Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Swedish sourdough bread – the ultimate sign of luxury

For many an American, the word socialism conjures up pictures of the old-school communist bread lines, people waiting hours to cash in their bread coupons for a loaf.

In Sweden these days, you might see such a bread line, but it’s not what you think.

Swedish sourdough bread is the ultimate in trendy food goodness in Sweden at the moment. It’s bigger than ever.  Although, as I am often late to the game, I think that some foodies might declare sourdough bread sooooo 2010, whatever.

Mostly I am very enthusiastic about the new found popularity of sourdough bread in Sweden. It means I can finally admit that if I really have to choose between fluffy yummy thick crusted white bread and that Pågan brand ‘lingon’ loaf which tastes like cardboard when toasted (though I admit, for some reason I was totally in love with it circa 2006) I would choose the white bread every single time, yes even if it is white bread and completely lacking any nutrition whatsoever.

I love bread. If I have to choose between candy and bread, I would choose bread. If I have to choose between chocolate and bread, I would choose bread. You get the picture.

That said, Swedish sourdough bread is getting silly, to say the least. At one local bakery they charge 12 dollars per loaf. Yes, per loaf. OK, so the loaf is like the length of my arm and as thick as my thigh, but still, it’s just flour, some bacteria and water.

Also, currently, there are three local TOP SECRET sourdough bakeries. To get their breads, you have to be in the know and on ‘the list.’ You then get an SMS telling you when there is bread available and it is first come first serve chaos. Who cares that the bakers are actually two nursing assistants who have adopted a new hobby? Apparently they are good and better than that, they are obscure.

So while I am incredibly grateful for the new trend in bread baking in Sweden, because it means a little more to choose from at the grocery store, I think things are getting a little crazy with the sourdough trend.

And, yes, I have many times thought ‘Oh, I’m totally going to do that sourdough starter thing this week,’ but it hasn’t happened, yet. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

A princess is born - and Pappa Prince's feelings are 'All over the place'

Father of the newly born Swedish Prince, the people's prince, Daniel Westerling announced the birth of his daughter in a press conference yesterday and it was adorable and sweet. Daniel Westerling won the hearts of many a Swede during the royal wedding and the love affair is alive and well.

But the part I liked best was when Daniel described his feelings as 'All over the place' in English. 

Yes, Daniel, I totally agree with you. Swedish is a damn hard language to express your feelings in - English is so much more feeling friendly.

Nah, I don't know if this is really true, I am a firm believer that it is usually easier to express your emotions in your own language - because otherwise the words just don't feel good enough. And maybe, this time around, Daniel really just didn't have the words in any language.

Emotions and language - it is a struggle

Little Swede, the other night, when he crashed into the dog for the third time with his Brio walking cart and had it promptly taken away by his own Pappa, had a small breakdown. Halfway through he whimpered out 'Little Swede Ledsen' or roughly translated 'Little Swede sad'

Ok, truth be told, The Swede and I both went a little heart-broken at this announcement. And although we were already hugging him, we hugged a little tighter.

And then I thought, wow, he is already talking about his feelings in Swedish. I hope having two languages from the beginning will help him to be able to feel comfortable in expressing his emotions in both languages. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A princess is born – Swedes declare themselves Republican

If you bring up the topic of American politics with a Swede, chances are they will bristle at the mention of the word Republican. They think George W. Bush, death penalty and Christian right. Fair enough, so do I.

But today the Princess of Sweden gave birth to a Princess. Yay! This means for the first time a Swedish queen will be followed by a Swedish queen, if everybody lives happily ever after.

The birth was uneventful, at least according to the newspapers. Princess Victoria went in around midnight last night and she is already home with her daughter. Congrats to the new Royal family.

But this morning led to a ton of man on the street interviews of people declaring themselves ‘Republicans.’ By that they don’t mean right wing political leaning, no, they mean they don’t want a Queen at all.

I’ve never seen so many Swedes call themselves Republicans in one go. It did make me laugh, but I have to say that I often agree with them. Considering all of the time people spend complaining immigrants are draining the system, the royal family certainly lives a lot better than most of us immigrants combined, and they do it all on the state dime.

That said, I hope the royals are enjoying their new edition and making the best out of all of my tax money.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dear Hemmakväll - a note on mocking Americans in Swedish advertisements

I know we Americans can sometimes sound very silly when speaking Swedish. I get it. One guy in my beginner Swedish class pronounced Sverige like Svarage - as in rhymes with Faberge - and he would not change it.


Mock us. I am totally OK with that. I could live with the blå kläder commercial with the guy saying 'blah klahder' haha.

It doesn't always make me think of the time I was 10 years old and was visiting a friend in a Swedish school and the teacher (yes you, Ingemar) made me read out loud from a Swedish textbook in front of the class while everyone laughed. Most of the time it reminds me of that, but not always.

And I do LOVE the Tele2 commercials which make fun of the sheep/cheap issue many Swedes have, so I can totally take that some people take digs at Americans pronunciation of Swedish. Really I do.

But Hemmakväll - you have it wrong. All wrong. And it makes me yell at the radio every time your stupid commercial comes on the air.

See, the American pronouncing the Swedish calls Hemmakväll -Hemmakwell.

Let's be serious here. No self respecting American who doesn't know Swedish would pronounce Hemmakväll - Hemmakwell. They would probably say something like Hemmakvall. That's it. As in Hemmakvaahhhlll. Because we don't understand the ä, but we totally understand how the V works.

 It is the W that we sometimes mispronounce because in English W always says wah and never vah.

Seriously Hemmakväll it isn't funny it is just annoying.

You can listen to it here, but be warned, the stupid hemmakwell moment comes at the end, after a long string of bad acting and unnecessary profanity.

I used to feel bad for Hemmakväll because I am pretty sure movie rental will be obsolete in about 5 years, and it's been about 3 since I have last rented a film. But now I don't feel so bad.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How To Break Out of a Swedish Jail

OK, this happened many years ago, and I do hope a lot of things have changed since then, but it was a story that made me laugh and wish, if I were going to be a criminal anywhere, I would be a criminal here in Sweden.

So one night, late at night, some gangsters showed up at a large prison. They were armed with some big guns.

Now remember, unlike the US, big guns aren't very common in Sweden.

They busted into the prison in an attempt to rescue their friend.

The prison guards response?

Stand down. Do not confront the gunmen. Release the prisoner. Go home and have a cup of coffee.

Now I don't mean to trivialize the experience of the guards. I think it would be very scary to have some people attack you with a gun. I think there are a lot of scary things about being a prison guard. This is one of the many reasons I have not pursued that particular career.

But the first thing I thought was, damn, every one is now going to call up their friends, tell them to bring their big guns, and get them the heck out of Dodge.

All in all, I think the whole thing was ballsy, from both the criminals to the guards.

And in the end it did not lead to a whole spate of prison breakouts. Although, why I do not know.

Prisons in Sweden are more luxurious than American college dorms. You get privacy, a TV, decent food. It's not a bad life if you don't mind not having any real personal freedoms.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sweden, the Euro, and the End of Days

These days all eyes are on Greece and everyone is waiting to see if they will be driven to bankruptcy or rescued once again at the last minute by the powers that be (Germany, Belgium, France to the rescue!)

But what about Sweden? What does this mean for Sweden? This really remains anyone's guess, and I wonder if that is the reason many Swedish newspapers are just kind of choosing to cover this in a rather minimalistic fashion. Because really if I went by the information in my morning paper, the stuff going on in Greece is just a minor kerfuffle.

I mean the US press is pretty certain this is a sign of the end of days for all of Europe. All of that maternity leave, 40 hour work week, 5 week vacation greediness that is the European way of life cannot be sustainable, can it? Europeans will be eaten alive by their own greed.

But then there is Sweden. Sweden voted on the Euro a bunch of years ago, and the vote was a resounding NO! Despite a large push and campaign led by the current powers that be, the Moderates, they were not in power at the time and the Swedish population voted to maintain their own currency independent of the Euro, unlike the Danes who didn't switch to the Euro, but allowed themselves to be tied to it (And no I don't really understand how that works in actuality I only know it means they are kind of screwed at the moment).

So Swedish currency, the kronor or SEK, remains rather strong and stable.

Swedes weren't always happy about the choice. When the US financial situation took a hit and the Euro looked like the safe bet, people called for a revote and blamed the Social Democrats for not getting into the Euro while the getting was good.

But now? Now we know better. Now everyone is thrilled Sweden is not tied to the Euro. But does that mean Sweden will be better off? Hard to say, I mean, we are still attached to Europe by that bridge to Denmark. We are still members of the European Union. (See how I'm using WE? I'm even more integrated than I thought).

Even if Sweden isn't tied to the Euro, I think they will be hit pretty hard if the financial crisis spirals out of control and sends Greece into bankruptcy, but I don't think they will be hit as hard as others.

But I say that once again home on a VAB, being paid to care for my sick child, who spent the whole day on my lap and is now finally taking a short nap.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Winter Puking Disease

Well, folks, it is that time of year. It's time for Winter Puking Disease. The best named illness in all of Sweden, if only for it's perfect descriptiveness. It is winter, there is plenty of puking, you feel diseased. In English we call it by it's name, what ever stomach bug that might be eating at your insides, mostly Norovirus. But let's be honest, when you are sitting there feeling gross you aren't thinking, 'gee Norovirus', you sure do suck - you are thinking 'Damn you winter puking disease, be gone'. At least that is what I am thinking. So right now we are washing and cleaning and changing diapers and hoping that winter puking disease stops here. And yes, I have given in to hand sanitizers.