Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Want To Go To There

I've been trying to immerse myself in as many Swedish things as possible this summer in preparation for my trip abroad. Efforts to learn the native tongue have actually been coming along much more swimmingly than previously reported, thanks to this gem of a book:

Will I know how to buy a train ticket or ask what time it is? No. Will I know where to place an adverbial and where to rest my tongue in order to pronounce a fricative consonant? Yes. I also attempted the method used for my French AP tests, which was to watch a bunch of movies in French and listen to CDs in French over and over in my sleep in hopes of magically absorbing knowledge of the language, but those efforts have been more futile, especially because every Swedish film I've watched has been awful. Acquired taste, I suppose.

Being in New York City this summer, though, has given me the chance to experience a good deal of Swedish culture before even leaving the States. A few weeks ago I headed down to Battery Park for the Swedish Midsummer Festival, a celebration of the summer solstice that involves maypoles, dancing, and floral head wreaths. Unfortunately, I forgot to put the batteries back in the camera that day, so phone pictures had to suffice:

Affirming all stereotypes, everyone there was very blonde, very cherubic-looking, and very approachable in their demeanor. A veritably pleasant group of Scandinavians. I've been making lots of blanket statements about Swedes, albeit very flattering ones, and I hoped that an exploration of cultural events and a trip to the United Nations to peruse the Swedish trinkets section would reveal some national attributes other than Arctic fauna, traditional sweaters and costumes, and overall cuteness. Would Sweden prove me wrong? Would my deeply-held convictions be shattered?

No, not at all. This country is SO SCHMADORABLE.

THaack was in town today for a business meeting, which advantageously coincided with Restaurant Week. Good timing, right? We decided to check out Smorgas Chef, a Scandinavian restaurant located in the Scandinavia House on Park Avenue, and it did not disappoint. THaack spent the first 23 years of his life in rural Minnesota (he said he felt like he was home what with so many "old Norwegians" at the restaurant), where you can't spit and not hit a Scandinavian, and so he was particularly impressed with the cuisine:

Despite THaack's familiarity with lingonberries and lefse and lutefisk as the grandson of a Norwegian, Lutheran pastor, he had never passed on these culinary gems; I had never before experienced Scandinavian, let alone Swedish, cuisine. Fortunately, Smorgas Chef did not disappoint. The vegetarian Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes, kasha, lingonberry sauce, and mushroom gravy were delectable, albeit a bit hearty for the Mid-Atlantic summer, but it received, emphatically, the SHaack Seal of Approval:

Also notable: homemade lingonberry soda (to my right, your left, that's not a Bloody Mary because ew, I wasn't looking to vomit, thanks) with crushed lingonberries at the bottom, pine nut salad, and pear almond tosca. I can definitely see myself eating this for the next ten months. As previously mentioned, four courses of heavy Scandinavian starches and sauces were a lot for the current season and city, but I picked up a free visitors' guide on the way out (featuring Crown Princess Victoria's royal wedding that took place last month, awwwwwww, monarchies are so cute, I can't wait to visit the royal, glorious landmarks), and read that the average January temperature is 29 degrees Fahrenheit, with the sun rising at 8:47 AM and setting at 2:55 PM. Bring on the meatballs and mashed potatoes and so much coffee, please.

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