...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Food journal number 12: Julbord

Here goes my entry on the julbord, so hang on to your seats!

My plate number 1.

There are two words in English that I can think of right now that has a direct Swedish origin. One is "ombudsman" (representative); the other is "smorgasbord", from the Swedish smörgåsbord which literally means a table of sandwiches. The regular use of the word though, refers to what we in the Philippines might call an "eat all you can". And as you might have already guessed, a julbord is the Christmas variation of such a buffet.

A typical julbord would have very traditional Swedish Christmas dishes in it, such as ham, salmon, marinated herring, roe, eel, meatballs, sausage, rice porridge, and potatoes cooked in many ways. However, since these food can also be prepared at home (or bought from the grocery for that matter), I'm very happy that the four of us went to a non-typical julbord last weekend: a Carribean style Christmas buffet, which was being offered at a conference hall called Rimforsa Strand, in a community south of Linköping.

The conference site itself used to be a dormitory school for girls where they could learn the "home arts", such as cooking and babysitting. Interestingly, across the water from the school is a former dorrmitory school for men, and one can imagine that a lot of boat-paddling happened between the two schools back then. Now the area is owned by private business people who offer the place as a site for company meetings. In this season, one can also book a table with them for their theme Christmas buffets.

Our "buffet strategy" not to eat potatoes was ruined... it turned out that there was not a lot of potatoes in Carribean food. Instead, everything in the menu sounded yummy and interesting: Shrimp Salad, two kinds of bean salads, Tiger Chicken (chicken marrinated with garlic and honey with chili dressing), pork slices with chili and cinnamon, Beef in chocolate and chili sauce, Seafood in lime and passionfruit sauce, Fruity coconut hearts, Baked corn with vegetables, Fried rice with tilapia and bellpeppers, Yard Fowl in coconut milk, Spareribs in jamaican barbeque sauce, mussels... and that's not even mentioning the five kinds of dessert. We knew at once that we were going to bust our belts with this food orgy, potatoes or no potatoes. I was asked if I had prepared my stomach for this. It's okay, I said, my stomach is like a bottomless pit (almost).

The buffet attendant explained that the chef liked to experiment with flavor, and instead of potatoes to drown the flavors out, he prefered to serve fruit as the side-dish. There were lychees, melons, rambutans, dragon fruits, pineapples, sharon fruit, passion fruit, and other exotic stuff which I haven't even seen before, such as tiny oranges--like orange calamansi--which you eat with the peel on. I ate most of the fruit (and in fact, most of the food in the menu), only leaving out some scary-looking spiny fruit. Four or five plates later and after about two hours of eating, I found out that there was a limit to the expansion of my stomach walls after all. (Yes, believe it or not!) I guess our "get fit before the flight to Germany" plan has been officially chucked out of the window now, but who cares? We loved it! :-D

P.S. I read from the online NYT that people actually gain less weight during the Halloween-Christmas-New Year season than they think (i.e. ca. 1 pound per year). However since they also never fully get rid of that extra weight until the next year, they grow fat before they know it. The moral of the story? Muuuust exerciiiseee, muuust exerciiiseee! (...for the rest of the year, at least... heheh!)


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