Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Swedish food: The open face sandwich or Smörgås

As it says at the top of this blog, it's the little things in a new country that can be the most jarring. This little thing isn't very distracting to me, or annoying, or a major improvement, I just find it one of those little quirky differences.

Most English speakers know the word smörgås because of Smörgåsbords -crazy buffets usually associated with cruiseships or sometimes used to metaphorically describe a wide assortment of things.

The word Smörgås is the Swedish word for sandwich, but it literally translates to 'buttergoose,' which leads to embarrassing escapades where I dance around my kitchen singing a terrible rendition of Wyclef Jean's Bubblegoose (but in all seriousness, was there ever a good rendition of this song) such as 'you can be at a party cutting loose and you can be snacking on a buttergoose' as my child eats a sandwich (yay for free therapy when he gets older).

But the thing about the Swedish Smörgås is that it is eaten open faced. You take a slice of bread, put some cheese, pickles, butter on top, and eat it (I skip the deli meat since I'm vegetarian). There are advantages to this technique. I find Swedish sandwiches less dry, because the filling to bread ratio is more aligned. But on the other hand it makes for some pretty messy fingers.

That said, for me the Danes take the cake in weird Scandinavian Sandwich eating rituals. When I was at a conference with several Danes - we were all in our early twenties. I watched in amusement as the Danes all neatly ate their sandwiches with knife and fork. I could not bring myself to conform - hell I was in Sweden, not Denmark.


  1. I stumbled across your blog and thought I'd leave a comment. I also added your blog to my list of blogging expats in Sweden.

  2. The second month I was living in Sweden my husband I were moving so I made his dad and him sandwhiches. He called me asking what was in the fridge and why I had put mustard on it, they did eat them though and my husband now perfers the American way.

  3. @Anna - I like your blog, thanks for sharing!

    @ hemborgwife - I never thought I would miss mayonnaise before, but some days I really do. (I do know they sell it here but it's not a common sandwich condiment)

  4. Well, we eat hamburgers with knife and fork most of the time :) Not at burger places like McDonalds, Burger King or Max, but in ordinary restaurants we do.

  5. Hello,
    well, I think mayonnaise is the best addittion to this kind of food. This is really great that you have got no such places like McDonalds Senchaholic...
    Tasty cheese,butter and bread - simply and wonderfull. We do not need all that Burger Kings, simply and local food is the best.When i go to Sweden, I want to eat something local,traditional not the same things around the World. terrible !
    Have a nice day...

  6. I didn't say we don't have McDonalds, I said that "we eat hamburgers with knife and fork most of the time :) Not at burger places like McDonalds, Burger King or Max, but in ordinary restaurants we do", i.e when at a better restaurant, being served a hamburger, we use knife and fork. Sweden is filled with McDonalds.

  7. SInce you were there so recently, maybe you can help. I too was just over in Stockholm and at our friends summer house, and they had these awesome little wooden sandwich bords form open faced sandwiches. As we were only there a few days I figured I would just be able to go to IKEA when I got back here to Portland but I have looked for them everywhere and not found them. Maybe you know of a store in Sweden that I could order them from???? Christy

  8. Since when do you put the butter on top of the sandwich? I don't get it!!

  9. You know you're a true swede when you scoff at the danes! :)

  10. why don't they put bread on top?

    1. That is the question now, isn't it. Or as they might ask 'Why must you put bread on the top?' -- funny how that works huh?