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SWEDEN

US herring video is ‘an insult to Sweden’

A fermented herring expert has expressed outrage at a BuzzFeed video in which Americans turn up their noses at the Swedish delicacy. Their comments, he says, are an “insult to the Swedish people and Swedish culture”.

US herring video is 'an insult to Sweden'
Screengrab: BuzzFeed Video/YouTube

In the YouTube clip, titled ‘Americans try surströmming for the first time’, employees of the website BuzzFeed are filmed tasting the Swedish delicacy of fermented herring.

As the can is opened, there are screams from the staff who then reach for colourful metaphors to describe the smell.

“Sewage”, “baby diaper”, “dead body” and “a national park bathroom that someone just dumped a bunch of dog food in” are just a few of the pungent comparisons.

One member of staff says more poetically that it “smells like regret”. Another adds: “It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever smelled in my life and I can’t wait to get out of here.”

SEE ALSO: Expert ‘disarms’ stinky 25-yr-old herring tin

The clip went viral, even in Sweden, and while many Swedes commented that they had found it funny, fermented herring expert Ruben Madsen was incensed.

“Never, ever should surströmming be served like that,” he told The Local.

“It must always be stored in a cool environment. If it is stored in a warm place, then the lactic acid destroys the proteins and there is no fish left inside the can. In the film, there’s just a mess inside.”


Surströmming lover Ruben Madsen. Photo: TT  

All this, he says, is explained clearly on the label of the can in English.

“The film is an insult to the Swedish people and Swedish culture,” raged Madsen. “I would like to take those hamburgers that Americans like and eat so much, and store them in the sun for a few weeks – then ask some foreigners to eat it and ask what they have to say.”

SEE ALSO: Rotten fish? It’s a delicacy

Moreover, he adds, surströmming is supposed to be served with onion, sour cream, bread and potatoes.

Madsen, who works for the Surströmming Academy on the island of Ulvön, where he promotes the dish, has now offered to show the Buzzfeed team exactly how the Swedish delicacy is supposed to be eaten.

Only a few of the Buzzfeed staff actually agree to test the food in the viral video. One woman refuses to put the fermented herring anywhere near her mouth, while the others simply spit it out into a bin.

Another employee describes the food as “the worst thing I’ve ever eaten.”

But others are kinder with one noting: “It doesn’t taste a quarter as bad as it smells”.


An example of how surströmming is supposed to be eaten in Sweden. Photo: TT

But Madsen told The Local:

“Yesterday, I served it to two groups of visitors. Very few of them had eaten it before and everyone said it was fantastic.” 

However if Buzzfeed wants a lesson in Swedish gastronomy, he insists that the firm must first apologise.

“They should call me up and say that they’re sorry about this presentation. It’s a total insult and shouldn’t be on internet.”

The Local contacted BuzzFeed for comment.

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FOOD & DRINK

Five sweet treats you should be able to identify if you live in Sweden

Do you know your biskvi from your bakelse? Your chokladboll from your kanelbulle? Here's a guide guaranteed to get your mouth watering.

Five sweet treats you should be able to identify if you live in Sweden

Kanelbulle

The most famous of all Swedish cakes outside Sweden, the classic kanelbulle (cinnamon bun) is the symbol of Sweden abroad, no doubt helped by the fact that Swedish furniture giants IKEA stock frozen buns in their food stores for customers to bake off at home.

Forget American tear-apart cinnamon rolls baked in a pan and slathered with cream cheese frosting: a classic Swedish cinnamon bun is baked individually using a yeasted dough spread with cinnamon sugar and butter. The dough is then rolled up, sliced into strips which are then stretched out and knotted into buns, baked, glazed with sugar syrup and sprinkled with pearl sugar.

Home-made varieties skip the stretching and knotting step, rolling the cinnamon-sprinkled dough into a spiral instead which, although less traditional, tastes just as good.

Kanelbullar in Sweden often include a small amount of Sweden’s favourite spice: cardamom. If you’re a fan of cardamom, try ordering the kanelbulle‘s even more Swedish cousin, the kardemummabulle or cardamom bun, which skips the cinnamon entirely and goes all-out on cardamom instead.

Sweden celebrates cinnamon bun day (kanelbullens dag) on October 4th.

Photo: Lieselotte van der Meijs/imagebank.sweden.se

Chokladboll

A great option if you want a smaller cake for your fika, the chokladboll or ‘chocolate ball’ is a perfect accompaniment to coffee – some recipes even call for mixing cold coffee into the batter.

They aren’t baked and are relatively easy to make, meaning they are a popular choice for parents (or grandparents) wanting to involve children in the cake-making process.

Chokladbollar are a simple mix of sugar, oats, melted butter and cocoa powder, with the optional addition of vanilla or coffee, or occasionally rum extract. They are rolled into balls which are then rolled in desiccated coconut (or occasionally pearl sugar), and placed in the fridge to become more solid.

Some bakeries or cafés also offer dadelbollar or rawbollar/råbollar (date or raw balls), a vegan alternative made from dried dates and nuts blended together with cocoa powder.

Chocolate ball day (chokladbollens dag) falls on May 11th.

Photo: Magnus Carlsson/imagebank.sweden.se

Prinsesstårta

The lime-green prinsesstårta or ‘princess cake’ may look like a modern invention with it’s brightly-coloured marzipan covering, but it has been around since the beginning of the 1900s, and is named after three Swedish princesses, Margareta, Märta and Astrid, who were supposedly especially fond of the cake.

The cake consists of a sponge bottom spread with jam, crème pâtissière and a dome of whipped cream, covered in green marzipan and some sort of decoration, often a marzipan rose.

Prinsesstårtor can also be served in individual portions, small slices of a log which are then referred to as a prinsessbakelse.

Although the cakes are popular all year round, in the Swedish region of Småland, prinsesstårta is eaten on the first Thursday in March, due to this being the unofficial national day of the Småland region (as the phrase första torsdagen i mars is pronounced fössta tossdan i mass in the Småland dialect).

Since 2004, the Association of Swedish Bakers and Confectioners has designated the last week of September as prinsesstårtans vecka (Princess cake day).

Photo: Sinikka Halme, Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0.

Budapestbakelse

Belonging to the more traditional cakes, a Budapestbakelse or “Budapest slice” is a type of rulltårta or “roll cake” similar to a Swiss roll, consisting of a light and crispy cake made from whipped egg whites, sugar and hazelnut, filled with whipped cream and fruit, often chopped conserved peaches, nectarines or mandarines, and rolled into a log.

The log is then sliced into individual portions and drizzled with chocolate, then often topped with whipped cream and a slice of fruit. 

Despite its name, the Budapest slice has nothing to do with the city of Budapest – it was supposedly invented by baker Ingvar Strid in 1926 and received the name due to Strid’s love for the Hungarian capital.

Of course, the Budapestbakelse also has its own day – May 1st.

Kanelbullar (left), chokladbollar (centre) and biskvier (right). Photo: Tuukka Ervasti/imagebank.sweden.se

Biskvi

Another smaller cake, a biskvi (pronounced like the French biscuit), consists of an almond biscuit base, covered in buttercream (usually chocolate flavoured), and dark chocolate.

Different variants of biskvier exist, such as a Sarah Bernhardt, named after the French actress of the same name, which has chocolate truffle instead of buttercream.

You might also spot biskvier with white chocolate, often with a hallon (raspberry) or citron (lemon) filling, or even saffransbiskvier around Christmastime.

Chokladbiskviens dag is celebrated on November 11th.

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