Sunday, October 31, 2010

Officially Winter.

Today we moved to winter time. We are now one hour different from South Africa. To avoid the awkwardness associated with discussing how we differ, which is very difficult (e.g. are we ahead or behind or on top), we will give the time. It is currently 16:30 in Sweden and 17:30 in South Africa. The best part about moving the time is that we had one extra hour to sleep.  

Since it is 31 October it is also Halloween. We may therefore have more sugar in our system than recommended...

Happy Halloween.

p.s. for monsters, normal time means one more hour of sleep to invade:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Food Filled Fridays... on Saturday, the Carina edition (Knäckebröd)

This is another edition of food filled Fridays. This post is of course a day late. When we started food filled Fridays, we chose the name because it sounded nice. We did not really think logically about it. If we did we would not have chosen Friday. After a week of hard work, writing articles and reading literature, a blog at the start of the weekend is not funnest thing to do. Thus we will continue with food filled Fridays and try to write a post every now and then about Swedish food, although it will not necesarily be posted on a Friday.

Today’s edition is about a very typical and traditional Swedish staple food - Knäckebröd. It is flat and dry and made mainly from rye flower. Usually its sold as a large, round, flat bread with a hole in the middle. Its history in Nordic countries goes back ages and the Vikings most probably also ate Knäkebröd. It is still very popular among Swedes and is eaten with various toppings like pickled herring or caviar (which by the way is sold in a tube!). It keeps for ages if kept dry and is indeed a very practical type of food. In olden days people baked their whole stash of Knäkerbröd in the summer after the harvest and stored it in a high, dry place hanging on a broomstick (therefore the hole in the middle). Today most varieties still look like the original Knäkerbröd, (large, round with a hole in the middle), although you also get the modern, more practical, smaller, rectangular version. We also like knäkebröd, and call it "krakerbrood" the Afrikaansenized version, but eat it as a snack rather than a meal.

Hope you enjoyed the special edition of food filled Fridays – (by Carina -Ronnie insisted on this addition because of all the funny words I use). Look out for more soon.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Food filled Friday: Episode 3: South African Wine.

Just a quick update on the continuation of the food "Food filled Friday" segment. On average we had 28.5 page views per post on this segment. We had 13 positive votes which means that 55% of the viewers did not indicate a preference or dislike for this segment.

The food of this week is wine. In particular wine from South Africa. From the beginning we noticed that South African wine is well represented in the state owned liquor stores. These stores, called "Systembolaget" are the only places in Sweden where you can buy alcohol (except for the very very light beer). If you are not a regular visitor to Systembolaget you may also see a number of advertisements on television and printed media for popular South African wines. South African wines are almost always found on restaurant menus and at parties.

The picture below is from a Swedish magazine we found on a train.

A good wine selection from our home country is both good and bad. The problem is that we know which wines to select and often buy them because we know what we will get. We therefore rarely try wines from other countries. The advantage, of course, is that we know what we are getting is nice. We also expose other people to South African produce.

Finally we should mention that alcohol is extremely expensive here. A glass of wine at a restaurant can easily set you back from R60 upwards (stronger liquor are also as expensive and are sold per centiliter for approximately R15, which means you would pay R1.5 for a milliliter of whisky). Since the restaurant meals, especially something red and meatish, is very expensive in any case, you will rather frequent it less often but include the wine. However, a respectable bottle of wine can be bought for R80.



ps. Drinking songs are extremely popular during parties and celebrations. Here is a interesting one about the desire for more wine, even if the grapes are stomped by the fungus infested feet of a fat sweaty French woman (no offense meant to our French readers, it was the Swedes...):

Feta Fransyskor som svettas om fötterna
de trampar druvor som sedan ska jäsas till vin
Transpirationen viktig e´
ty den ger fin boquet
Vårtor och svampar följer me´,
men vad gör väl de´?

Vi vill ha vin, vill ha vin, vill ha mera vin
även om följderna bli att vi må lida pin
Flickor: Flaskan och glasset gått sin
Pojkar: Hit med vin, mera vin
Flickor: Tror ni att bi är fyllesvin?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How I spend my days...

I often get the question what do I do. My usual response is that I work at the Swedish University of Agriculture, where I am involved in developing methods to find some genes that explain complex traits in animals. But this does not say very much and definitely does not give an impression of the daily struggle with DNA, statistics and some or other feature from an animal that is inherently difficult to measure. Since I love cooking I thought an analogy with food may be a nice way of describing what our group is doing.

Imagine that DNA like is a recipe book (this is an old analogy that I am just borrowing and customizing). Different pieces of DNA are like the different instructions of what to do and which ingredients are required for different dishes. For example a chocolate cake is an analogy of one feature of an individual.

Now imagine I want to know how a chocolate cake is baked. The procedure I would follow is: I would go to many different people (at least a 100) and ask each of them to bake a chocolate cake. I would measure, taste and rate, many different features of each cake. Then the 100 bakers would supply me with own unique recipe for their cake BUT it will be in a language I don't know. They also will cut the recipe into pieces each containing one word. For fun, each of them also cut a whole recipe book into word size pieces, and mix it with the chocolate cake recipe words. This bring me to what we do in the group where I work. We only get the mixed words and the ratings (we never do the tasting ourselves). We look at differences in the ratings comparing them to differences words and try to find the words that may be important in chocolate cake baking. Of course this is not done manually and we mostly spend the whole day in front of a computer telling it what to look for and evaluating what it finds.

This is how I spend my days at work. Except for fika and lunch.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Set for winter

Inspired by the first taste of snow we went to Gränby mall to shop for winter clothes. A second motivation is our looming trip to Lapland early next year. Since we think our current jackets may be sufficient we only bought mittens, hats with ear coverings, boots and thermal underwear.

Hope the rampant rumours of the 'winter of the millennium' prove to be true... we are READY for it.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Food filled Friday: Episode 2: Tunnbrödsrulle.

This is the second episode of our three part pilot series on food. Please cast your vote in the sidebar to the right if you want us to continue with this series (note we will still write about other events and activities that may be interesting).

The food of this week is the Swedish fast food: Tunnbrödsrulle. Directly translated it means "flat-bread-roll". You mostly find these Tunnbrödsrulle at hot-dog stands and it sells for between R35 to R60.

This meal is rather filling and consists of a flat bread wrap, usually filled with mashed potatoes, hot-dog sausages, crispy onions and shrimp salad. There are of course variation by exclusion of onions or shrimp salad and the type and number of sausages. Optional mustard and/or ketchup are added prior to rolling.

This combination of ingredients does seem a bit odd and biased towards the carbohydrate side. A large proportion of the bites are mashed potato with its predictable taste. Often you have some mash and either shrimp salad or sausage and this taste combination is really nice. If you are very lucky you may even experience a bite with all three main ingredients, a bit of onions and a some of the optional sauces, and you will have proof that odd food combination are sometimes much better that one can imagine.

The main problem with a Tunnbrödsrulle is in its physical design. Although it looks pleasing enough it is filled with challenges when you try to eat it. The first problem is that it is issued with a small plastic fork. Immediately you see that you may end up with a empty mash stained shell containing a lonely sausages to one side in its enormous cavity. Most forks are therefore discarded prior to consumption. A common second mistake is to go for the sausage since it is easily accessible. Soon you are in a situation where the sausage is flush with the mash and shrimp and a quick search for the forks are made in order to dig yourself out of the mess. The actual wrap can only be eaten if the filling is at least one bite lower than the wrap rim. Everything should be done with utmost care since pressure will result in mash glooping from the bottom, sides and over the rim. Remember also that it is usually bought and consumed in public lending an extra dimension to the whole experience...

It is naturally a "must try" for anyone visiting Sweden.


First Snow of the Season!

Just before sunset we had the first snow of the season. It lasted less than 10 minutes and immediately melted once it touched the ground but it was still wonderful. It came this year two days later than it did last year (see

We have been looking forward to this all summer and hope there will be more snow soon.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Food filled Friday: Episode 1: Kräftor.

Recently we discovered that we spent way too little time on sharing our interesting and sometimes wonderful culinary experiences. We thought that we should try to regularly post something about something that gets many people out of bed: FOOD. Since we are currently in Sweden we will focus a lot on the local cuisine but we may stray from Swedish dishes. If you think this is interesting, please let us know and we will try to make this a regular feature on the blog.

This week's food is Kräftor.

In English, Kräftor translates to crayfish and refer to the freshwater crustaceans that resemble small lobsters (note that in South Africa the term crayfish usually refers to saltwater spiny lobster). These little creatures are usually consumed in August but imported varieties are available all year round (although we haven't had the chance to judge ourselves we are told by our Swedish colleagues that Swedish crayfish are the best).

Crayfish parties are common in August. During these parties there are festive costumes, colorful lanterns and of course beer, snaps, Swedes and crayfish. You eat the crayfish cold, with your fingers and are allowed to suck nosily and with vigor.

Crayfish are prepared by boiling them in brine with ample dill and some other "secret" ingredient. They are left soaking in this mixture for a while prior to consumption. We bought frozen precooked crayfish. We defrosted them for two days in the refrigerator before eating with bread and snaps. The taste is slightly fishy with overtones of dill. It is not bad at all and we can recommend it to anyone coming to Sweden during August.

The following pictures are taken during our own crayfish party. This party was a slight adaptation to the normal Swedish ones by having only South Africans and it being held in September.

Here Carina is providing some basic instructions in extracting the meat from the crayfish.

My parents quickly learn how to remove the best bits from these creatures.

Note the absence of Cindy in these photos. The reason for this is that she was unable to handle them since their hard and spiny bodies freaked her out a bit. This was not due to a lack of trying as she repeatedly pick one up just to drop it if some hard edge touched her hand (note that crayfish have exoskeletons with many many edges and handling them only on the smooth areas are impossible). This was accompanied by a shrill exclamation: "ooo, nee….ek kan nie, hulle pootjies grill my te veel, nee, nee, nee" (roughly translated it means "I am freaked out by their small legs" but I think the spiny claw and eyes did not make things easier). She was however able to enjoy the meat if someone else removed it from the shell.

Let us know if there is anything specific that you want us to eat and write about (preferably something we can find in Sweden).