Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Rhode Island Dressing and Boston Pickle

Swedes seem to have a special attachment to American culture. It is a bit of a love/hate relationship. They seem to appreciate a lot of it, while snarking at the same time.

But there is a strange phenomenon of naming things after American things for absolutely no apparent reason.

First of all, there is the infamous Boston Pickle, or Boston Gurka. This relish is a common find at local kiosks. You can add it to your hot dog, your hamburger, or just mix it up with your mashed potatoes – a common kiosk side dish.

Boston Pickle has never been near Boston. In fact it was developed by a Swedish company to be marketed as a Swedish topping. I have no idea why. But it is pretty good! I usually add a little to my veggie burger now and then.

Rhode Island dressing is a bigger mystery. Why islands seem to inspire dressings is beyond me, maybe all of the seafood? Rhode Island dressing looks a lot like Thousand Island, and I really am not sure what the difference is. Anyone with any experience? Anyone know why Rhode Island dressing is called Rhode Island?

The only story I have heard was that once when it was served it was poured into a strange shape that made it look like Rhode Island. But I cannot imagine a bunch of Swedish chefs standing around going ‘What shall we call this new creation of ours? Why look, doesn’t that remind you of the state of Rhode Island? I say we call this dressing Rhode Island Dressing!’

Anyways, here is a recipe for Rhode Island dressing to help you appreciate Swedish food culture!

1 cup of sour cream or heavy plain yogurt
1 Tablespoon chili sauce
1 Tablespoon Lemon juice
1 Tablespoon chopped peppers
5 drops of Tabasco
1 teaspoon vinegar
½ cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of the ingredients together and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving to get right consistency.


  1. And the American Dressing! I think it's supposed to be like a sauce at Burger King.

  2. All these years I thought Rhode Island Dressing was an American dressing that we had imported.

    Bostongurka is one of the things I really miss in England! I read about the history of its name somewhere, can't remember where though!

  3. Rhode island dressing was invented by the chef Tore Wretman in the 40's. He wanted a sauce that, except from of course suiting the taste of the time, was easy to prepare at the table since preparing food by the table was popular at finer restaurants at the time. I can't find anything about the name.

    Bostongurka was invented in 1951 by Herbert Felix, the boss of Felix, a company that made other pickles. He basically wanted a way to make use of the cucumber ends that was left over from the making of other products. The name is the result of an internal competition at the office, and his secretary won. The inspiration to the cucumber mix (or more precisly, the idea to make a product that could be used with fast food) came from a trip to the US that Herbert Felix made (don't know if he actually went to Boston...).

    This is from wikipedia. I knew Bostongurka was Swedish, but I did think Rhode islad dressing was from the US. How about Thousand island dressing then?

    I doubt that Kavli Amerkansk hamburgerdressing has anything to do with Burger king thought, it's hardly an attempt to mimic their dressing, they are way to different (but I lika them both).

  4. Interesting, thanks for all of the extra info. I did not know it was Tore Wretman who invented RI dressing. This only deepens the mystery, why the name?

    I had never seen the dressing before moving to Sweden, but we do have Thousand Island in the US. Also Russian, which bears a bit of a resemblance to Rhode Island as well.

    Thanks for the tip about American dressing, I know I have seen it at my SIL's but I didn't realize it was so widespread. I do like how they have renamed Cool Ranch Doritoes to Cool Americana.

  5. Swedish Fish isn't swedish so why the name?

    1. Swedish Fish IS originally Swedish. But it's called "Pastellfiskar" (pastel color fishes) here. They were invented by Malaco (a Swedish candy manufacturer) in the 50's when they started exporting to the US.

  6. haha, touche anon. Of course it is because Swedes love all gummy candies and fish!!!

  7. Thank you for the explanation! It was driving me nuts that Rhode Island dressing doesn't come from Rhode Island. Also Maryland cookies- being from Maryland I can say that there's nothing Maryland about them.

  8. As a native Rhode Islander, I have never heard of RI Dressing. We certainly call it Thousand Island Dressing. Also, Rhode Island isn't actually an island. We are the smallest state in the USA and our whole name is Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Althought we do have small islands which are part of our state.

  9. Its the same with other stuff, did you try French Croque Mesier? or Spanish Cortado, or Italian Late? Or figured out why they call chévre for chevré?

    1. Except the spelling should be "Croque Monsieur" and "Chèvre" in French, and "Latte" in Italian.

  10. Swedes have also this weird cookies called "finska pinnar", or "Finnish pins/fingers". The weirdest part is that they are *completely* unknown here in Finland.

    But then, we Finns have our own faux-American thingies (apart that Amerikansk dressing imported from our big brother Sweden):
    – Boston cakes (bostonkakku), a sticky cake made of cinnamon rolls (more like Scandinavian cake if anything!!)
    – Dallas buns (dallaspulla), just buns filled with quark and vanilla creme.

    No idea why baptize pastries as American cities. Makes no sense, apart from the mid-20th century admiration of America the Wonderland.

  11. No Danish pastry in Denmark and no German potato salad in Germany. I am from Rhode Island and there is no Rhode Island Dressing in Rhode Island. I was surprised to see it when I visited Sweden in the 80's.

    1. Danish pastry is "wienerbröd" - bread from Vienna, in both Danish and Swedish...

  12. Another wierd Swedish food name is cottage cheese from the brand Arla. It's sold under the name "keso" wich actually comes from the Spanish word for cheese - queso. There is no logical explanation to this whatsoever. Apparantly somebody at the marketing office at Arla had been to Spain on a vacation just before they were going to introduce cottage cheese to the Swedish market and thought it would be a good name for the new product to name it cheese - but in spanish. With swedish spelling. Anyway, keso is now the established Swedish word for cottage cheese. I guess we just have a long tradition of naming new stuff after something foreign to make it sound more exciting....