Fika. That precious Swedish custom. Both a thing and an action.
It is more than a coffee break; it may or may not involve coffee. It can be out, or at home, it doesn’t matter. But at its best it involves buns. Cinnamon buns and lots of them. Glorious kanelbullar - Swedes eat 316 of them per year. Each.
|Sadly I don't have any pärlsocker on hand, so their little swirls are naked, but it's on my shopping list for when Rob goes to Stockholm next month.|
Sandwiched between the labs at the Biomedical campus was a sanctum. A safe space where coffee could be drunk (so strong that it would pull your teeth out, and yet my Swedish friends insisted that it's the best coffee in the world) and chit chat could be had. Or silence. Companionable silence is also acceptable for fika.
On those winter days studying immunology, long on time and short on light, we would start class before the sun had risen and finish after it had set. In between hours spent bent under the laminar flow hood practicing cell culture with those stupid foot long pipettes that would always break, and afternoons of doing something methodical involving Bunsen burners (I can’t even remember what now), was actual scheduled time for fika. It is a social institution.
I don’t keep a diary, but I have been writing here for a long time. A cursory search returns at least 5 posts that mention, or are dedicated to fika. During the week of 18 November 2007 I had fika on Saturday at Storken (a café) and on Sunday at Kalmar (my nation, not a café). I rode a bike a lot then, so it was energy neutral to eat cake between 3 and 5 times per week. On May 22 2010 I wished for fika, and for the friends that went with it.
And yet, for so many reasons, I have not had fika for a long time. No space and no time. No community. An expanding waistline. You don’t eat bread when you are afraid of getting fatter.
Baking bread became part of our fika that year in Sweden. It was fun to try and decipher recipes written in Swedish, and while we waited for the dough to rise we sat in the kitchen talking about stupid things and important things, and sometimes about nothing at all. Breaking bread at the end was just part of the process. As was someone having to run down the hill to the supermarket halfway through to get more flour because we’d mucked up the measurements.
|We got so adventurous with baking - pretzels, bagels, focaccia. So much bread.|
Right now my time is unlimited, and I have plenty of space. The oven works, most of the time, and doesn’t destroy every single thing I ever attempt to cook, resulting in a half raw half blackened mess (please don’t let this jinx it!!).
I loved that shirt. But oh, that kitchen. A kitchen shared between 12 people. Once someone left their plates in the sink for so long that they started to grow mould. I threw those plates in the bin and no one said a word.
Slowly we are building those connections that were missing in Sydney. Neighbours, friends, people to share it with. Fika.
And I have accepted that I love bread, in all its forms.
❤ PS. If you want some kanelbullar as a result of reading this, try the ICA recipe. Mine is similar, but with more butter and less milk. Or go to Sweden. In fact, that's probably a better option.