Christmas means tradition and it is beautiful to discover other rituals, memories and habits. Or create new ones, when you are away from home and you need to adapt your routine to the new order of things. That being said, Christmas away is rather difficult, at least for me, but I guess one feels the magic everywhere, in the end (with a lot of effort, postal service use and money, I must add 🙂 ).
Anyway, maybe part of this magic, not sure how, but I discovered a very nice place here in Barcelona, called Pappa Sven, a Swedish restaurant. It is located on Carrer de Villarroel 22, pretty close to Sant Antoni Metro, or Urgell Metro or just walking from Pl. Catalunya.
I said I had discovered a place, but in fact I discovered so much more than that. Entering the door I found myself in another dimension, somehow, because I got to experience first hand one of the Swedish Christmas traditions, in a very nice company and atmosphere:
Now, the description was already overwhelming in terms of offer. It is a Christmas Buffet, at a price of 35 euros:
But the reality was even more beautiful, I must admit. Now, what does this Julbord mean, in fact? It stands for Christmas table and it seems to be a very well-loved tradition for Swedish people, judging from the sparkles of joy from both our hosts and the Swedes enjoying the evening.
This large meal is served, traditionally, on Christmas Eve and it is a family business sort to speak, since it is shared and prepared by all the generations. Given that a big space is needed for all the fuss :), apparently most Swedes also go out to a Julboard at a restaurant, in December, in order to enjoy an even larger selection of food than the one at home.
The decorations are also important, it seems, and it does not surprise me at all. Candles appear in large numbers, there is a straw goat name halmbock (this is typically in each family´s collection) involved and multiple Christmas decorations are hanged around the house. Christmas tree cannot be forgotten, of course.
The meal itself normally has lots of courses, each one served on a fresh plate and one should follow a specific order (this was not the case for myself, since I got so dizzy seeing so much food). There is a lot of herring, a lot of salmon and other fish, hot food, cold meats, patés and desserts. All this is severed buffet style, so in the end it can be mixed, of course.
Generally, the welcome drink is a glass of Swedish mulled wine (glögg), then some strong drinks called snaps (drinking those can and is accompanied by singing), some specific Christmas beer and something called Julmust for children or people not interested in alcohol (it is made from water, malt and spices).
Now, there really was a lot of food at Pappa Sven. I could not take photos of everything, but I must say that the salmon was out of this world. There were also some pickled cucumbers that tasted like heaven and a side-dish which was main for me 😀 because I loved it, called Jansson´s Temptation:
This literally means everyone´s temptation and I cannot argue with that. It is a creamy dreamy potato and anchovy casserole. I truly loved it!
They also served a lot of meat, such as the center stage participant Christmas ham, sausages, meatballs, reindeer specialties, but that was not really my thing.
To end things on a high note, there are a lot of sweets available, from rice pudding to chocolate truffles and other chocolate goodies and fruits and nuts:
Not sure if that is custom, but I saw people drinking tea from the most enormous tea cups (calling them cups, but maybe the most adequate word would be pots) I have ever seen. It smelled delicious.
This flood of food on Christmas Day is reminiscent of the celebration after a period of fasting from the beginning of Advent until midnight on Christmas Eve. There is, indeed, a lot of food, but I would consider it properly balanced from a nutritional point of view, if one is a bit careful (they are pairing meats with read cabbage, for instance, there are sauces to go with the “heavier” foods etc.).
While I did not attend a “real” Julbord in Sweden, I would argue that this is not a tradition concerning only food (While food does play a central part in it), but also family, Christmas memories and togetherness. Which, in fact, stands common in many traditions. Maybe this is the purpose of it all?
I am leaving this here, because it sounds festive (Hope they are not saying something horrible, I guess I´ll never know 🙂 ):
Back to Pappa Sven, you can also buy traditional Swedish products from them (you know I bought the mulled wine, for 12 euros is a good deal, I think, although the weather here in Barcelona does not really welcome hot drinks). They also sell salmon and many other goodies:
The staff is kind and funny and they know their food. The owner, Nina Olsson, also has-had (I don´t watch TV, so not really sure) a cooking show which looks promising:
All this being said, go and check it out (but do make a reservation beforehand, it does look busy). And if you are not in Barcelona, try and enjoy the spirit of this tradition wherever you are, because this is what Christmas is about! 🙂
Photos: Unsplash; Pappa Sven site and mine taken there; Recipeland.com