...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Food journal number 14: Pizza

Part 1 on Pizzaaaaah!

a Pizza Capricciosa Super, with mushrooms, beef strips and bearnaise sauce. Bought from Top Pizza for 60 kroners.

I didn't know pizza was such a big thing here in Sweden, but you slowly get to realize it as you walk through the streets and encounter at least one Pizza-Kebab store every 200 meters or so. Sometimes you don't even need to walk that far, since they are either beside, or in front of one another. Pizzerias are as common as sari-sari stores and beauty parlors, more popular to go to than McDonalds, and serve the cheapest lunches you can get anywhere in town.

I didn't think I could do justice to the popularity of pizza here with just one post, so I've decided to split it in two (also makes for easier reading). To be honest, this pizza entry has been in my backlog list for a very long time now, but there is just so much to write about, and so many pictures of pizzerias that I wanted to take, that I had to postpone it. Anyway, here is the entry finally, inspired by a book I borrowed from the library recently:

Pizzaresan (The Pizza Trip) is a book by two journalists who decide to travel all around Sweden--even to the remotest towns near forests and around the Arctic circle--looking for pizzerias, interviewing their chefs and tasting the specialities. Wowow! The book shows how pizza is such an institution even in the smallest corners of this country, and we are assured that wherever we go in Sweden, there will be a pizzeria nearby (How delightful!). The picture at the end of the book says it all: it shows a forest road in the middle of nowhere, yet there was a plastic sign nailed to a tree which read, "Pizzeria, 1 km."

Many pizzerias mean many pizza chefs. The book itself is mostly interviews of these people: why they started their business, how it is going, what their favorite flavor is, etc. One Iraqi couple interviewed in the book used to be a biochemist and an oil specialist, until a friend tipped them of the lack of a pizza store in their small town. Now, the man says, "All the knowledge about chemistry and oil has gone from my head. Now all that's in there is dough and tomato sauce."

There are many other interesting quotes here taken from internet forums, all revealing how popular pizza really is to the Swede:

"Man, what a tempting thread. Now, I am really craving for a calzone!"

Another replied, "I just experienced that too, just now. At the same moment I was writing about kebabpizza (Ed.: that's pizza topped with kebab meat), I was dreaming that I was on my way to the pizzeria from work."

I would have thought these quotes were funny, but sometimes I find I have that pizza craving myself! Yesterday on a walk, we saw some discarded pizza boxes by the sidewalk and had to avert our gaze before the temptation to buy pizza became too strong :-)

Still, even though pizza is extremely popular, it is stiil regarded a bit as "immigrant food". As another one said: "Immigrants make pizza, the Swedes eat it." I would bet though, that they eat pizza now just as often (if not more) than the traditional meat-and-potato dishes. Why else would pizzerias be sprouting like mushrooms? To prove my point, here is a map of this city marking the 30+ pizzerias around the city center:

History of the Swedish pizza

Last spring, I was at the Museum of Work looking at an exhibit called "Pizza: 100% Svensk". It was a terrific interactive exhibit where you could watch short films, listen to interviews of pizza bakers, read menus, play a whats-in-that-pizza-flavor game, etc. The whole exhibition made me crave for pizza. Thankfully, like I said, there was a pizzeria about a couple of hundred meters away from the museum, which made me wonder if the pizza owners' association funded the exhibit, which BTW also displayed a humongous amount of empty pizza boxes stacked up like a hill (temptation, temptation!)

Also in the exhibit, there was a short movie on the history of pizza's introduction to Sweden. According to this movie, pizza was first brought to Stockholm in the 40's by Italian guest immigrants, who later brought the Italian-style pizza away with them when they went back to Italy. Other people took over the pizza businesses, particularly middle eastern immigrants, who later also sold kebabs in the pizzerias (most pizzerias do, thus signs that read "Pizza-Kebab"). Also, since these new pizza makers do not have the Italian pizza culture, they experiemented with ingredients real Italians wouldn't dream of: curry, eggs, bearnaise sauce, kebab meat, etc. Last Christmas season, Hageby Grillen even introduced a Christmas pizza topped with Christmas ham, a kind of vienna sausage, meatballs and beetroot salad (!!!) Yikes!! Obviously, I'm not tempted to try out all the pizza flavors. I can say though that the one with bearnaise sauce, although undoubtedly the fattiest, tastes good. As for the kebabpizza, it tasted too much like a rolled-out kebab, and it felt strange to have iceberg salad, cucumbers and yogurt sauce on a pizza.

A typical pizza menu

Here's part of the menu from Pizzeria Sandra in Linköping, which happens to be the first pizzeria I've ever entered in Sweden. Check out the house specialty, Pizza Sandra, with tomatoes, cheese, shrimps, mussels, and... bananas!

... I'll stop here for now. Up next on the second part of the pizzafest: homemade pizza, recipes, and pizza salad. Stay tuned!


Blogger Cheryl said...

wow, pizza!!!! i ate pizza twice last week, and for sure they're not as tasty as those in your pictures!

5:54 AM

Blogger Cheryl said...

btw, swedes and sweden are turning up all over (or matagal na silang nagkalat pero ngayon ko lang sila napapansin?). anyway, i was reading "going loco" by lynne truss. there's mention of swedes and ABBA and other, er, observations :D you should read it, it's funny and NOT academic. hehehehe

6:02 AM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Cheryl! I ate pizza twice last week too! (or half a pizza each time, which actually makes just 1 pizza). And it was the same with me before going to Sweden: I kept seeing all these things made in Sweden and suddenly there were all these Sweden docus on TV. Maybe you're right that they were there all the time... and there I was thinking I had absolutely no idea about what Sweden was like!

I'll watch out for that book :-) Pwedeng pahiram na lang next time?

8:05 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home

<<< Browse older posts (via sidebar list)