“smörgåstårta. wtf is this? you cant put a sandwhich on a cake! *explain further*”
That is an actual email I received several years ago while teaching Swedish. I haven’t changed a single thing. That’s a copy and paste job right there. And I know you’re supposed to cite your sources, but I’m not citing this student. It’s best for everyone involved.
In a stroke of pedagogical genius, I just sent this student links to the Wikipedia page in English AND in Swedish. See? A learning opportunity.
I don’t necessarily expect super formal emails to be sent to me when I teach. Especially as, at the time, a graduate student who was only a few years older than some of the students in my class. But this one was new. I got the full on “wtf.” It bothered me, I’ll be honest.
Which is too bad, because it’s a legitimate question. Seriously, smörgåstårta? Wtf?
I’m hungry right now. And I walked by a bakery earlier. And bakeries make me think of delicious baked goods. And delicious baked goods make me think of things like kladdkaka and princesstårta. And the word tårta makes me think of smörgåstårta. And that, my friends, is how genius happens. Or a complete and utter inability to focus on anything important the second I get a little bit hungry.
The smörgåstårta first made it’s way into Sweden around the 1940s, was credited to Gunnar Sjödahl from Wedemarks konditori in Östersund in 1961, and became a Swedish staple in the 1970s. Since then, the smörgåstårta has been a staple of the finest Swedish cuisine. And by fine Swedish cuisine, I mean something that will feed a bunch of people, because it sits like a rock in your belly and can be served as leftovers for days, because no one can eat more than a piece at a time.
Anyway, a smörgåstårta is a sandwich cake. Literally. What it really is is a sort of savory cake with several layers of hedonistic Swedish pleasures smushed into a sort of creamy spread smothered all over bread. It’s not uncommon to bite into a cake filled with shrimp, salmon, crayfish, eggs, tomatoes, and cucumber. Of course, none of those things are creamy. That’s where the liver pâté, and mayonnaise comes into play. If you’re really lucky, you’ll also find some cold cuts, maybe an olive or two, and of course some lemon slices on top.
Now I want you to read through that last paragraph one more time. Then I want you to imagine biting into that and letting that sit in your gut for the rest of your workday.
Because, you see, the only time I’ve ever run into a smörgåstårta in the wild is at a Swedish office. Every now and again, while working here, we were graced with the presence of this monstrosity and invited to partake in the glory that is the smörgåstårta. I’ve heard rumors that this is sometimes served at parties. Apparently, my friends have better taste than that. Or they just don’t invite me to their parties. My friends are clearly assholes.
Welcome to Sweden. And Swedish foods that Americans fear.