Archive for the ‘article’ Category

December 5: Devil’s Day

It’s the dark time of the year, and the devil is stalking the street, stealing children! Is everything lost?

Oh no, not this time.
The devil, or Krampus, as he is known in Austria, is only the helper of good old St. Nikolaus, or as the English know him, Santa Claus.
Now Mr. Nick doesn’t come on the 25th in Austria, but on his saint’s day, the 6th of December. And he does not bring the christmas presents, either! That honor is reserved to the “Christkind”, or child Christ.
But he is bringing presents. Only to the good children, of course. To those who were naughty, the devil comes and puts them into his big wicker basket which he carries on his back so they are gone when Mr. Nick comes around!

The picture shows how you can imagine one such devil. Him, as well as Mr. Nikolaus, who is wearing a bishop’s outfit, are pictured often in this style on the typical red bags in which nice children can find nuts, oranges and apples, and candy!

More about Mr. Nick tomorrow. Today, the devils will be roaming the streets in their furry suits and heavy wood-and-horn masks, striking fear (and delight!) in the heart of men.

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Back from work-related travel once more. I’m going to post an advent calendar of sorts – probably won’t make every day, but it should be enough with all the special days in December to at least get an interesting short article every other day or so!

December 4: St. Barbara

This is an old custom from my catholic home country, but probably has its roots in much older religions. It brings spring in the middle of winter in 2 easy steps!

Step 1: On the 4th of December, the day of St. Barbara, go and cut some twigs from a fruit tree. They should have buds on them. In my family, we used cherry twigs, but apple, plum or flowering bushes like forsythia also work.

Step 2: Bring them into your warm home, put them in a vase with water and wait. By Christmas, they should be blooming!

A lovely custom to brighten your winter days with something fresh and flowering. Don’t you think?

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I’m feeling the winter blues, but luckily christmas time is approaching with huge steps! Going to be away next week again, and on a seminar the week after. In the meanwhile, I’ll probably post my food photo backlog, just so the blog isn’t completely deserted.

While you’re here, check out the great article Nupur posted on The Daily Tiffin: Brightening the Winter Blues.
As someone living in Scandinavia, I tell you this advice is worth solid gold!

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  • Follow the recipe. Don’t be stingy.
  • Especially not with fat, it doesn’t work.
  • Don’t believe what the recipe says, believe what your eyes say in amount of flour.
  • Halving the recipe never works (see point 3). Learn to live with ending up with 25 buns that need to be eaten :)
  • Call it a success if you can at least eat your mistakes.

Happy birthday to me :) *innocently plugs her JList wishlist*

Sorry for the dearth in bentos recently. Since the BF started working at my place, he’s been bugging me to go out for every lunch. I’ll try to put my foot down and bring bentos anyway again soon (after that deadline and Italy assignment…) :(

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After a long week of hard work I do what every geek girl likes to do: relaxing with a shopping tour through the nearest big town!
Well, first I start by having a looong, nice sleep-in. Then I go on tour. And since by “then”, I mean “well into lunch time”, the first stop is defined by the question: “Where shall we have brunch today?”

Today we decided to have Japanese food. There are several great Japanese restaurants around Stockholm, but for ease of parking coming from our direction and general hungriness we chose one called “Sandai-me Kato”. This one gets a pretty good review by “real” Japanese people, though apparently not as good as the place called “Ki-Mama” (which is also the only place in town to serve broiled eel, but that is a culinary adventure for another day).
On the other hand, it goes away from the fastfood atmosphere of sushi bars (including Ki-Mama) with its lovely interior. You can see the almost LARP-ish atmosphere of it on the picture above. Lovely, isn’t it?

On the menu are, alongside the mandatory sushi, several other Japanese dishes you don’t usually get in Japanese places in Sweden. I choose one that I already had last time – I am eager to try out all their menu but this one just had me drooling for more last time! It’s Hiyashi Ramen – advertised as “typical Japanese summer food” on the menu, it is a huge bowl of chilled ramen in a fruity sweet and sour marinade topped with freshly-woked seafood and vegetables. It’s so good I almost forgot to take a picture!

I apologize again for the bad picture quality. I need to remember to bring my pocket camera next time, as I’m about to give up on my cellphone cam and not about to bring the SLR.

Filled with yummy Japanese foody goodness, we go on over to the Japan Food & Kitchen (JFK) Shop to get some supplies. (And candy.)
Since it’s right around the corner, we also go pay The English Shop a visit (For candy.) and nip into another Asian supermarket on the way (Mooncakes are candy too, right?).

To save our bellies from total destruction by multicultural candy, I’ll stay away from foodshops after this. I hope nobody reading this minds as I geek on!
The next stop on the list is Gamla Stan. Even without tourists, it’s still full of people, but this time Stockholmers out on shopping trips to the neatest little shops that are scattered right throughout the most touristy district.
Since I have never managed to get to the store when it was open before, Sound Pollution is worth a visit. It’s a music store that specialises in anything metal, punk, goth, industrial, death, doom… you name it, they probably have it (or at least can order it). I get a VnV Nation CD as I haven’t been able to find it anywhere but online before and like to have some stuff on CD. I don’t feel like asking for testlistening though, so nothing nice and new for me. The main attraction, SF Bokhandeln is still waiting and our parking time is limited…
SF (yes, that’s for Science fiction) Bokhandeln is a fascinating bookstore. It specializes in SF/F books, though it has comics, RPs, and general geek paraphernalia as well, and is doing so good business it can afford a big store on the biggest tourist street in town. And it’s always full, no matter when I come there! It’s fuller than any other bookstore I’ve ever seen outside signings and special events.
The haul: The 4 Earthsea books, Lord of Light by Zelazny, Wintersmith (finally out in pocket) and the BF got another book he got recommended. Success!

Sushi Bar Sandai-Me Kato
S:t paulsgatan 22

Japan Food & Kitchen (JFK)
Swedenborgsgatan 28
118 27 Stockholm

The English Shop
Söderhallarna (upstairs)
118 26 Stockholm

Stora Nygatan 18 (Gamla Stan)

Västerlånggatan 48, Gamla Stan

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Pears are worth a post too.

The good fruit fairy, who has in late summer put bags of freshly-ripened apples next to our mailbox, has returned – only this time the bag was full of pears!
I am somewhat ashamed of my childish squee over them. I guess while I never regarded them as something special they somehow are – rarer than apples, and even though I have weighed the thought of buying some in the supermarket for the last few weeks, I somehow haven’t managed to.

Those pears are delicious. Like the apples, they seem to be of the gardengrown variety – small and with a lot of taste, little sugar.
The peel is thick, almost leathery. I can pull half a millimeter of it off the soft flesh with mt fingers. The flesh itself is bright white, dripping juicy and soft with ripeness – supermarket pears are hard and crunchy, not properly soft at all! It crumbles and melts on my tongue as the juice runs down my chin (I feel sloppy, but that’s part of the experience, much as with nectarines and melons).

When I lived on campus, one of my neighbours got goosebumps from the texture of pear flesh on her tongue. She couldn’t explain why – it was just a funny neural connection.
I don’t get goosebumps, but I thoroughly enjoy the pear anyway. I think I’m going to snatch a few more before they are all gone…

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Wah! Kao-chan, I hold you in a whole new respect as photography goddess after trying out taking photos with my BF’s digital SLR. So many options! And after all of this torture to my wrists from holding, aiming, and setting the (bloody heavy) thing I found out I had the wrong ISO setting and the pictures turned out grainy anyway. *cries*
Luckily ever-paranoid, I had taken some pictures with my regular camera too. But they don’t look nearly as good as the SLR ones as I’m already able to tell! Oh well, I guess I’ll be taking pictures in parallel for a while until I have it figured out.

On to the bento…

Main course: Spanish potato tortilla on a bed of salad. Black garlic olives.
Side dish: Cherry tomato salad with red onion and fresh basil; green garlic olive.
Dessert: Freshly-picked forest berries on yoghurt, all frozen to serve as ice pack (this goes back into the freezer until tomorrow).

I love summer! Not just because it’s warm and nice but it’s also the season of fruits, herbs and berrypicking. My grandmother used to go to the forest with me to pick berries and I plan to do the same with my children and grandchildren, if I ever have any. It’s so important to know where the food comes from when it’s not bought in the supermarket. How to live off the land and what delicacies there are hiding in our own forests and meadows is starting to become a sadly forgotten art, and even though I grew up mostly in a city myself it saddens me when I meet people my age who can barely tell a chestnut tree from a cherry tree and would never eat anything straight from the forest. (I say to hell with hygiene, forest berries taste the best when fresh from the branch.)
Today I went to the forest in search of mushrooms. I didn’t find any yet, although the weather was perfect – I guess there were too many mushroom pickers before me! – but I did find an abundance of wild raspberries, forest strawberries and blueberries. I’m especially happy about the forest strawberries (or smultron as they are called in Swedish) because they taste so much better than the giant strawberries you can buy in supermarkets. Talk about a taste explosion in every single, tiny berry you pick. I had a hard time picking any for later and not putting every berry in my mouth immediately!

It is no coincidence or photographic accessorizing though that amidst all the berries, there is also a flower. When I went out to the forest with my grandmother, we did not only pick berries and mushrooms!
The yellow flower giving such a pretty contrast to the red and blue berries is called St. John’s Wort or in German, Johanniskraut and can be used dried as a tea, or steeped in alcohol as an antibiotic tincture that speeds up wound healing. It is rumoured to be good against mild depressions even!
When I saw it growing wild and abundant in the forests close to here, I remembered how we used to collect it and decided to pick and dry some of my own. Herbal medicine, and knowledge of wild herbs is sadly a vanishing art here in Europe, and I am very interested in keeping the knowledge of living off the land alive, at least as little as I ever learned about it! I’m planning to write more articles on vanishing vegetable sorts and herbs on this blog as I stumble across them. Did you know, for example, that you can eat dandelion leaves as a salad in spring, if you pick them very young and before they grow flowers? (I plan to sneak that into a bento next spring, if I get the chance…)

I put the rest of the berries on top of yoghurt into muffin cups (I took two for each cup as I was worried one alone might be too soft) and froze them. I wonder if freezing yoghurt is such a good idea? But on the other hand, I do like frozen yoghurt, and I like the possibility of using it as an icepack as well, so I’ll keep you updated on whether the cups held up to the abuse when I manage to integrate them into another bento…

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