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So it seems that the third book in Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy came out in the US in the past week. I found this article in the New York Times. The author of the article comments on the drinking of coffee:
“Larsson’s is a dark, nearly humorless world, where everyone works fervidly into the night and swills tons of coffee; hardly a page goes by without someone “switching on the coffee machine,” ordering “coffee and a sandwich” or responding affirmatively to the offer “Coffee?”
I haven’t read the translation so I don’t know if it is a translation issue or not, but when reading the original I did not notice the incessant coffee drinking that the article author comments on. I was thinking about it and I wonder if it is a cultural thing. Swede’s drink the most coffee per capita in the world (according to some sources, others have us at fourth). Talking it over with some co-workers and family members we came to the conclusion that the most uttered phrase during the day is “ska vi ta en kaffe (shall we have a coffee)” or “nä nu tar vi en kaffe (let’s have a coffee)”.
These phrases (or variations thereof) are uttered at least once an hour, around 9am and 2pm they are probably uttered at every single place of work around the country. So the “verbal tic” isn’t noticed by use Swede’s because we suffer from the same tic. We all utter that phrase, weather we drink coffee or not (and if we don’t say kaffe, then we say fika which is the best thing ever).
Fika is really the cup of coffee with something to eat. The something to eat can be a sandwich (open faced usually), or a cinnamon bun or seven types of cookies (which was the minimum amount of cookies that could be served at polite afternoon coffee soirees). But fika is much more than the foods served. It is a time when you sit down and talk. It is about relaxing and enjoying the company of those around you. It is our version of the water cooler.
Traditionally the coffee here is drunk black, often with a sugar lump (or four), some people also add a bit of milk or cream. However, the fancy latte is growing especially amongst the younger crowd (I prefer a latte to a black coffee). But coffee is almost always drunk.
So for those of you who were annoyed, or merely found it confusing, when Mikael and his colleagues had a coffee and a sandwich at every turn, I hope this helps to explain that it wasn’t necessarily a tic with the writer, but rather a way of life for most of us 9 million Swedes. We like our fika! :D
If you are interested in Swedish baking and recipes I suggest you check out Anne’s Food which is one of my favourite food bloggers. She is a Swedish girl but she blogs in English.