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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: husmanskost

Here's a delicious word well worth knowing if you're dining out in Sweden.

Swedish word of the day: husmanskost
Image: nito103/Depositphotos

Husmanskost is tough to translate directly into English.

It's approximately equivalent to 'traditional Swedish food', 'everyday food', or 'good, plain food'. Think simple meals based on ingredients readily available in Sweden: meatballs and mashed potatoes, reindeer or elk stews, simple fish recipes, and so on. It's the kind of food you can expect to be served at a classic, no-frills krog

As well as being based on local ingredients, key features of husmanskost are that the ingredients are fairly cheap, and the dishes are high in fat, because traditionally this food needed to sustain agricultural workers. Some of the most typical cooking methods are stewing and boiling, and spices are rarely added to the food. For extra flavour, you'll instead see lingonberries served with almost every dish.

If we break the word down into its separate parts, it's quite intuitive.

First, we have husman, which means 'house/property owner' (from hus – building/house and man – man). This referred to people living rurally, who owned just their home rather than any surrounding land and who ate very differently from richer upper-class people who could employ cooks and afford more expensive ingredients.

Then, kost is an older word meaning 'diet' or 'fare'. Look out for it in many compound words, such as vegankost (a vegan diet), kosttillskott (dietary supplement), or råkost (raw food or raw food diet).

So, husmanskost is old-fashioned and unfussy, traditionally eaten at home. But from the early 20th century onwards, even as Sweden underwent industrialization, this type of food began to appear in taverns and inns, and it's still remarkably popular among locals and tourists alike. These days, the word husmanskost on a restaurant sign or menu is intended to indicate high quality, hand-cooked food.

And over the past few years some chefs and restaurants have reinvented or updated the classic dishes, resulting in what's been called nouvel husman. These dishes may include non-Swedish ingredients or spices, and may also reduce the butter or cream to be lower-fat or be cooked using faster methods.

You can also use the term husmanskost to talk about other country's traditional cuisines: for example, klassisk libanesisk husmanskost means 'classic, traditional Lebanese food'.

Examples

Denna restaurang serverar klassisk, vällagad svensk husmanskost – helt fantastisk!

This restaurant serves classic, well-prepared traditional Swedish food – totally fantastic!

Jag skulle vilja lära mig laga svensk husmanskost

I would like to learn to cook traditional Swedish food

Do you have a favourite Swedish word you would like to nominate for our word of the day series? Get in touch by email or if you are a Member of The Local, log in to comment below.

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

​​Swedish word of the day: konsensuskultur

Some would say today’s word describes the most quintessentially Swedish thing there is.

​​Swedish word of the day: konsensuskultur

Last week we covered the word möte, where we mentioned how Swedes are all about consensus. How so, you might ask. Well, some say that the obsession Swedes have with möten (‘meetings’) is emblematic of something called konsensuskultur, the ‘culture of consensus’, a phenomenon they claim might be the very spine of the Swedish spirit, if there is such a thing. 

According to these columnists, you can see it everywhere in Swedish society: in people wearing similar clothes on the streets (H&M etc), the constant möten at work, why the public debate on immigration has pushed voters toward the Sweden Democrats, why integration is failing, the leadership style of Swedish managers, the very idea of ‘lagom’, in every major shift in Swedish political history. Or in other words, basically in all the history and culture of Sweden.

Whether or not konsensuskultur truely has such massive reach, consensus is definitely sought after in Sweden (although one might argue that this is true of every healthy society). 

The idea of konsensuskultur also creates certain paradoxes. In 2015, at the height of the Syrian migration crisis, the Rabbi and author Dan Korn wrote that konsensuskultur was both the reason why Swedes were so refugee-friendly and simultaneously the reason why integration into Swedish society was such a failure.

Dan Korn argued this was not in fact a paradox, but instead the result of consensus on two different issues: one over welcoming refugees, and another over how to behave or not behave in Swedish society.

For immigrants living in Sweden, konsenskultur is not a word you will hear that often, but is is a phenomenon to keep in mind: 

When moving forward with group activities involving Swedes, it is often best to first have a discussion to reach some sort of consensus. 

Similarly, when analysing the twists and turns of the Swedish political landscape, it is always worth keeping an eye open for those moments when Sweden undergoes a paradigm shift, or in other words, finds a new consensus

A good way of using the word konsensuskultur, which might also start up an interesting conversation, is to ask a Swedish friend if they see Swedes as having a strong konsensuskultur

Example sentences:

Sverige sägs vara ett land med en stark konsensuskultur.

Sweden is said to be a country with a strong consensus culture.

Sara, tycker du att Sverige är ett land präglat av en stark konsensuskultur?

Sara, do you think Sweden is a country marked by a strong consensus culture?

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Bokus or Adlibris.

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