Bob Marley believed in ‘One World, One Love’, and Lennon said ‘Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do’. But they were not the only ‘dreamers’. There are millions around the world who are reaching out to others in the simple hope of making a connection, and building bonds of friendship. And food, glorious food, so often comes to the rescue, acting like sweet, sticky caramel that binds different kinds of people together :)
Recently, the Swedish Consulate in Mumbai decided to do just that – reach out and create meaningful relationships between us high-strung, ever-stressed Mumbaikars and those tall, blonde people who eat delicious Swedish meatballs, take relaxing Swedish massages and sing Abba’s ‘Mamma Mia’ all day long while driving around the beautiful Swedish lakes in their Volvos… or so it would seem to most Indians 😉
So last Sunday afternoon was a myth-buster of sorts when a bunch of very friendly Swedes rubbed shoulders with some very relaxed Mumbaikars, and a few Pune-ites too, at Mocha Mojo, Bandra, to gain a better understanding and appreciation of each other’s cultural and social vein over an elaborate, authentic and beautifully presented Swedish buffet – the original Smorgasbord!
Consul General Fredrika Ornbrant, with her passion for Swedish food and cooking, helmed the whole initiative, with able support from the Pune Gourmet Club. After a brief insight into how food is an important binder in both our cultures, the afternoon kicked off with plated starters of piquant Pickled Herrings, delicately flavoured Dill Potatoes, and the traditional Gravad Lax – thinly sliced Raw Salmon with a special Steward Sauce.
Chilled shot glasses of the fiery Akvavit, a strong liquor made from Caraway seeds, started doing the rounds, along with tall frosted glasses of Absolut Vodka cocktails and some crisp Valonne wines. Soon, tentative ‘Hello!’s grew into happy chatter about must-try street food in Mumbai and other cities of India, new hot spots in town, Bollywood films to watch, and summer holiday plans. It was quite funny to see the Swedes drifting out and settling into the open air space, lapping up the hot afternoon sun that is such a premium in their country, while their sweaty Indian counterparts took frequent breaks to cool off in the air-conditioned indoors. At one point, a large group of Swedes struck up a full-throttled ‘drinking song’ – one that is sung with increasing vigour between sips of Akvavit! Teddy contributed with his version of ‘Mamma Mia’… thankfully no brickbats!
Chef Gaurav from Impresario, the fun guys behind the Mocha, Salt Water and Smokehouse brands, finished orchestrating the layout of the Smorgasbord, and joined us for a quick chat. While he explained the challenges of making Swedish dishes in Mumbai, we piled our plates high with portions of butter-fried Swedish Meatballs with Creamy Mashed Potatoes and tangy-sweet Lingonberry Jam, a pretty vegetarian Smorgastarta (savoury layered cake), an Indo-Swede fusion Sanjoo’s Salmon (Grilled Salmon with a tandoori kick, served with Zucchini Fettucini) and the legendary Jansson’s Temptation (creamy, layered casserole of Anchovies, Potato Straws and Cream).
And then we all sat down to a giant meal… Raul Dias, the force behind Mumbai Mag and a passionate foodie, Fredrika and Tania from the Consulate, Shankar from Pune Gourmet Club, a trigger-happy Teddy (he must have clicked at least a thousand candid pictures that afternoon!) and hungry old me! The Chef was quite happy with the way the dishes had turned out, but he was happier to have pulled off clever substitutions of key ingredients, like Sprat (fish) and Quark (cheese) without altering the authentic flavours. For my part, I crunched happily on the meatballs, and couldn’t get enough of the layered Savoury Cake, a dish that’s easy to make when you know how, says Fredrika with a wink and a smile!
Since Fika or ‘Coffee Break’ is almost like an institution in Sweden, I just had to sample some of the desserts on the lovingly laid-out dessert table. The beautiful, green, layered Princess Cake was just what girlie dreams are made of, dainty and pretty. The Spice Cake was my other favourite, infused with cinnamon, light and fluffy on the palate. Wouldn’t be surprised to find both on the Mochamojo menu soon…
By the end of the afternoon, my head was buzzing with – no, not Akvavit! – but interesting snatches of conversations like personal favourites amongst tennis greats Bjorn Borg, Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander, subtle differences between Norwegian and Swedish Salmon, visa woes on both sides, and the Swedish obsession for the king of fruits, Mango. So it only seemed fit that we raise a toast to this great afternoon of connecting people, cultures and food, and finish off with a couple of Absolut Mango shots 😉