Taminka – Semester Exchange to Malmo University , Sweden
Semester 2, 2016
My favourite Swedish Meal
There were 200 exchange and international students seated in the lecture theatre. It was my second day in Sweden. We were being briefed on the fundamentals of Swedish life. In regards to food we were to expect ‘köttbullar’ (meat balls), ‘ost’ (cheese), smōrgas (open sandwiches with sour cabbage, cheese and fish) falafel and Fika (explained below).
Whilst not my favourite meal, a plate of IKEA meatballs was definitely the cheapest available. For 29 Krona ($4 AUD) you get a full meal. This is revolutionary in a country where a latte will set you back 32-45 Krona. In any case, it’s cheaper than the bus fare to the IKEA which is always located on the very outskirts of the city, by the end of the semester we were cycling there for our weekend lunches. Vegan ‘meat balls’ are also available, in what was certainly the most environmental and rights based national food industry I’ve ever seen.
Beyond IKEA, other Swedish fundamentals we were taught included two words. One which sort of means for the sake of equality everything in moderation, ‘lagom’ and explains in part why most people dress in the same neutral colour H&M clothes, furnish their apartments with IKEA and Design Torget and don’t talk or smile to strangers.
The other word, Fika. Swedes insist this cannot and shouldn’t be translated as its meaning transcends its literal explanation. It is special. It denotes the experience of having coffee and cake with friends, the cake is most often a cinnamon bun. The coffee, to my Melbourne snobbish taste is generally just filtered but over my three months here I have come to treasure Fika, it is definitely my favourite Swedish meal.
Fika takes many forms. Before, during and after any event such as a meeting, service or public lecture Fika will be served. This can include fruit, biscuits, dip, cheese, cake, coffee, orange juice and a variety of teas. During my semester abroad I got involved with the Foreign Affairs Association and we would host weekly lectures, it was always worth cycling in the dark and cold not only to hear about an interesting topic but to get to know people and have some nice food.
Fika is also enjoyed at cafes, lounge rooms and is a valid reason for a break in your class or workday. My Fika order became a latte and kanelbulle (cinnamon bun), either enjoyed with classmates after class or as I would write postcards back home.
Yesterday was my last day in Sweden and I went to Malmo’s Cafe of the Year ‘Åb Smaland’ for one last cinnamon bun, but even as I prepare to come back home I will hold onto the advice they have written on a sign at their counter, ‘There is always time for Fika’.