Embassy treats writers to country’s latest dishes
WASHINGTON — Nordic cuisine is now trendy in the culinary world, a happy development for Ambassador Jonas Hafström, the staff at the Embassy of Sweden in Washington and Anne-Marie Hovstadius, communications manager of Visit Sweden and the “Sweden — the new culinary nation” project.
The Swedish government is in the fifth year of the project to put Sweden “on the culinary map” and to share its food and culture, Hafström and Hovstadius told Association of Food Journalists members at a Sept. 7 luncheon hosted by the ambassador and his wife, Eva, at their Washington residence.
The event began on the patio, where guests were offered appetizers and a refreshing, bubbly nonalcoholic drink consisting of sparkling water flavored with elderberry. Hovstadius then spoke briefly about the initiative to make Sweden a food destination with the best food in Europe. She said the project focuses on five areas — restaurants, food tourism, processed food, public food and food production, plus how food experiences, such as hunting, fishing and foraging, are part of the Swedish lifestyle.
New ideas and cooking techniques mean the country has gone beyond meatballs and pickled herring, she said. “We in Sweden don’t want the best in French and Italian food; we want the best in Swedish food.”
Food is a key ingredient in the Embassy of Sweden’s public diplomacy work, the ambassador said. “Food is linked to culture and identity,” he said. “By offering someone a piece of food, you are offering them a piece of who you are and what you have to tell them. … The new Swedish cuisine reflects back to the basics approach to cooking. It allows the ingredients to shine through.”
He introduced chef Frida Johansson who announced the luncheon’s menu: Baked cod with shrimp, quail egg and horseradish served on a sabayon of brown butter and lemon, followed by lightly smoked elk with chanterelles, potato pancake, a red wine sauce and tiny, tart, red lingonberries. Dessert included almond pudding, cloudberries (an amber-colored relative of the raspberry), rosemary ice cream and fried camembert.
According to information from Visit Sweden, the country is one of the largest in Europe, but with a population of just 9.3 million so most of Sweden is uninhabited. That means its “pristine nature and unexploited coastline are two of the country’s greatest assets,” the website says. Its culinary traditions also vary from region to region. Regional cuisine is the focus of Sweden’s new chefs, who combine local raw ingredients with traditional preparation methods, “developing and infusing them with influences from around the world.”
Swedes forage for cloudberries, wild raspberries, lingonberries, orange chanterelles and cep mushrooms, and truffles. They hunt snow grouse; grow strawberries, cherries, gooseberries, red currants and root vegetables; fish for trout and salmon; dive for belon oysters; smoke meats; and make crispy flatbreads, artisan breads and goat and cow’s milk cheeses.
Here are typical Swedish recipes reprinted with permission from the website http://sweden.se, plus those from the Embassy of Sweden in Washington. Ingredients for the recipes from chef Johansson were provided in metric measurements and The Advocate Food staff has attempted to give the approximate U.S. measurement equivalents.