Halloween is something of a big deal here for the Svedlund household. It’s been the main topic of conversation for all of October so far – and I wouldn’t want it any other way!
Little Tyra’s mother Erzabeth turned twenty nine yesterday, and to celebrate she suggested we make a trip to Liseberg – an amusement park in Gothenburg that’s been pumping Swedes with adrenaline since 1923 – and experience their Halloween celebration.
So last night, Sebastian, Little Tyra, Erzabeth and I bundled up against the October chill (it’s getting really cold now in Sweden), and headed to Gothenburg. Having never been to a theme park around Halloween I wasn’t clued up on what to expect, which is how I like it.
I can remember a little while ago Sebastian telling me that Halloween wasn’t all that important to the average Swede, well I beg to differ! A festival atmosphere greeted us the moment we walked through the gates. A troop of unsettling scarecrows, and a vast number of pumpkins – we’re talking thousands – decorated the pathways (along with piles of other autumnal vegetables paying homage to the harvest season). As we made our way from one area of the park to another, the theme went from countryside harvest to post apocalyptic with District Z, where the dead were waiting for us among burnt out cars and buses. Little Tyra was hardly phased by the zombies that lurched in our direction.
Liseberg’s festivities left me feeling like I never want to neglect Halloween again, and I’m already planning how I would love to see in next years celebration.
When I first started this Re-shaping Fika series one lovely reader recommended I indulge in some morotskaka (carrot cake) and, as luck would have it, on Saturday Little Tyra’s Mother Erzabet, who’s also my good friend and fellow creative-in-action over at The Divine Weirdos, invited me over for some crafting and morotskaka.
I knew that the Swedes baked the best cinnamon buns. I knew that they made the best chocolate. But I didn’t know they made the best carrot cake too. Friends, if you can get your hands on a morotskaka from Hägges, do so. (It’s available at ICA). As well as devouring multiple slices of cake, Erzabet provided a hefty sack of godis! Saturday has an alternative name here in Sweden – Lördagsgodis, and the day involves the consumption of vast mountains of candy by children and adults alike. I’m currently finding it really difficult to stay away from Marabou Chocolate (the variety here is packed with pieces of Oreo), a brand which has been around in Sweden since 1916, long enough to perfect their craft.
We spent the afternoon at the kitchen table – surrounded by little reminders that Halloween is on its way – making props for a photoshoot that we’d be doing the following day in the forest…photos of that coming soon.
Taking Fika with Little Tyra and Erzabet rounded up my little series perfectly. I’ve developed my appreciation for ‘the moment,’ spent more time with those I love and expanded my knowledge of Swedish sweet treats. I couldn’t have asked for more! Fika, I’ve discovered, plays an invaluable role here on The Girl With Cold Hands, and I’m looking forward to seeing where my exploration will take me from here…
This morning I asked Sebastian what I ought to do for Fika, and he told me to Google mandelkubb. I spent some time scrolling through Google Images thinking to myself, ‘well now, these are rather modest looking pastries,’ but I trust my Swede, and his taste buds, so while out grocery shopping I picked some up.
Fika didn’t happen in the afternoon, instead it took place at around 7.30 in the evening, after I’d returned from a photo shoot in the dark woods. (I was a troll…)
My hands were chilled to the bone on arrival, and I was hankering for hot tea and something sweet, so ripped into the packet of ‘modest looking pastries.’
Baked using predominantly almonds – and being something of a marzipan enthusiast – I knew just from the smell that I was just about to bite into something that would become a new addiction. And I wasn’t wrong. Modest they looked, but the taste was anything but.
The soft texture was a wonderful surprise, and the sugar nibs on top provided just the right amount of crunch. I thought it only fit after photographing myself as a troll, that I used Sebastian’s Theodor Kittelsen Skogstroll mug for my cherished Yorkshire Tea. Believe me when I say this stuff is cherished. I never waste a drop…!
I’ve made a number of new prints available in my store, including these three spider web images. These were taken a few weeks ago, mere minutes after I had woken up and noticed that the morning was too special too miss.
After months of waiting, I was finally called to an interview today in connection with the Swedish For Immigrants course. It went well, mostly, aside from the moments of brain freeze where I promptly forgot pretty much everything that I could write in Swedish.
My concentration is improving after having been on my medication for a little over a month, but I think I could have prepared myself much better had I known the sort of things that were going to be asked of me. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and getting something wrong hurts much more than it should. On a lighter, more exciting note now I just waiting on the call to tell me when I’m able to start the course.
I felt like I needed something a bit sickly sweet when I returned home, so I rummaged around in the candy bag Sebastian brought home the other day and picked out the fudge he bought for me. I paired it up with a new novel that I took out from the library – Goldengrove by Francine Prose, a story about a young girl facing loss after the untimely death of her sister. The novel is set in America, though ideally I would love to be enveloping myself in stories set here in Sweden. But finding them translated into English at the library here in Borås is, sadly, difficult. On the bright side, they have books in English and for that I’m so bloody grateful!
There was one slice left over from the other day’s blåbärspaj, so after a bike ride out in the cold (the northern wind is really picking up now), I was only too happy to clear the dish. Gently warmed with some vaniljsås, it tasted just as rich, just as sweet, just as divine as the day Sebastian prepared it.
I’ve been trying to spend a bit less time online and more time with my books of late, so instead of scrolling through my Facebook timeline for the umpteenth time, I took my always-to-hand copy of Earth Shattering : Eco Poetry (Bloodaxe) and leafed through until I found some poems celebrating autumn. The heating has recently been put back on in the apartment block, after a long break for the summer, so my Fika today was especially cozy.
Today Little Tyra was coughing and sneezing so had to come home from daycare early. I’m used to spending much of the day by myself at home, but having Sebastian and the lovely little one home hours before they usually would be, I quickly tried to think of something that we could do together that I could incorporate with Fika.
I remembered the other week when Sebastian linked me to a photo of roses crafted entirely from leaves, so I headed to YouTube and found a wonderfully simple tutorial. We live on the edge of the forest, so once I had found a tree that had shed large enough leaves it took a matter of minutes to fill up a bag with autumn’s offerings. The colours that autumn delivers never ceases to fill me with wonder and the older I get, the more I value the beauty of a fallen leaf.
Making the leaf roses was almost effortless, and the results, nothing short of breathtaking. I could sit quite happily all day folding and wrapping these fallen, wild things and crafting them entirely new lives.
Little Tyra and Sebastian needed to nip out, so I was on my own for the food part of our Fika. Yesterday’s recipe was indulgent, so I decided to take something a little healthier today. These colder months call for the use plenty of warm spices in cooking, especially cinnamon. So I decided to go all out with my favourite spice and took out two Wasa Kanel (I always have these in the cupboard) and made a little concoction that I’ve put together before of Philadelphia Light, a sprinkle of cinnamon and half a tea spoon of sugar. Accompanied by a cup of *Yorkshire Tea, it made for a perfect autumn pause.
*I don’t do coffee, but I’m hoping that my vast and consistent intake of cinnamon makes up for this sacrilege.
It was in the height of summer – and blåbär (blueberry) season – when Sebastian, Little Tyra and I made the four hour journey to Hagfors to spend the week with Sebastian’s family. We spent many beautiful hours in the sun dappled forests, harvesting blåbär and staining our fingers and mouths. Sebastian taught me how to gently hold the plant to help the berries come off with ease. After the harvest, we bagged up the berries and they’ve been gathering ice ever since.
But today, the thought came to me to do something special with them, and Sebastian suggested blåbärspaj (blueberry pie) in essence it’s a Swedish summer on a plate. I happily let Sebastian take charge in the kitchen and with Little Tyra’s help, he baked while I went out in search of vaniljsås (vanilla sauce).
When I came back home, bringing the autumn cold with me (it’s nearly time for gloves again), a come-hither smell greeted me and I walked into the kitchen to find a sumptuous dessert resting on the stove top. The blueberry juice had crept up the sides of the pie dish, and peeked through the softly browned topping. I feel proud of my boyfriend every day, but today, as I looked down at pie he had so lovingly prepared, I felt my heart triple in size.
Sebastian dished up while the blåbärspaj was still warm, and we ate it with plenty of vaniljsås. I savoured each mouthful, while sitting back and remembering the long days under the sun. This Fika wasn’t like most of the ones which came before. All three of us had played a part it bringing it together. While summer berries stained our tongues and warmed our bellies, outside the autumn night grew darker and colder and the leaves continued to fall.
The longer I live in Sweden, the more obsessed I become about the Swedish concept of Fika – those moments during the day when you stop, take a coffee (or in my case milk and tea) and something sweet and start breathing again.
I’ve been taking my Fika at my desk with (almost exclusively) kanelboller for nearly nine months now. However, while my heart will always be cinnamon flavoured, I’ve been playing with the idea of exploring other ways to enjoy this more-then-just-a-break moment.
Though I’m madly passionate about taking time out to re-connect, I have the tendency to hurry through my Fika, to shovel down my kanelboller and throw back my milk, rather than fully savouring everything about the moment. Basically I go against the whole Fika ethos of appreciating the moment. So I want to start again with a clean slate. I want to forget those rushed minutes when I hardly even tasted my kanelboller. I never want to take another Fika for granted. This coming week, through a seven day series, I’ll be re-shaping my approach to Fika and fully appreciating the value it can bring to my life.
If you have any Fika food recommendations, or anything at all to say about this wonderful aspect of Swedish culture, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.
I can remember, as a little girl in the early 90’s, watching my Dad flip rounds of black pudding out of the frying pan and onto a plate covered with kitchen roll. I can remember him telling me that the Vikings used to eat black pudding. I can remember slipping a slice, still hot, between a piece of white bread and butter and wolfing it down, before running out of the door to catch the bus to school. I can remember relishing the rustic, irony taste and feeling warrior strong.
While out shopping yesterday, I found myself stalling at a fridge full of blodpudding. It was outrageously cheap – under 10 krona – and I felt a sudden, intense craving for the black pudding of home. (Yes, the thought ‘maybe we can live on blodpudding from now on’ did cross my mind…) I picked up one of the half moon shaped containers, noticing immediately that it was smoother and more pliable than the English sort, and found myself feeling something of a thrill to be getting something out of the ordinary. You know how it can get…weeks go by, routine sets in and you cook the same recipes almost with your eyes closed.
I asked Sebastian what he usually eats blodpudding with, and he told me ‘apple mos’ (apple sauce). So today, with Sebastian playing a gig in Oslo and me at home on my lonesome, I decided to indulge myself.
Raw, blodpudding has something of a gooey texture, but it cuts like butter and I fried up an extremely hearty slice. I was feeling optimistic that I’d enjoy it. And I wasn’t wrong. The crispy outer texture brought home a flood of memories and the inside was melt in the mouth. To accompany the blood, the Swedes add plenty of spices such as cinnamon and cloves to their blodpudding, making it deliciously sweet and Christmasy tasting. I tried a mouthful with apple mos (though it’s most commonly eaten with ligonberry jam) but thought it worked even more deliciously on its own.
Most foreigners don’t bond well with blodpudding. I’m happy to be an exception.