What is it, anyway?A 300-year-old tradition, the smorgasbord is the Swedish national meal. An immense feast, indulged in for celebration and sustenance, no smorgasbord can ever be too big or too varied. Translated, the word literally means “sandwich table,” but this bountiful buffet is so much more -- it’s a work of art, lovingly composed and consumed.
No. 1 no-noDon’t rush to the table and randomly fill (or, worse, overload) your plate.Swedes can spot non-Swedes by the way they pile everything on to asingle plate.
No. 1 thing to knowThe smorgasbord is a four- to six-course meal. Etiquette insists that courses be eaten in a certain order, always using a fresh plate to maintain the ideal melding of taste and texture.
Best way to fit in?Join in the “snaps or aquavit” drinking songs, and learn to toast like a Swede: Skal!
Best place for smorgasbord neophytes?The Grand Hôtel Stockholm’s Veranda restaurant, where all 70 to 100 smorgasbord items are made in-house. The view from the restaurant looks out over the sea and the Royal Castle. www.grandhotel.se
Ready? Set? Eat.COURSE ONE
Begin with herring. So many types, so little time. Try it pickled with onion, mustard, or dill. Experiment with fancier versions like carrot-and-cumin, beetroot Baltic, or Matjesill herring served withsour cream. Slather on the de rigueur accompaniments for this course, such as hot boiled potatoes, sharp Swedish cheese, and crisp brown bread.
Wash down the herring with Sweden’s favorite libation: aquavit. Follow yourshot of this schnapps-like liqueur (flavored with herbs such ascaraway, cumin, and fennel) with sips of frosty Scandinavian beer.
Seafood. Take some gravlax (marinated salmon) with mustard sauce and dill,smoked salmon with a squeeze of lemon, smoked eel, and black roe withsour cream and onion, anchovies, char, and shrimp.
Vegetable salads, pâté, cold cuts (including beef, chicken, pork, and veal), egg dishes, ham, and smoked reindeer.
¦ Pause to order another aquavit and/or beer.
Warm meats and main dishes of all sorts are in this section of the smorgasbord, but the highlights include Swedish meatballs with lingonberries, spareribs, warm ham, and Jansson’s Temptation -- a casserole with potatoes, onions, and anchovies.
Swedish cheeses, including brie, Västerbotten, and spiced.
Various desserts, from ice cream to strawberries with cake.
¦ End with a strong black coffee and a chilled, Swedish digestif called punsch.