Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Stockholm Semla Season

“The last time I saw him, we had semlas. So, well, it must have been about a year ago," said the taller-than me, bespectacled Swede as he tried to place the event on the timeline of his life.

In Sweden, time is measured by food. Not officially. It’s not like calendars were banned after the last Swedish witch craze in Mockfjärd in 1858, because witches. But you may find yourself walking around town thinking to yourself: I wonder if today is Thursday? Don’t worry, just stop by your local restaurant and ask them for dagens lunch. If it’s pea soup and pancakes, congratulations, it’s Thursday. Or maybe everyone has left town and you’re wondering: huh, is it July or August? If you’ve recently been invited to wear silly hats and eat crayfish, it’s August. Of course, the winter is confusing. It gets dark and difficult to read a calendar. Is it November? December? January? Who knows? 7-Eleven knows, because if they’re advertising lussebullar all over town, it’s December.

Luckily, you can employ the same strategy even after Christmas. Just use semlas. Semlas are sweet cardamom buns filled with cream and almond paste. It’s really all you could ever ask for in a baked good. (There's even a recipe in this cookbook.)

A new-age semla. Still delicious.
Semlas are also a good way to tell time. They are really only available between New Years and Easter. Which, come to think of it, is quite a while. They reach their peak though on semladagen, fettisdagen, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday. The day is known by many names, but you can just call it the-best-day-ever-because-you-can-eat-as-much-dessert-as-you-want-and-no-one-will-judge-you day. It has quite the ring, doesn’t it?

You see, once people have finally received their first January paycheck, paid off Christmas and New Years and bought something other than spaghetti and ketchup for dinner, there’s usually a crown or two left over. Having survived most of the winter, it’s important to treat yourself.

Like many other folks living in Stockholm, February means two things in my Swedish world: semlas and sunsets after four in the afternoon. They’re delicious and exhausting and make me want to vomit and then eat another. The semla, not the sunset.

Welcome to Sweden. And February. I think. Yes. That picture says February.

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