of our culinary creations please people from outside Scandinavia.

1. Surströmming.

Fermented herring in a tin. It’s a delicacy and yes, people get excited about Surströmming season and have smelly parties where people get together and eat what is basically rotten fish. When you open the pressurised tin (and only ever do so outside), the smell is so bad you feel sick. Oh, but did we mention it tastes delicious?

Also banned by all airlines –even in checked in luggage. No, don’t try it.

Watch our Jonas open a tin of the strong stuff in Hyde Park

2. Salmiakki salty Liquorice

We Nordics have a great love of salt – and people say this stems from our food heritage of many salted foods.  Most of us grow up eating liquorice so salty it makes grown British men cry tears and beg for mercy. Getting unsuspecting foreigners to try ‘Djungelvrål’ or ‘Tyrkisk Peber’ is a favourite pastime of ours.

Salmiakki is the Finnish word for ‘Ammonium Chloride’, which is a type of salt.

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3. Prawn cheese

We love combining things.  Prawns? Good. Cheese? Good. ‘Prawn cheese’ must then, by definition, be good.

Actually, it really is. Don’t believe us? Try it. It comes in a tube, as nature intended.

4. Wormwood aquavit.

It’s strong, incredibly bitter and not very pleasant, really. In the 10-pack of Swedish mini bottles of Aquavit there is one of them called ‘Bäska Droppar’ – we usually pass this one to foreigners, to see their reaction. Try to avoid it if you can.

5. Salmiakki Vodka

We gave the Salmiakki liquorice flavoured vodka shots a category all on its own. Crush a bag of Tyrkisk Peber sweets, add to a bottle of vodka. Pop the lid back on, leave for a week, turning occasionally. Shake before use, serve chilled in shots. Can also be store bought.

Gamalost

6. Gamalost

Literally, ‘old cheese’.

A Norwegian cheese that could be stored for long periods of time without refrigeration.  Instructions on how to make it include helpful suggestions such as “take some cheese, stuff it in an old sock bury it in the manure under the barn and when it is ready it will crawl out”. Also known as the cheese of the Vikings, the Gamalost is strong, smelly and a very acquired taste.

True to form, we like to have Gamalost parties and sing songs about how much we love Gamalost.

7. Rakfisk

Not dissimilar to Surströmming, Rakfish is fermented char or trout. The fish is eaten raw in a wrap after a good three months of fermentation. Stinks. A lot. What do you expect? It’s rotten fish.

8. Hakarl

So strong it deserves a place in here even if Iceland is not part of Scandinavia.

How would you like a bit of fermented shark? This is a very good guide.

9. Hotdog topped with prawns.

Hotdogs? Good. Prawns? Good. Well, Norwegians and Swedes love nothing more than topping their hotdog with a good dollop of prawn mayonnaise salad.

Why?  Told you. Prawns? GOOD. Hotdogs? GOOD. Get with it, people. It just works.

smalahove

10. Smalahove

Our favourite is Smalahove, simply because of the look. In Norway, you can get a boiled sheep’s head, on a plate. No effort has been made to make it look anything but like what it is. A boiled head. It is tradition to start with the eyes. Yes, the eyes.

Bon Appetit, folks.

 

Unfortunately named Scandi products

July 17, 2014 | 3 Comments

Oh, some of these made us snigger.

A brand of crab sticks in Norway…

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The name of some biscuits in Sweden…

fingermarie

Bread rolls from Finland…

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Snus tobacco in Sweden…

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The word actually means ‘big bag’ in Finnish…

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Toilet rolls from Sweden (okay, so it was the eighties, but still…)

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We stock this.  It’s called Spunk and it doesn’t mean anything in Danish. Salty or fruity sweeties.

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Tins of ham product from Norway….

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Aptly named starch…

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Skum means ‘mallow’ in Scandi lingo…

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Oh, it’s just chewing gum

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Imagine buying food for your little cat….

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Or how about a few bars of Plopp chocolate? It’s actually really nice.

plopp

 

 

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