Sunday, February 20, 2005

Semlar anyone?

So I went on a quasi-date, you know, one of those, I have no clue who you are but let's get together and see what we have in common. The date was per se uneventful, but I did learn some very swedish things. Apparently utlander (fer'enners)are supposed to pick up on all these swedish nuances the moment we enter the country. I for one am all about the culture, but gosh darn it if I am going to be able to absorb it all in one go.

Semlar. These are kinda scary, overstuffed cream-puff-looking-monstrosities. I'm skeptical about any swedish sweets that are not godis (gummy candy). Imagine a cannonball sized, relaively dense flour thingie. Not sweetened. Cut off the top, dig out the center. Put a small filling of marzipan at the base of your new hole, and top with unsweetened whipped cream. Put the little cut-off-top back on like a hat. Garnish with flor socker (confectioners' sugar). The swedes traditionally make these for Fat-Tuesday (Stor/Tjock Tisdag, as explained to me, the day you eat alot to get you through the 40 day fast where you dont' eat anything ... you know, for 40 days). It is supposed to be a part of the engordar-bust tradition, but then they are supposed to leave until next mardi gras. It is strange since the reformation occured here in the mid 1600's (I think) that they would still follow the traditionally catholic observation. Commercialism reared its ugly face this year ... semlar are still available. If you are catholic, is it a sin to eat semlar during lent since they are an endulgance designed specifically for mardi gras? Interesting notion ...

Gustav the 12th. Okay, so for those not aware, scandinavia has rarely held its separated borders. At any given time, scandinavia encompassed several states we now consider individual. Apparently, under Gustav the 12, Sweden was at its largest, enclosing Norway, Iceland, Finland, some of the Baltic States, Germany and Denmark. Pretty impressive, I think, but Gustav the 12 met an untimely death when challenging the Russians. The entire empire went into mourning. His troops carried his carcass home for barrial, vacating their confrontation with the Russians. My date made sure I knew this after showing me a scene depicting the trip back to Stockholm from the battlefield. You can see it at the top of the stairs in National Museet. Clearly, the empire did not hold up without Gustav XII.

Glass blowing factory commissioned in late 1690's. Some of you may be vaguely aware of Swedish Crystal. With no intentions of offending, I personally think swedish crystal is superior to italian, french, waterford(ian?) crystal. There is something decidely beautfil about it. I recommend perusing some if you've never seen any: Orrefors and Kosta Boda Before 1690 the swedes imported all their glasswork. I noted this in the museum because there was only metal from sweden -- sweden is one of the more ore-rich nations in the world. The royal family commissioned a glass factory on Kungsholmen (one fo the 6 islands making up stockholm). The pieces produced already set sweden apart from other cultures. The utilitarian nature of the new swedish glass was the most remarkable feature, to me at least. However, that factory was gone again by mid 1800's. Sa Synd (what a pity).

So, some swedish culturage for my readers :)



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