rutabaga (a.k.a. "the swede"), gradually supplanted by the potato in the 18th century. A lack of spices made the food rather plain, although a number of local herbs and plants have probably been used since ancient times.
The importance of fish has governed population and trade patterns far back in history: due to the vast supply of fish, in particular herring, people settled on the east coast around present-day Stockholm , and on the west coast around present-day Gothenburg. These remain Sweden 's most populated areas to this day. For preservation, fish were salted and salt became a major trade item at the dawn of the Scandinavian middle ages, which began circa 1000 AD.
Cabbage conserved as sauerkraut or lingonberry jam was used as a source of vitamin C during the winter. Lingonberry jam, still a favorite, also added some freshness to the ofter rather heavy food.
There are three meals per day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. In all schools including high school, a hot meal is served at lunch as part of Sweden 's welfare state. Among workers, lunch is often not so heavy, and may be a sandwich or a salad. At evening, the dinner is usually a hot meal. At the table, Swedes usually serve themselves unless it is impractical, and it is therefore considered "good manners" to finish off what one has served oneself.
There are long traditions of hunting and fishing in Sweden , depending on the distance to the coast or forests. Hunters mainly focus on deer and moose, which make natural additions to the Swedish cuisine.
To add some vitamins and make the rather heavy food more enjoyable a traditional jam is made from Cowberry (lingonberries) and served with meat. A more exclusive but still common jam is the cloudberry jam, which is one of the traditional foods served at the annual Nobel Prize dinner.
Swedish knäckebröd, or crisp bread.Breakfast usually consists of open sandwiches, possibly crisp bread (knäckebröd). On the sandwich is cheese or slices of meat. Swedes usually do not have sweets on their breads such as jam (like the French), peanut butter (like the Americans), or chocolate (like the Danes). However, the traditional Swedish bread, sirapslimpa, less fashionable today, is sweetened in itself, baked with syrup.
Yogurt or filmjölk (fermented milk) are also common breakfast foods, usually served in a bowl with cereals such as corn flakes or muesli, sometimes with sugar, fruit or jam.
A third food that is commonly eaten at breakfast is porridge (gröt), often made of rolled oats, and eaten with milk and fruit or jam, especially the sort made of lingonberries.
Drinks are milk, juice, tea, or coffee. Swedes are among the most avid coffee drinkers in the world.
A crayfish party.In August, Swedes traditionally eat boiled crayfish at feasts known as kräftskivor.
The most highly regarded mushroom is the chanterelle. It is considered a real treat. The chanterelle is usually served together with a piece of meat, or just fried with a sauce and some onions and put on a sandwich. Second to the chanterelle, and considered almost as delicious, is the cep mushroom, or Karl-Johansvamp.
The internationally most renowned Swedish meal is the meatballs, or köttbullar.
Traditionally, Thursday has been soup day. One of the most traditional Swedish soups is the pea soup, or ärtsoppa. This is simple meal, basically consisting of yellow peas, a little onion and pieces of pork. It is often served with a tad of mustard and followed by thin pancakes.
Potatoes are the main complement to most dishes. Only in the last 50 years have other complements such as rice and spaghetti become standard on the dinner table. There are several different kinds of potatoes: the most appreciated is the new potato, which ripens in early summer, and is enjoyed at the feast called Midsummer. Other sorts of potatoes are eaten all year around.
Sweden is one of the heaviest coffee drinking countries in the world, second only t Finland . Milk consumption in Sweden is the highest of any country in the world. Milk is bought in milk cartons, and it is no coincidence that Tetra Pak, the world's largest maker of milk cartons, is Swedish.
- Julmust -- Traditional stout-like, very sweet seasonal soft drink (jul means christmas in Swedish) Also called påskmust (påsk meaning Easter) (carbonated)
- Glögg -- Mulled wine
- Enbärsdricka -- Traditional juniper berry soft drink
- Sockerdricka -- Traditional sweet-sour soft drink (carbonated)
- Fruktsoda -- Traditional lemon-lime soft drink
- Champis -- Soft drink alternative to sparkling wine (carbonated)
- Pommac -- Soft drink alternative to sparkling wine (carbonated)
Stronger beverages are mainly of two kinds: The Akvavit, also called Aqua vitae, Scandinavian vodka or schnapps. A second popular drink is Absolut Vodka, one of the worlds best known liquor brands. Both have around 40% alcohol. The production of hard liquor has a tradition dating back to the 18th century and was at a high in the 1840s. Since the 1880s, the governmental Systembolaget has a monopoly on selling spirits with more than 3,8% alcohol, limiting the access.
The hard liquor has a tradition of being mulled. Gourmets pick their own selection of wild herbs, and put into a bottle of liquor for a few days.
The typical Swedish beer is of a bright and bitter kind. The brands Pripps Blå and Norrlands guld are typical exemples.
In the summer, various cakes are common, often made with the fruit of the season. In the summer, the strawberry and cream cake is highly regarded. With the late summer and autumn, apple cakes are baked. The apple cake is often served with vanilla custard, but sometimes with icecream or whipped cream.
In the winter, other treats are common. This includes the
- knäck, which is a Christmas toffee;
- ischoklad -- cold ice-chocolate "toffees"
- Lucia bun -- Lussebulle or Lussekatt -- A Swedish saffron bun eaten on the Saint Lucia celebration (December 13.
- Ginger snap -- Pepparkaka
With the new year, the Lenten bun, or semla, is baked. It is a cream-filled wheat bun, traditionally eaten during Lent.
Other treats are:
- Chokladboll -- Round balls made of an oatmeal-cocoa-sugar-butter mix, often coated in coconut shavings or whole-rolled oats.
- Ostkaka -- Swedish cheesecake (very different from American cheesecake).
- Salmiak -- Liquorice candy flavoured with salt and Ammonium chloride.
- Spettekaka -- A sweet Swedish cake, shaped like a hollow cylinder. It comes from the southern region of Sweden , Skåne.
Pancakes, muffins, sponge cake and different sorts of pies and cookies are typical desserts, practically always served with coffee. Typical pies are apple pie, blueberry pie and rhubarb pie and there are many different recipes for each. Pancakes and muffins are never ever served American style - for breakfast. In recent years American brownies, cookies and cup-cakes have become popular in cafés and restaurants.