The Cooking of Scandinavia
Ellis and I are great book lovers, especially books with pictures, and we are constantly griping about the lack of good book shops in Hong Kong. On the rare occasion we visit another city, we make a beeline to the nearest Kinokuniya or Librairie Galignani or Three Lives, doing a year’s worth of shopping in an afternoon and then paying again in spades when we arrive at the airport with a new suitcase weighing as much as a small child. We also love entertaining at home, though what superwoman has time to come home after a long day at the office and throw together a fabulous feast for family and friends without mussing her hair? Unless, that is, a superwoman friend named Esther Van Wijk solves both dilemmas with one unbelievably generous gift: Time Life Books’ The Cooking of Scandanavia, 2nd International Edition, copyright 1969! Now I know what you are probably saying, Esther Van Wijk: “that wasn’t a gift you moron! You were supposed to sell that book at your bloody shop!” To which I can only say, “I have every intention of paying you … in gravalax! and havarti! and jansen’s temptation!”
The great revelation of this book, which Scandanavians have known since at least the 1960s, is that you can have a delicious dinner party without even turning on the stove (well, that is if you have other friends, Karin Ulmander and Alexis Holm- Swedes!- who will take care of the cooked food portion of the menu.) All it takes is a grocer with an international slant and little bit of flair when it comes to laying out a table.
This, the World’s Finest Smorgasbord, according to The Cooking of Scandanavia, at Stockholm’s Operakallaren Restaurant, while obviously something to aspire to, is just that: don’t feel bad if your dinner table isn’t the size of a cruise ship, a whole lot of smorgasbord can fit on a four top too!
The above is a photograph of our own humble contribution to the art of Smorgasbord, a delightful New Year’s Eve Fete which we, with the help of The Cooking of Scandanavia and our little Swedish army, threw together very last minute without even breaking a sweat.
One word of warning for all you future Smorgasborders: you must drink. And by drink I mean vodka. Or schnapps. Or aquavit. Or some other rocket fuel you’ve cooked up in the still out back. And not only must you drink, you must drink shots, or skoal, as the Swedes like to call it, over and over again, often while singing songs you don’t understand the words to. Yes, you will get drunk and the night might end with the furniture pushed against the wall, the whole lot of you dancing and spilling your drinks all over the floor while the dog licks it off underneath you. So don’t be shy at the table- eat up! You won’t be sorry.