Nine Years Old

Today, Freya, is your birthday, and we are celebrating it whilst in the north of Sweden with your cousins, Jocke and mormor.

The weather has not been the best since we got up here three weeks ago, but today the sun pushed up the temperature to an almost uncomfortable (for me) level.

As usual, mormor and Mum made a selection of pies and cakes. Along with the three different types of biscuits and ice-cream, we indulged in the sugary smörgåsbord presented to us, washing it down with fizzy drinks and coffee.

The sunshine gave us the chance to play brännboll (one of your presents). Despite some similarities to cricket, there are some parts of the game I simply do not understand, though it did not lessen the enjoyment that we had.

The rest of the afternoon you spent swimming and hanging out with your cousins, whom you and Zelda seem to like very much. Your socialising has meant that some of your presents are waiting patiently for you. You did play Monopoly with me this morning, for about half an hour, and Super Mario 3D for you 3DS is yet to be opened. The present that you have used most so far today has been the one that you have (not so quietly) wished for these last few weeks: a camera.

Oh, and Jo thinks that she may have broken something in her foot whilst swimming this afternoon.

Jämtland Bean Burgers

Our summer holiday in the north of Sweden has been, thus far, more like a rainy autumn week. We have ventured outside as much as we dare, though the inclement weather has given Jo the justification she requires to continue the renovation of our house.

We have also taken time to evaluate the contents of mormor’s fridge, freezer and food cupboards (I believe her house is old enough to include a “pantry”). She has accumulated far too much food for her own requirements, so I have taken it upon myself to decrease the amount of extra ingredients she has, at the same time making cheap meals for the family.

I get a good feeling from making food out of otherwise forgotten bags, packets and tins that lie hidden away. Some of the items found have gone past the best before date. This does not overly concern us, as long as any item looks, smells and tastes ok. There have been a few, however, that have not got to the taste test, being some eight to ten years old.

The other day I tested a burger recipe that was very loosely based on a few recipes I had seen, using up some leftover bulgar and a couple of packets of precooked beans. I cannot remember exactly the quantities, as I was not convinced the recipe would a) hold together when fried b) taste nice. I was greatly surprised that the burgers were tasty enough that even Freya liked them. As a note to myself, the recipe goes more or less so:

Fry half a finely chopped onion and add to 2dl bulgar (precooked with a bullion cube). Add tomato paste, garlic salt, dried Italian herbs and one packet each of half mashed black beans and butter beans. To make the correct consistency, add breadcrumbs. Form burgers to falafel size and fry on medium heat with a little oil.

ESC in Malmö – Thursday

The day finally came for us to travel down to Malmö. The ladies of the family took an early morning train, and I followed in the afternoon. For the long weekend of Eurovision fever, we had the company of an old friend from our Luxembourg days, Debbie.

By the time I arrived at the flat that we had hired, the female members had made themselves at home, and unsurprisingly some alcohol had been imbibed. I was very impressed with our accommodation, which we had got from a friend of a friend of a friend for an exceptionally good price. Not only was it spacious and homely, (we later found out) it was ideally situated, being pretty much central to all our intended destinations during our stay.

I had only a short amount of time to regain myself after the long and slightly painstaking train journey. Eurovision awaited, and by seven o’clock we were outside the arena, standing in one of the long queues to get inside. And then, just to our left, a small demonstration started.

Now, I enjoy a good demonstration, but this was definitely not one. The subject matter chosen was the Israeli occupation of Palestine (of which I know next to nothing), so I had no bone of contention with the issue, though for some reason it felt that the Eurovision Song Contest was the wrong platform for a political diatribe. If there is one event that deserves a respite from political issues, it should be the glamour, glitter and gayness that is ESC. The rubbish PA system they were using did not help, and I can’t imagine the message being heard by many of the assembled croud. But by far the most agonising part of the whole thing was when they ended with a rewritten version of ABBA’s Euro classic, ‘Waterloo’, which I shall give the title ‘Israel’. I cannot remember the words, but the whole idea and performance was naïve and very silly. And just to make sure they killed of any last bit of respect and self respect, they were awful singers. Slaughtering a classic song in the band’s home country, to a potential audience of ABBA lovers is not the way to get supporters to your cause.

The actual show was exactly how it should have been. The arena floor was untraditionally standing room only, and unbeknownst to us the floor was divided into two sections. This meant that we ended up in the section further away from the main stage. Our view was somewhat limited, bringing down the experience a tad. We relied more on the TV screens to see what was going on, but the ambience of the evening contributed enough to make it a very entertaining evening.

Day one completed, and a thoroughly enjoable day had by all.

The Time We Did Not Go To Örebro

We were supposed to join our friends, the Färdig family, in a joint mission to Örebro today. The idea was that we take a van big enough for the two families plus a load of vegan footware, so that Nina could sell some at the vegomässa that takes place there on this day. We did a similar thing last summer, going a little further afield to Oslo, which we all enjoyed immensely, even though the van we hired broke down on the way back.

Sadly, the trip was not to be. Around four hours before intended time of departure, Nina received a phone call from the preschool her son goes to. Her son had fallen foul to an ear infection and was in a lot of pain.

The news that we were cancelling the trip left us all disappointed. We had planned the weekend many months ago, which included a night at a youth hostel. Food had been made and packed, beer and wine put aside for our arrival in Ôrebro. Freya took the news worst, but tears became shrieks of joy when we arranged that Nika could come for a sleepover.

When I were a lad, we ate rocks

I turned vegan when I was around seventeen, which is now some twenty-six years ago. During that time I have been witness to the comings and goings of different foodstuffs, from pork pies, to quorn (originally thought to be vegan when it first came out), to the relatively new addition of tzay. One thing that has not changed over the years is the availability of fast food. Not that we eat it a great deal, but it is a bit limiting when we go to town and desire something to keep us going.

We are currently in the middle of a trail period here in Stockholm. Two of the biggest chain newsagents (for want of a better word), Pressbyrån and 7-Eleven are, at selective outlets, offering vegan hot dogs to those inclined.

Yesterday, the ladies of the house went to Pressbyrån and tried one sort. Both Freya and Zelda ate a whole hot dog each, something which does not happen so often at home. And today the whole family went to 7-Eleven and purchased a different kind. Freya managed two this time.

Although it will not be such a regular occurrence, it was nice to be able to be “normal”. The main reason for the visits is to support the introduction of vegan food in newsagents. Whether it continues to be so depends, of course, on sales.

Vegan food has definitely changed. For the better.