• Sweden edition
 
Crayfish: the messiest party of the year
Henrik Trygg/imagebank.sweden.se;Fredrik Sandberg/Scanpix;Patrik Neckman/Flickr

Crayfish: the messiest party of the year

Published: 19 Aug 2011 08:02 GMT+02:00
Updated: 19 Aug 2011 08:02 GMT+02:00

So you’ve been invited to a kräftskiva. Now what? Kräftskivor - or crayfish parties - are arguably Sweden’s most festive annual excuse for a party.

It’s an August craze and perhaps the messiest party you have been to since you were six years old and left birthdays with cake smeared around your chops.

While there are multiple variations of how to celebrate the crayfish season, there is invariably one ingredient in every single party: the crayfish.

The rest of the party's ingredients include ample aquavit or snaps, crisp bread, ample aquavit or snaps, cheese, paper lanterns, funny hats - and ample aquavit or snaps.

And everything and anything crayfish-related belongs to the fun. If it's used on the day, Swedish shops will sell it with a crayfish printed on it. Decorations, lanterns, tablecloths, glasses, plates - indeed, complete serving sets - will all be adorned with the little red crustacean.

Up until 1993 the sale of crayfish was restricted to after August 8th. But with Christmas beginning in October (in retail terms at least) nothing is sacred, and crayfish are now on sale year round.

In addition to crayfish commanding their own seasonal display in every store, they also have a history, a mythology and a modern PR campaign.

The history

Eating crawfish - and they have many dialectal names in English - goes back to the time of King Erik XIV in the 16th century. His highness was known to have farmed the crusty crawlers in his moat at Kalmar Castle. The native species in Sweden, flodkräfor, are generally referred to as the noble crayfish.

It was the end of the 19th century when the current tradition of eating crawdaddies whole, cold and basking in the dill weed water they were boiled in began. That was an age when it became popular to send off the summer sitting on verandas or out in the garden while quietly cracking a shell.

The party came soon after. The Swedish name for the party, kräftskiva, first entered the language in the 1930s.

It hasn’t been smooth sailing for the little mudbugs. Swedish flodkräftor were threatened in 1907 when the crayfish were first afflicted by crayfish plague. It seemed like the noble Swedish crayfish would soon become extinct.

The American cousin, the signal crayfish, was introduced in a belief that they were resistant to the plague and could replace the dwindling Swedish noble variety.

According to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket), recent research, has shown that the introduction of the Yankee cousin was a big mistake. It’s now known that once the plague has killed off the local lake’s population, the plague eradicates itself. With the resistant variety, the plague lingers on and slowly spreads.

The mythology and PR

A few years ago the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency sponsored a PR campaign to debunk the misconceptions of the little yabbies’ fate in an attempt to come to their rescue. Their web site (in Swedish) busts the myths many people have about fresh water mini-lobster.

Its focus seems devoted to discouraging people from stocking waters with the non-native variety. The research shows that true demise of the noble variety is inevitable if the signal crayfish continues to proliferate either naturally or with help from hungry Swedes eager for free fodder for the kräftskiva.

Which brings us back to the invitation and what you need to know when invited.

The festivities

The kräftskiva is a truly fun party to attend or throw. Guests often come equipped (often at the host’s request - like a pot luck dinner) with their own supply of spoondogs and their own booze.

The host need only supply the crayfish-bedecked paraphernalia, the crisp bread, the cheese and the ubiquitous sauna. So if you are lacking an invitation it’s time to send some out yourself.

Whether you're going or throwing, don’t start the party hungry. It takes about 5 minutes to dig out the eqivalent of about a meatball’s worth of meat.

In that time you will be required to pause, hold up your snaps glass, fake your way through the song and throw back a shot. You don’t want to have an empty stomach. (For the same reason, don’t go drunk.)

Don't be embarrassed to ask for instructions in the dissemination of the little mudbug. There are a number of approaches which usually begin with ripping off the head, breaking back the legs and slurping the underbelly. The operation concludes with cracking open the claws for the delicate pink-white flesh inside.

Passing the test

If you want to impress Swedes in attendance, there are a few measures which will be used to determine your performance.

Your gusto will be rated by the volume of your slurping, the stickiness of your fingers and the quantity of shells stacking up - or lined up - on your plate.

And, of course, by the enthusiasm with which you belt out the theme song, Helan går.

Helan går

Sjung hopp faderallan lallan lej

Helan går

Sjung hopp faderallan lej

Och den som inte helan tar

Han heller inte halvan får

Helan går

Sjung hopp faderallan lej

Elizabeth Dacey-Fondelius (news@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

10:52 August 19, 2011 by Taxlady
Most of this is garbage to eat. It was what we dissected in high school.Now real Maine lobster is something else.
14:56 August 19, 2011 by zeulf
Maybe it's just a good excuse for a outside party with Spirit, but dont knock it until You have done it a few times, It will grow on You and You'll laugh at the silly people all round you "have fun, stay safe and don't hurt anyone"
17:31 August 19, 2011 by harthacanute
Filthy habit
14:57 August 20, 2011 by Streja
Taxlady, a lobster is HUGE! Why not try marine crayfish instead, much bigger than those tiny beetles so many people seem to like in inland Sweden.
04:07 August 23, 2011 by sigfus45
It's all good. I'm not sure what Swedes use for cookware, but if you are really interested in quantity cooking try obtaining one of those Louisiana cast iron pots (up to 400 liter size). No small partiers in Cajun country.
18:57 August 23, 2011 by jostein
1. Pick a crayfish out of the bowl. Do not pick the one with the biggest claws, all others are fair game.

2. Slurp where the claws join the body.

3. Break the claws off, put them aside for later.

4. Break the body off from the tail. Put the tail away for later.

5. Take a sharp and hard knife. Cut through the shell just exaclty just behind the eyes. It has to be very close to the eyes. Sever that part of the body.

6. Edge the body-shell (now liberated since the fastening at the eyes is nomore) off the body.

7. Remove the intestine. Crayfish without a body-shell have a little bone near where the eyes used to be. If you gently grab that bone you can pull the intestine out of the body. The intestine is the only yucky part of a crayfish.

8. Look at your handiwork. If there is brownishblackish stuff remaining in the body, feel free to be a lout and not eat the body and settle for the claws and the tail.

9. If you are happy with wath you see, eat everything in the body.

10. Break off the arms leading up to the claws. Chew on them and get a little bit of meat out of them. Then put the crushed shells from your mouth into your hand and then dump it into the common wastebowl.

11. Pick up the body of the claw. Break off the moving part of the claw. Bite or cut or break (biting works best) off the end of the moving part of the claw. Suck the meat out of the moving part of the claw.

12. Break off the edge off the non-moving-part of the claw.

13. Break enough of the topside of the claw to be able to remove the meat from the claw.

14. Suck all the meat out of the claw.

15. Pick up the tail. Break the shell on the topside of the tail. The tail is kindof easy, just get the meat out by breaking the shell upwards.

16. Descide wether you wanna be a dick or a gluton. If you are a dick, save all your tails, then, when everyone else is out of crayfish, put like 10 of them on a piece of bread and eat it while everyone else envies you (needs some practice to do this before people are too drunk and to get an effect out of it, sometimes you just end up silly, sometimes you can truly make an impression). Or be a gluton and just eat the tail and then go for the next crayfish.
18:32 August 25, 2011 by valhallaarwen
Uh, we eat them in Louisiana and they are good. One way we do it is boil them in seafood seasoning, with potatoes, corn, lemons, onions, garlic and eat them hot. of course, I peel the tail off and eat that. We use the heads to stuff and make crawfish bisque.
05:55 August 27, 2011 by jimfromcanada
What is the translation of the song? Aren't there two songs? The one i was at had at least two songs
Today's headlines
Late summer sun set to hit Sweden

Late summer sun set to hit Sweden

Forecasters have predicted sunshine across Sweden this week, with a warm front moving in from Russia and temperatures of up to 25C. READ  

International police hunt
Swedish killer arrested after European hunt
Photo: Police

Swedish killer arrested after European hunt

UPDATED: Police arrested a man on Tuesday afternoon after he went missing from a psychiatric ward in western Sweden at the weekend. The man had been convicted of murdering a five-year-old schoolgirl in 2003. READ  

Music
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Swedish singer Tove Lo. Photot: TT

The five best Swedish songs of the month

The summer may be (almost) over but the music will keep on playing here at The Local. Our resident music guru Paul Connolly will be selecting his top new Swedish tracks for us in a new monthly feature. READ  

Hedgehog pet craze sweeps Sweden

Hedgehog pet craze sweeps Sweden

African pygmy hedgehogs are being bought by growing numbers of Swedes, as a trend for keeping exotic pets sweeps the country, the Department for Animal Welfare and Health tells The Local. READ  

Poisonous mushrooms cause stir in Sweden
The mushroom in this picture is not the same as the one from the story. Photo: Shutterstock

Poisonous mushrooms cause stir in Sweden

A person selling freshly-picked mushrooms in Gothenburg has come under fire after it turned out the delicacies were not only poisonous but also hallucinogenic. READ  

Pirate Bay founder case starts in confusion

Pirate Bay founder case starts in confusion

The largest hacking case in Danish history began in confusion on Tuesday, after lawyers representing Swedish Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg accused the prosecution of "unreasonable" tactics. READ  

Swedfund joins H&M in Ethiopia expansion

Swedfund joins H&M in Ethiopia expansion

As H&M expands into Ethiopia, Sweden's state venture capital unit Swedfund has announced that it will back the clothing giant, in a move hoped to create more jobs for local women. READ  

Elections 2014
Social Democrats reveal election manifesto
Photo: TT

Social Democrats reveal election manifesto

UPDATED: Sweden's main opposition party the Social Democrats has revealed its election manifesto at a press conference at a high school in Stockholm, with a key focus on education and welfare benefits. READ  

Teen run over by train after 'shoplifting' chase

Teen run over by train after 'shoplifting' chase

A teenage boy is in a critical condition after he was hit by a passing metro train in Stockholm. The accident ground rail traffic to a halt, and has police suspecting attempted murder. READ  

Swimrun
Record win at Sweden's tough island race
Photo: Jakob Edholm/ÖTILLÖ14

Record win at Sweden's tough island race

Two Swedes crushed last year's course record at the Swimrun world championship in Stockholm's archipelago on Monday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Sponsored Article
Introducing… Insurance in Stockholm
National
Huge clear up underway after Skåne floods
Politics
Sweden's Alliance reveals full manifesto
Tech
Sweden's highest peak to lose title next year
Blog updates

02 September

America night (Blogweiser) »

" There was an event this weekend for the ‘Americans in Sweden’ Facebook group. I’m a member, and I brought my girls to the evening. The gathering was at a Boston-themed sportsbar in a mall. There were loads of screens, a bowling alley, a game room and a jumbotron. It was as good a place as any to..." READ »

 

25 August

Hit och dit, här och där (The Swedish Teacher) »

" Hej igen! A common challenge for Swedish language students are the location adverbs hit/här, dit/där, hem/hemma etc. Some of the location adverbs come in two versions. We should use one type of location adverb when we use a verb describes where we are, and we should use the other type of location adverb when we the verb..." READ »

 
 
 
Politics
How immigration became a key election issue
Society
Brit's life in Sweden becomes BBC radio show
Gallery
People-watching August 27
Gallery
Top ten false friends in Swedish
National
Roma advocate scoops Wallenberg prize
Society
Meet the man who made a Swedish store recall its high heels for kids
Business & Money
'How I came to run my own business in Sweden'
Politics
Expert explains why Sweden's election oozes uncertainty
National
City plays Schindler's List theme at Nazi rally
Society
For Stockholm Fashion Week, here's the A-Z of Swedish fashion
National
'Amnesiac' man avoids deportation for ten years
Gallery
Princess Estelle through the years
Business & Money
Swedish city all set for six-hour workday trial
Business & Money
Five golden rules for the Swedish job hunt
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
Gallery
People-watching August 22-24
National
Armed royal guards caught (very) drunk on the job
National
Sweden orders textbook on Roma discrimination
Gallery
Violent anti-Nazi demonstrations in Malmö
Society
A closer look at Sweden's five official minority languages
Sponsored Article
Find out what gives this Swedish school executive appeal
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

757
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se