On arrival we were greeted by a singing Swede and each given a small glass of Aquavit which I knew would have a dangerous effect. This wee glass looked innocent enough but it was extraordinarily strong at over 40 per cent. It tasted a little of pepper and aniseed and after one small gulp, I found my knees buckle slightly as my body took an involuntary shudder and my eyes began to water.
Interestingly the Scandinavians and British are similar in their like of a drink or three. However, the Scandinavians seem to revel in recording songs to go with the activity and currently there are over 9,000 recorded drinking songs, 200 of which are snaps specific housed at the Historical Museum of Wines & Spirits in Stockholm. I'd love to know how 'jubel' or 'skol' can create so many tunes. We of course were handed pieces of paper with our ubiquitous drinking song and informed that when we commenced supper, we would be required to sing, drink the shot and then drink a beer chaser ... eek!
Our special smörgåsbord started with cured herring, cured herring in a mustard sauce with hard brittle Swedish bread that looked a little like a round and slightly thicker ryvita, that could only be bought from a Swedish Supermarket. I didn't even know there were such things as Swedish Supermarkets but hey, you learn something new each day. This was followed by a song (in Swedish, so I have no way of sharing the rendition - phew!), followed by a shot of Aquavit, then much holding of glass to our sternum, looking deeply into each others eyes and then a beer chaser once we'd lowered our shot glasses to the table. I rather liked the cured herring, mainly because it was so much better than a Rollmops and also because the chunks of herring were so meaty in texture which was a little surprising. The ensuing slug of Aquavit for Man was more of a pallet 'bleacher', as he wasn't so keen on the fish.
What followed next (along with more Aquavit and wine) was a lovely array of super small meatballs, sausages, a version of potato gratin but with anchovies, mahoosive pork ribs, braised red cabbage and absolutely no green vegetables or salad. Fit to busting, when the hard cheeses came in, I could but merely nibble and declined only one or two more Aquavit rounds.
I can tell you that the next morning, heads were a little souring than we'd anticipated. The litres of water and gallons of tea seemed to barely take the edge of my thirst but we had survived a Christmas Supper without any tears, fights or tantrums, which has to be a novelty in any house these days!