1920’s in Sweden

Note that I wrote this post before I knew much Swedish, so the episode was a bit hard for me to watch then.

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Historieätarna: The 1920’s in Sweden (watchable online)

(Note that the coffee is not from this episode and is from the 1940’s but I included it because it’s the same as in Iceland in the 40’s – half coffee and half roasted chicory root)

This is episode four of a series about Sweden’s food and culture history. They dress up, live, and eat for five days according to a specific period in time. Since I imagine most people reading this blog can’t understand Swedish, I’ve typed up notes for you to read along as you watch (you can still watch to see the food, activities, and clothing!). There may be errors in the notes as I didn’t double-check anything.

Bow-ties were rather popular and there were more colours in the clothing than in previous eras. Trousers are worn at the true waist. For women, the corset has disappeared and the ideal look is thin and rather flat. They ate more vegeterian food, ex. their first meal has imitation sausage, which in this ep was made of figs. They also used more margarine when in previous eras they used more butter. Gratin was very common in the 20’s (and is still common in Sweden today), and because of the types of ovens they now had, they could eat it hot.

There was a radio-fever in Sweden, now you could sit in your home and hear radio from across the country. “Think of it like when the internet came along, suddenly you could find out what was going on in other areas that you couldn’t before.” The radio knitted together the whole of Sweden as a nation, and then you could also hear German and English radio etc.

Radio cake (or “margaret cake”):
“There’s nothing that goes better with listening to the radio than bananas.” But you couldn’t eat the banana with your hands, instead you cut off the top, slice it open with the knife, and eat it in small slices on the plate.

Day two breakfast: oatmeal porridge (without cinnamon or sugar in), tea, toasted bread, smoked sausage.

Now there were cars and new rules for how to drive. The steering wheel was on the right and the pedals were in the middle, which was common for European cars of that time (now the wheel is on the left like American cars). The car they drove had no horn.

Now it’s a police building but before it was made of little rooms where families could live (especially if they would otherwise be homeless?). Now in the 1920’s you could have a flat with its own little kitchen and WC (toilet), it was small but it was there. Nowadays this sized flat is good for one person, but at that time they would have a small family (mother, father, and at least one child) living there, and it would have been seen as a really fantastic living space.

Lunch: sautéed kidneys with fried potatoes.

1924 called for a total alcohol ban (like the Prohibition in the US), but it wasn’t actually a total ban and they instead compromised by giving people a ration book for alcohol. And they only rationed alcohol for the working-class(? or only rationed the type of alcohol the working-class drunk). They would drink brennivin (schnapps? it’s clear, tastes nasty and has a very high alcohol content) in order to get drunk, instead of where previously they would have been spending money on drinking nice wine with dinner. They would be rationed down to four litres of spirits per month, and they would have at the time thought that was too little an amount.

This time is when the Swedish crayfish parties became popular (which are still done today) and you could eat the crayfish with your hands. The feeling was “never more war” and people thought of partying. They ate crayfish because they had a long fishing season and they were scared of over-fishing the real fish.

Dinner party food: cooked crayfish and spiced cheese (no idea what it might be spiced with, possibly paprika?)

Day three: working-class.
In the 20’s is when the electric fridge came to Sweden. But many people still used the simpler method of giant chunks of ice. In the 20’s the rate of unemployment rose from about 8% to about 34%(?).

At this time, Sweden was first in the world for researching and classifying people, for example the Sami and Jews. They used measurements and determined your pedigree by various measurements. Based on that they might then determine your personality and think you were ex. strange or perverted. This caused a lot of misfortune for many people, especially ethnic minorities, if you’re interested you can read about it elsewhere.

Dinner: herring (fish)balls with currant sauce, potatoes. for dessert, soup made from dried fruit (there was no ice cream in restaurants at that time).

Around that time, around 30 thousand people were sterilized because a law was passed where doctors were allowed to sterilize people for any reason at all. So doctors could have ex. been racist and sterilized minorities for no real reason.

Lunch: hard cheese (parmesan), cookies, hard-boiled eggs, cooked ox tongue, smoked sausage, rye bread.

Now there was a middle class in Sweden. Exercise activities became popular for both men and women and for that reason the clothing for women became more practical (no corsets etc.), and for the first time there was recreational bathing and swimming (before you only went for medical reasons) like at lakes and beaches. Tans also became more fashionable than white skin due to outdoor exercise being popular.

Day 4: Living as farmers
70% of all Swedes were farmers at this time.

Now there was electricity coming into people’s homes and the countryside, but the farm work was still done by hand. Hundreds of “people’s universities” were built (today it’s like a university except some don’t have the rights to give degrees out – you can read about it to see what the real difference is) and now the common people could go to school, it wasn’t just for the elite anymore.

If you were a woman farmer and went to the city probably you would become a maid. Even if you were treated badly it was better than being in the country because out there, women were so low on the hierarchy that they worked the hardest and went to bed latest etc.

Lunch: hodgepodge soup

Bonnier family’s party estate (big bookseller in Sweden). They are having a replica of a meal really eaten there in 1923. They have a calf’s head and are taking the meat off of it to make mock turtle soup. It’s served in a turtle-shaped container and “probably has nothing to do with turtles except for the shape of the serving dish”. (The dish is sort of turtle shell-shaped).

Dinner: mock turtle soup, petite choux with cheese-cream in swan shape, black caviar, eel croquettes.
second course: macaroni and tomato sauce, roe-deer saddle, and embossed mushrooms.

Day 5: Before now it was unthinkable to come into the bedroom of the person having a birthday, in the morning to celebrate and take photos etc. but now it was okay. The 20’s in Sweden were very much influenced by England, but its influence was dying out and this is the last era where England’s influence was really biggest, after this America’s influence begins to dominate.

Food: marrow soup with chicken
Quail with cherries
Vegetables à la Ingeborg
Fried sole (type of fish) with orange
Jello for dessert (which is almost never eaten today in Sweden – note that all the people in the video thought the jello was worse than the marrow soup and any of the other food)

If you ordered certain drinks at the bar it would be like “Oh I travelled abroad and drunk this in another country, I know this” and you would be showing off.

Drinking snack: canapé city, morkulleduchesse, anchovy-and-egg canapé, goose-liver carolin (no idea what these things are)