Savoring a Swedish Smörgåsbord
By Sonja Groset
The smörgåsbord is probably the only well-known Swedish (and Scandinavian) culinary tradition. While Swedes celebrate with food throughout the year for holidays and other festive occasions, travelers can sample the smörgåsbord any time of year. Good smörgåsbord opportunities are at the Grand Hotel at Stockholm and Oslo, and on the overnight boats between Stockholm and Helsinki or Copenhagen and Oslo. In Denmark and Horway, the smörgåsbord is called koldt bord.
"Smörgåsbord" translates to something like "bread and butter table." It has evolved over the centuries to the elaborate spread seen today. A modern smörgåsbord is best served with an ice-cold shot of vodka or Sweden's other local fire waters: brännvin or aquavit, spirits distilled from grains or potatoes and flavored with herbs and spices. (Try a shot along with your meal.)
Here are seven simple steps to a smaklig (tasty) smörgåsbord:
- Browse the buffet before you begin, so you can budget your stomach space. Think of the smörgåsbord as a four- to six-course meal.
- Don't overload your plate, as many Americans are prone to do. Instead, make several trips, taking a fresh plate and cutlery each time. To signal the waiter that you're finished with each round, lay your fork and knife side-by-side on the plate. If you're getting up but not are finished with your plate, place your fork and knife (in the shape of an X) on the plate.
- Begin with the herring dishes, along with boiled potatoes (in Sweden & Norway, not Denmark) and knäckebröd (Swedish crisp bread).
- Next, sample the other fish dishes (warm and cold) and more potatoes. Gravlax is salt-cured salmon flavored with dill, served along with a sweet mustard sauce (gravlax senap).
- Move on to salads, egg dishes, and various cold cuts. (Don't forget more potatoes and knäckebröd.)
- Now for the meat dishes--it's meatball time! Pour on some gravy as well as a spoonful of lingonberry sauce, and load up on more potatoes. Other roast meats and poultry may also tempt you.
- Still hungry? Load up on cheese, desserts, fruit, cakes, custards, and coffee.
Smaklig måltid! Enjoy your meal!