...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Inventive inventions #1: Osthyvel

In carpentry, the Swedish word hyvel refers to what we call in English as the "plane," i.e. the block-shaped tool with a sharp blade used to smooth wood and make wood shavings. A shaving razor, on the other hand, is also called a "hyvel" (rakhyvel to be more exact) as it more or less does the same shaving action. A third item that uses the word is what I will presently write about, and this time it's a kind of tool used to shave cheese, and is therefore called osthyvel (You guessed it, cheese = ost) . In the Swedish-English dictionary, it actually translates to "cheese slicer", and not to "cheese cutter" as I first thought. In fact, it seems that I'm the one who turns into a cheese cutter when I eat too much cheese.

Joy's Still Life With Osthyvel

Clue: the thing that's not a hand towel nor a piece of cheese is the tool I'm referring to :-)

I was told by my old dorm-mates at Ryd that the osthyvel was Swedish invention, though I haven't encountered any such claims elsewhere, not even in the Swedish article at Wikipedia. The article did say though, that this utensil is ordinary in Nordic homes (just as a regular potato-peeler), especially here where the average consumption is 13 kilos (!) of hard cheese a year (!!) per person (!!!) Speaking for Marcus and myself, we definitely haven't eaten so much individually for the last year -- maybe not if you don't count all those pizzas? -- which probably means that other people have to eat more cheese to keep the average as it is.

Back to the osthyvel, you use it to scrape the top of the cheese (scraping towards yourself is easiest for me) in order to get thin slices for your sandwich or other food item (see picture of osthyvel in mid-scrape here. Below is it a picture of it whose handle is adapted for people with rheumatism). I also heard that osthyvlar originated from a time when people were poor and wanted to save on cheese, since it always "peels" the cheese in the same thickness (or thinness, one can say). Their size also makes it possible to make thin slices of tomatoes or cucumber, and as far as peeling is concerned nothing really prevents you from using it as an ordinary peeler to other vegetables such as potatoes and carrots.

We Filipinos don't consume so much cheese so I haven't actually encountered an osthyvel until the last couple of years and had totally no idea what it was. Junjun, one of the Pinoy guys, shared that he actually mistakenly used it as a turner for meatballs or something during his first months here. The Swedish guy who was with him then didn't say a thing but kept on looking at him in a strange way :-) Heheh.

Last thing: that particular osthyvel in the picture above was newly bought for today (so was the cheese) as a motivation for us to bake our own bread. That's going to be the weekend project so I don't know how it will turn up yet, but basically (according to the recipe) it's "healthy" brown bread with fruit and nuts. If it's successful (or otherwise, a complete kitchen-experiment failure) , I think I'll at least share a picture.


Blogger Christianne said...

Haha, I was totally confused when I saw those things too! Glad to know I'm not the only one, because I felt really stupid then.

8:45 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Hej Christianne! Saw your comment on Asterix, på svenska. Where in Sweden are you?

9:57 PM

Blogger Christianne said...

Hello! I live in a suburb of Stockholm :)

12:05 AM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

hello again! Tanga ko, hindi ko nakita yung Livejournal mo (which would have answered my question). Heheh... You've got a well-updated blog going on there, I think I'll drop by pretty often. Oh, and don't worry about not knowing how to bike. I only learned last summer :-)

7:14 PM

Blogger Christianne said...

Oh talaga? Did someone teach you or did you learn by yourself? Tips naman o :)

I was actually reading some of your earlier entries about bike trips and I realized my daughter will want to learn how to bike one day, so I have to teach her. Was looking at ads for bikes today, the cheapest ones are 1800 SEK araykupo!

10:48 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Hello! Left a comment on your blog, about my bike-learning experience and where to possibly get cheap bikes. Good luck!

5:19 PM


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