‘Sleepless in Seattle’ is a beautiful romantic movie starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Sleepless in Sweden is what you will be experiencing right now if you are anywhere in northern Sweden with the ‘midnight sun’ keeping you up all day and night! Given a choice, which would you pick?
Although I absolutely love rom-coms, in this case I would pick Sweden – sleepless, nightless and all. Because it is not just about days filled with sunlight where the sun doesn’t set at all, (which come to think of it can be a bit disorienting, no?), but also about the joyous and spirited celebration of a season that unites the people of the whole country like it’s one big family reunion, over food, games and music.
The get-together at Swedish Consul General Fredrika Ornbrant‘s home to celebrate the Swedish National Day was quite a slice of what a Midsummer Day celebration would be in the Swedish countryside. There were people dressed adorably in the national peasant costume, pretty flower hairbands called ‘midsommarkrans’ sitting atop the blonde and dark heads of fellow Swedes and Indian friends and associates alike, shots of Swedish Schnapps going around with a customary toast song accompanying every quaff, and a mouth-watering Swedish smorgasbord of traditional dishes made lovingly by Fredrika herself (with a little help from her Swedish-chef trained Indian cook, Fiona). What with our affinity to Abba and Swedish House Mafia reigning high, no one really missed the whole ritual of erecting the Maypole and the customary ‘frog-step’ dance around it… phew! 😉
But there was enough good-natured humour going around amongst the small clutch of privileged guests from both Nordic and Indian communities. The light-hearted banter between Fredrika and her counterpart at the Norwegian Consulate in Mumbai, Torbjorn Holte, Fredrika’s sheepish and endearing declaration of her undying love for Pani Puri (and Sev Puri and Bhaji Puri and pretty much all things ‘puri‘!) and a surprisingly cheeky and humorous video on the traditions and customs of the Maypole festivities that made us all roll with laughter, all made for some really fun moments.
As for food, the Swedes sure know their way into an Indian’s heart. A little live demo of how to prepare Skargard Herring Canapés conducted by the passionate foodie Fredrika herself, was followed by some light bites of Kalles Caviar in Egg Halves, Herring in Mustard Mayo (so lovely I just couldn’t stop eating it!), some beautiful large chunks of Pink Salmon with Dill and Lemon, the gorgeous Swedish Meat Balls and an absolutely delicious Swedish Crumble (made with fresh mango instead of traditional apple) that was a knockout end to an honest, simple and simply delicious dinner of traditional favourites.
For a country as cold as Sweden with long snowy winters, Fredrika’s warmth and brightness has always shone forth like the burst of summer flowers that are hand-picked and woven lovingly into the ‘krans‘. I will miss you my dear, dear friend, but the thought that Sweden will be a warmer place with you in it is a thought that I will cherish in my heart till we meet again!