Sensational Sweden

It started with the realization that I could indulge my love for Fredrik Backman’s stories if I fake visited Sweden, so I put it next on my list of travel from home destinations. There is an IKEA near enough to me that I could conveniently pick up food from their food market as well. The amazing food, the book, the movie, and the music all combined to be one of my favorite travel from home trips yet.

My Choices

Meal: I did a few searched online to find out what popular Swedish meals existed that I could create as well as modify to a vegetarian version. It turns out the IKEA now has two different versions of vegetarian meatballs, so I tried their version of a popular dish, consisting of:

  • HUVUDROLL (Vegetarian Meatballs / Plant Balls): Made of pea protein, oats, potatoes, onion, and apple, these had a great taste to them. They were moist and delicious without being overloaded with spices. They are possibly the best meatballs I’ve ever had.
  • ALLEMANSRÄTTEN (Mashed Potatoes): I haven’t had mashed potatoes in years, and these were delicious! I only had almond milk in my fridge, and I wasn’t exactly sure how much to add. The result was a little softer than I’m used to but absolutely delightful. Each forkful was light, fluffy, and delicious. They were definitely my favorite part of the dish. I also have another two or three servings left to enjoy this week.
  • ALLEMANSRÄTTEN (Cream Sauce): I was skeptical about this sauce. I grew up without sauces for the most part, and I was worried an intense or overwhelming flavor would detract from the rest of the meal. But it was cheap ($1.50) and worth a try to make an authentic-tasting dish. I also didn’t have heavy cream on hand, so again I used almond milk with the cream sauce mix. I definitely think that it would taste better with cream, but it was still good. I am glad that I took the chance.
  • SYLT LINGON (Lingonberry fruit spread): If I felt hesitant about the sauce, I felt even more-so about the lingonberries. My only experience with lingonberries was in a lingonberry and strawberry yogurt that was so sour I could barely finish it. It took a lot of arguing with myself before I decided to take a chance on this fruit. I am so glad that I did. My relief upon tasting it was great. The taste was sweeter than I had expected and balanced out the savory sauce and creamy potatoes perfectly. The jar is big enough that I will be enjoying it for some time on waffles and pancakes.

Dessert: When I think of Swedish sweets, I first think of Swedish Fish. Upon researching, I found that though the candy did originate in Sweden, it is no longer distributed to the US directly from Sweden. I decided it still counted, but I picked up some Anna’s Orange Swedish Thins as well. Both were a lovely treat to enjoy as I watched the movie I chose for this fake trip.

Movie: A few years ago, I read Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove. I’d seen the DVD of the movie around the library a few times, but I never took it home to watch it. I decided that this trip was a good excuse to finally watch the movie adaptation. It was previously available through Amazon Prime, but it is no longer included. So I ended up getting it out of the library after all. The benefit of this was that I got to watch the bonus features including interviews with the creators and actors. I really enjoyed the movie. Though the filmmakers couldn’t include every scene, they captured the spirit of Ove and his neighbors perfectly. I loved falling in love with the grumpy man with a too-big heart all over again. The full cast was amazing, from Parvaneh to the cat to Sonja. Though I knew precisely how it would end, I found myself in tears multiple times.

Book: I’m working my way through Fredrik Backman’s books, and up next for me was Britt-Marie Was Here. I didn’t particularly love Britt-Marie as a character in My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, but about five minutes into her book, I realized that I am very much like Britt-Marie. I’m happiest when things don’t change. I don’t understand why people don’t do things the right way, like ordering their silverware, if it doesn’t take any extra effort. I also live and die by my lists and am concerned about dying and nobody noticing because I live alone. But Britt-Marie is somehow even more real than I am. I loved watching her make a break from Kent. I loved seeing her turn her passion for cleaning and organizing toward caring for a community center and a soccer team. And I absolutely loved that she fell in love with a small town of strange people without meaning to. “That is what women like Britt-Marie do: they find the strength when they have to do something for others.”

Music: Last month, the wizard rock community came together for an annual music festival called O.W.L. Fest. The first such festival, last year, lasted a day. This year, there were so many groups it needed to span two days. I had other obligations during one of the days, so I only saw 17 of the 30 bands live. One of the bands I missed were the Swedish Shortsnouts. I got to see this group, which consists of three musicians who live in Sweden, during their first ever performance in the United States. At that performance, a Yule Ball, I bought their CD and have enjoyed it many times. They used technology magic last year in order to play together from three separate locations, and this year they used different magic that was nonetheless effective. I loved hearing a few new-to-me songs as well as singing along to some of the songs I know well. Even though I didn’t get to see them live this year, I’m glad I got to see their O.W.L. Fest 2021 performance: