Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Fettisdagen, Shrove Tuesday: Swedish for semlor!

Today is fettisdagen, or Shrove Tuesday. What that means here in Sweden is it is semla day and it is estimated that about 5 million will be gobbled down today. That is a lot of semlor (the plural of semla), and they can’t really be gobbled down, at least not in one mouthful.

Why semlor?
Because today is the last day before the Christian Lent, and while many eat pancakes today, the Swedes eat semlor. Originating in 1679, today was the only day they should be enjoyed, although the love of semlor and good old commercialism means semlor are available, and eaten, from Christmas right through to Easter.

So what are they?
Actually they are quite a plain cardamon-flavoured yeast bun cut in two and filled with almond paste and whipped cream, often served in a bowl of milk.

While this estimate of 5 million suggests more than half the population will eat semlor today, they are not everyone's cup of tea and many newcomers to Sweden struggle to understand what all the fuss is about. But as with most of Sweden's traditions - food is involved, food is always involved. It is the stuff memories are made of.

Semlor are in fact so much a part of Swedish society that semlor competitions are held each spring and the local papers (SvD, City, Metro, GT, Tasteline) rate the bakeries and make recommendations about where to get the best semlor. A competition was even launched back in 1998 to see who can eat the most semlor for the season with a website to keep track of competitors!! I might like semlor but I can't imagine eating 100 in a season - or 5 in one sitting! And can you believe there is a Semla Academy in Göteborg!

If all this has made your mouth water you had better dash out and get one (or two if you dare) - I know I'm going to pick up some this afternoon and I know a bakery who make nice little ones. If you are far from a Swedish bakery then try baking your own - here's a recipe.

Happy Fettisday!

1 comment:

  1. I had my first semla on Tuesday... and then wondered WHY I had not discovered these before!!!!

    Today(Sunday) I made a half batch for a Sunday afternoon treat... WOW, much better when they are homemade!!!!

    Soooooooooo full right now.....