Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Flygande Jakob!

What do you get if you mix chicken, bacon, bananas, chili sauce, whipping cream, and peanuts? A tummyache! No. Wrong. You get the makings of a delicious meal known in Sweden as Flygande Jakob. Flying Jacob. Serve it on a bed of rice with a nice salad on the side and you’re ready to tackle the day. Or at least go to bed.

Back in the ‘70s, when all things disgusting happened, some guy named Ove Jacobsson is said to have invented this meal. He was probably a wonderful father, but a terrible cook. Because seriously, who else but a bunch of children and a terrible cook would think that a good idea? Apparently, he worked in the airfreight industry. Airfreight involved flying. His last name was Jacobsson. Creativity is hard. And ta da… Flygande Jakob!

Because it was the ‘70s (remember, when all things disgusting happened) this became popular.1 It was even published in a food magazine, issue number 13 of Allt om Mat in 1976.

I ate this. But I didn't take this picture. Thanks RWB!
I was born just eight short years after the invention of this amazing meal. I don’t know if my mother and father ever loved me enough to feed me heaven in chunky red sauce form. Maybe they did, and I just forgot, because until a week ago, I didn’t know what this was. A friend was visiting. She is a badass and translates books from Swedish to English. And she asked me. I didn’t know. I don’t know a lot of things. Luckily, I’m pretty handy with the internet, so I looked it up and found a recipe. And a couple of days later we were making vegetarian, lactose-free Flygande Jakob for our guests who had a couple of dietary restrictions. And yup, the recipe accounted for that.

Turns out it is super easy to make. And turns out you end up with a whole lot of food. And turns out I love it. In the days that have followed, I have eaten so much. I’ve been trying to make up for 30 years of not having satiated my belly.

Even as I enjoy each forkful, I can’t help but think of the ingredients list. Chicken. Bacon. (Or quorn, in this case. I didn’t know what it was either.) Bananas. Chili sauce. Whipping cream. Those items probably should not be combined. I keep eating though. Closing my eyes and whispering gently to each bite of Flygande Jakob, Jakob, if this is wrong, I don’t want to be right. But it’s not wrong. That recipe is right.

Today, this meal is considered a classic. A Swedish classic. A Swedish classic with bananas and chili sauce. Which should be a reminder to everyone that what is considered classic or traditional or a part of your heritage is constantly evolving. It changes. It is invented. It is reinvented. Because this recipe isn’t even 40. And it has bananas and chili sauce in it. And try as you might, bananas are just not that easily grown in this country. Not now and not 40 years ago.

Welcome to Sweden. And lessons learned from a plate of banana, chicken, chili sauce, and whipped cream.

1 Wikipedia, the only source that matters, says the following about the smörgåstårta, the sandwich cake, which became popular in the ‘70s: “The smörgåstårta is normally made up of several layers of white or light rye bread with creamy fillings in between. The fillings and toppings vary, but egg and mayonnaise are often the base, additional filling may vary greatly but often includes one or more of the following: liver pâté, olives, shrimp, ham, various cold cuts, caviar, tomato, cucumber, grapes, lemon slices, cheese and smoked salmon." Gross.

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