Back in Skopje, Thess and I are chilling at home while the sun attempts to melt the asphalt outside. Thess has just come back from Ohrid and over plates of improvised rice salad with zucchini and Swiss chard, our conversation floats from one food topic to another, starting from lingonberries and their use in jams as a frequent companion to meat in Sweden and all the way to Smörgåstårta. Huh? I know. Smörgåstårta basically means "sandwich cake" (Smörgås=sandwich), something Thess is not very fond of - mostly due to its mayonnaise-loaded nature - but as a concept which one can tweak a bit, I quite like the idea of a giant sandwich cake (basically anything that is even remotely related to a sandwich - I like).
A few days ago, we asked Thess if there is something she finds repulisive/disgusting in the Swedish cousine and the words "Sour Herring!" flew out of her like small cannonballs. The Swedish word is Surstromming and I gotta say - the fact that the herring keeps on fermenting even after it has been canned really sounds like no fun, and from what Thess told us, it couldn't really smell any better. I loved reading about this tidbit later: some airlines have banned canned sour herring from their food menus because the cans were found to be explosive, which clearly provoked a protest by the fish producers. I have to say, this is not something I would hurry to try, but I'm not a fish person to begin with...I'll stick to sandwich cakes.
And just as you started thinking that the Swedish eating/drinking culture is so different from your/our own, here's something we found quite refreshingly common. There is something called fika in Sweden (a back slang word derived from kaffi which used to mean coffee), which is basically a sort of a coffee break (like "coffee" here...which can mean anything from actual coffee to...just about anything). According to Wikipedia, much like here, going for "fika" can also mean "going out on a date". But I like the Swedes because, date or no date, it seems that fika almost always features some sort of sweet pastry like cinnamon rolls or cookies. What? Hungry? Who? Me? What..? Ok, switching gears.
You know, if you wanted to say "from A to Z" (as in, from beginning to end) and refer to the Swedish alphabet, you'd have to say "from A to Ö" or rather "från A till Ö". There are three letters in the Swedish alphabet, all three neatly tucked together after the Z, that have diacritical/umlaut signs floating on top of them. They're the holy trinity of Å, Ä and Ö. I'm sure Thess had a lot of fun watching me try to make and remember what each vowel sounds like, my vowel-simplistic universe falling apart. But if you're as persistant as I am, here's a good (I think) guide along with mp3 of what they should sound like pronounced. Something funny: the letter Ö by itself - it means "island". I want to own one of those letters.