Enjoy Not Knowing

Just another American living in Sweden


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swedish word of the month: fika

2018 is officially underway and I’m excited to start something new for the year here at ENK. Every month I’ll post a new Swedish word for your enjoyment. In this way you too, dear reader, can learn some important, interesting and/or usefully vocabulary for your next visit to the land of IKEA.

For my first word I have chosen fika. Those who know me, read this blog, or have ever been to Sweden know the importance of this holy-to-a-godless-people ritual. I’ve written quite a bit on the subject of fika here on ENK. The first mention was in March 4th, 2012 where I list seven important things to know about Sweden. This was the first of two posts featuring a short list of important things Swedish – both of which mention the all mighty fika ritual.

I’ve tagged the word “fika” in 13 (now 14) posts, so you know it’s a hot topic here. The most encompassing fika post however is what is fika?

Pronounced fee-kah (realizing now I’ve never explained this), the daily tradition of taking some time to sit down for some coffee and a tasty treat to eat is observed in many settings. At work you get a fikapaus (break for fika). Many a Sunday afternoon is spent having fika with friends, family, or strangers at a local coffee shop. Don’t worry, you don’t have to limit yourself to coffee if you’re not a coffee drinker *gasp*. Tea, hot chocolate, juice, milk…yes, your beverage of choice may be consumed at this midday meeting of minds. The highlight of any good fika is, often, the company you’re with. Good conversation may be the true highlight of any fika. Conversation and the coffee. Coffee is really quite a highlight for me. Coffee:

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Fika is for anyone and everyone. Come one, come all! Sweden isn’t just the land of IKEA but also the land of fika.

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what is fika?

Listen up! This is important. Open your eyes now, people, you’re about to gain some knowledge!

An immediate differentiation should be made, that fika and FICA are two very, very different things. The latter is a taxing system that funds Social Security and Mecicare. That’s definitely not what this is about. The former is what we’re here today to discuss.

Fika, with the all important “K”, is a Swedish tradition, incurred daily, which allows for the intake of caffeine and sugar. Some argue that this event should take place at 2:30 pm on the dot, but I’m not here to set the rules, I’m here to enjoy the party!

In this instance, when I say party, I mean an often quiet moment during the day where you sit down with co-workers, friends or family and take a second to enjoy their company. As well as the aforementioned sugar and caffeine. Not to be confused with the British tea-time, Swedish fika is a beast of its own.

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Fika can actually happen anytime, anywhere. From meeting up with friends at a local café or in the comfort of your own home alone or with your favorite family members (let’s be honest, we all have favorites). Swedes can fika in public, from outdoors in a park with a homemade selection of sweets and a thermos of coffee to riding a SJ train from Malmo to Stockholm in the dining car. Fika isn’t only a daily break from the hustle and bustle that is our fast-paced lives, it’s a lifestyle of taking the time to stop and smell the coffee.

As previously mentioned there are no rules when it comes to fika, but one of my favorite treats to enjoy with my coffee are Swedish chocolate balls. (If you know anything about me you know how extrememly dificult it was for me to decide on just one treat). Here’s the recipe so you too can enjoy a moment of Swedish fika in your busy busy day:

Ingredients:

  • 2 dl oats
  • 1 dl sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cold coffee
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 150g butter 
  • Coconut shavings or sprinkles or both


Directions:

  1. Convert everything to cups if you don’t have a deciliter measuring device. I’ll help you get there by telling you that 1 dl is 0.42 cups.
  2. Mix all ingredients except the coconut/sprinkles in a bowl.
  3. Roll mixture into balls. Larger balls will be about 1.5 inches in diameter smaller balls can be about 1 inch in diameter.
  4. Pour a small amount of coconut (or sprinkles) on a plate, one or two handfuls will be enough to get started. Coat the balls with coconut or sprinkles by rolling them around the plate. As the coconut/sprinkles run out, add more to the plate. 
  5. Makes about 14 large balls or 20 small balls.







Side bar: For those of you who like words, I just had to check the etymology of the word “fika” and according to professor Lars-Gunnar Andersson at the University of Gothenburg the word fika comes from an alternate form of a Swedish word for coffee (kaffi). The word “kaffi” is cut in the middle and each side swapped, as a type of slang (since that just seems like the easiest kind of slang there is…) which results in “fika“!