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Show lets Swedes eat their way through history

Moonshine, baked frogs and perfumed swans. A new Swedish television serves up the best culinary experiences of generations past. The Local catches up with host Lotta Lundgren to find out more.

Show lets Swedes eat their way through history

Swedish TV personalities Eric Haag and Lotta Lundgren star in Historieätarna (‘History Eaters’), a new programme broadcast on Sveriges Television (SVT).

Setting off in the 1650s, the series takes viewers and their taste buds on a virtual journey ending in the 1970s, offering up copious culinary delights and historical nuggets along the way.

The Local: Do you see this experience as a culinary trip into history?

Lotta Lundgren: No I don’t. It’s a trip in time and my mission is to express how a person could have felt from eating this kind of food and living this lifestyle. I can eat good food whenever, but this food I only have the chance to eat once in a lifetime!

TL: Which was your favorite era?

LL: Oh, that’s difficult to say. It’s been easier to relate to the eras closest to our time. I was born in the seventies, my parents were born in the forties and my grandparents in the twenties. But If I had to choose an era to live in, I’d choose today’s.

TL: What was the most outrageous thing you did during the series?

LL: There are too many things to choose from. I think the craziest thing I did was to claim I could ride a horse, even though I couldn’t. But to impress our producer, I rode a small four-year-old horse that had been indoors all day and was about to explode.

We were going to film me galloping a few metres and the photographer sat in the trunk of a car. When we got the green light to start filming, it took five seconds for the horse to run past the car, but then it continued for five kilometres and in some weird way – I managed to stay on the horse.

TL: You drank only beer and moonshine to stay true to the era. How did that feel?

LL: You get used to it! Starting your day with a big brew seems less outrageous than not doing it.

I think it’s important to add that people 100 years ago would have had a tough day if they didn’t start it with mild inebriation. They dealt with poorly healed broken bones, concerns about the food quantity, the cold, the anxiety. As well as constant worrying about the sick, the dying or the already dead children.

I allow our ancestors every drop!

TL: How about the 1650s? What was normally served during dinner in that age?

LL: It would be very rude for a dinner host to serve less than thirty dishes during a meal. The most important factor was that the food would be entertaining, and would stimulate fun conversations.

One has to remember that neither TV, cinemas nor the internet existed – instead, dinner became this big festive theater where crazy food such as roasted and perfumed swans decorated with jewellery could be served. The goal was to make the dinner as memorable as possible for the guest.

TL: How was it to be on a diet based on intestines, rooster heads, and small birds?

LL: Not weird at all. It’s a classic LCHF-diet! After a while it felt natural to start the day off with dried duck with rancid butter. But for those who are not too fond of meat, vegetarianism was also an option. But you can forget about light salads. If you belonged to the poor, you more or less lived off of rye, turnips and peas.

Had the poor been given the opportunity to choose, they’d just as easily have eaten as much meat as the aristocrats. But for the aristocrats to have chosen to add vegetables to a meat-based dinner would probably have seemed rather suspect.

Historieätarna airs at 9pm on Thursdays on SVT1

Derya Aktas

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DISCOVER SWEDEN

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.

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