And so, another chapter of this great transeuropean culinary safari must end. But, before we turn the page to another day, a new sky and different people; nice of this -your- humble writer, to dedicate a few paragraphs of suited closure manner to what I can only define as a very royal and tasteful host: SWEDEN.
Now, I’ve invested most of my typing on describing the tracks that led us to these -our own- present time and place. My place, as a matter of mere backpacking synergy. But, in all sense of the word, traditional to these people: Swedes. And why, you may ask, would these facts be important? Well, in my not so humble opinion I think that knowing where you are coming from may not define where you are going next, but it may have some incidence on the ways that will lead you to your next destination.
Paying attention to detail, or details, for that matter. Questioning, arguing and re-questioning. Measuring without measure, and searching whatever it is that you found missing, even if you don’t know what that thing is. At the end of the day everything you meet for the first time will face a toe to toe fight against everything else you have already met in the past. Preconceptions and preacquired knowledge will test the meaning, the limits and boundaries, the mere nature, of all that’s new to you. But, as Nobel said: “One can state, without exaggeration, that the observation of and the search for similarities and differences are the basis of all human knowledge.”
Alfred Nobel may have died in 1896, but if there’s something completely unquestionable about these past 121 years passed since we lost the inventor of the dynamite is that they couldn’t shake his spirit off. To inspire, that was Nobel’s largest gift to humanity. To inspire every day the souls and bodies of every man and woman of science, arts and politics to be the best they can be. For them, and all of us. That’s what we received from this Swedish chemist, engineer, writer, inventor, businessman, and philanthropist: heritage. And why am I talking about this? Because if there’s something that you can define as absolutely Swedish is the admiration and respect for heritage.
And of course, their cuisine pays no minor respect to this heritance: it wouldn’t be unfair or demeaning to say that not much of Sverige’s culinary rubric has changed through the ages of men that turned into Vikings that turned this land into a Kingdom that was transformed into an Empire. Trust me, not much. They treasure all that symbolizes their motherland and from national and religious festivities to day-to-day food, they stand guard at the doors of patriotic values and principles, taking care of 2 of the fundamental pillars of Swede civilization: who’s eating and what.
The who: Sweden has been described as a model welfare state due to the fact of every citizen being guaranteed his/her medical care. Universal and equal access to medical services, as well as equal funding of health care constitutional reforms were stablished back in the early 90s. Sweden’s deep concern for equal human rights has helped lead to a healthier population. Infant mortality has been sharply reduced. In addition, children and teens receive free dental care until the age of 20.
If we add to the recipe their concern for environmental care and education; we can understand why is it that “What they eat” is equally important. The quality of the agricultural produces, dairy being the largest in number, pork and poultry on second and 3rd, must match not only what’s nutritiously best for the consumers, but also the production policies and regulations that best take care of their motherland. Since they’ve joined the EU, back in 1995, Sweden has achieved figures amongst the top five EU countries with the highest proportion of organically farmed land, providing also growing number of jobs in organic farming. Let’s do not forget that from the Top 10 Import Goods figures, none of those ten commodities (raising up to 65%+ of their portfolio) falls into an agricultural category.
In fact, it was Alfred Nobel who many times addressed the matter of agriculture as the “biggest industry of the Era”. Interesting fact about A.B. Nobel, he declared on his will that 94% of his state should be designated to the extended promotion and celebration of achievements that would play significant roles in preserving and improving human life. Of course, neither he nor his lawyers, family members nor his fellow Swedes could’ve foreseen what the Nobel Prize Foundation does to date. The magnitude and repercussion that the award has worldwide, not only to the laureates and receivers, but to the community. But also, in gourmet terms, the style, quality and luxury standards of the Nobel Banquet in Stockholm.
But wait! Let’s not talk any further about this. Let’s go back to our sad but necessary departure. Let’s go back to packing, commuting, airports and maps. Let’s go back to history books, recipes, food and the road. The road to where, you may ask. Well, if you must know, not all the Nobel Prizes are awarded in Sweden. Nop. The Stockholm ceremony leaves one award aside. The Nobel Peace Prize has its own ceremony and banquet in foreign land. Sounds like a good excuse to travel, don’t you think? Well, you may or may not.. but it’s getting late for second thoughts, and I’m already too excited to stop.
Buckle up boys and girls, we’re travelling further west into the land of Odinsons and daughters. Where the clash of Nordic Asgardian tradition and the thirst for discovery took Vikings of rowing muscle all across the Atlantic before any other men. Where fjords cut the sea and the Sun touches the first of Scandinavian faces. To pay a visit to another landmark on the humble heritage we received from dear ol’ Alfred: The Nobel Peace Center, in Oslo. That right folks, we’re going to Norway!