Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Walking down Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, I noticed suddenly that everyone seemed to be walking a dachshund. There were dachshunds on leashes, dachshunds in people's arms, dachshunds at people's feet, and way too many dachshunds actually sitting in their owner's laps, eating off of plates on café tables. Ick.

Had I missed a trend? Is the new American thing to own a dachshund? Were people going to look down on me because I was dachshundless? I was baffled.

Then I saw that there was a dog show of some sort going on in the park between the road and the beach. Well, a dachshund show, to be specific. What a relief.

Miami was far more enjoyable than I expected, even though I kept on trying to speak Swedish with the waiters, on account of I was there with 50 Swedes and my brain kept getting stuck in a Swedish rut, convinced by language that I was in Sweden despite all the evidence to the contrary.

The sun.

The beach.

The Biltmore Hotel.

The dachshunds.

It almost makes me jealous of Floridians. Almost.

The Swedish word of the day is tax. It means dachshund, natch.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The dinner started with the usual Stockholm formalities: a couple of drinks and a discussion of real estate. The host and hostess - my husband used to work with her - had just managed to sell their apartment, which is in an old industrial part of town that is now expensive new apartments and stores, complete with a streetcar line, all sprung up in the last five years.

A discussion of the price of rent, mortgages or an apartment just bought or sold is essential for the typical Stockholm dinner party.

But then when we sat down to eat the smoked duck breast and greens they'd brought back with them from Paris, all we talked about was food. What to get in Paris and what you can get here in the markets, how to make pesto better by mixing the nuts, the simplest way to cook salmon, how nowadays you can get such good wine that isn't French. Food, drink and food and recipes and more food, for more than three hours.

Since when did talking about food become as important as the food itself?

Funny how food is so much more of a class marker than it was in my parents' day. Well, maybe not more, but just in a different way, I suppose.

We did manage to change the subject a bit toward the end, but unlike our usual dinner parties, there were no heated discussions.

I think the husband's favorite part of the evening was when he got a goody bag full of bottles and jars from the hostess, who works for a huge French company that makes beauty products.

"Yes," she said, "I think the blue is for you. I use the green myself."

The Swedish word for the day is matkultur. It means cuisine.

p.s. I am slowly adding all my links at left, so don't feel left out if I haven't gotten to you yet. I will eventually...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Twenty days of Christmas? Who knew! More importantly, why would anyone extend the holidays all the way to tjugondag Knut, January 13, Saint Knut's day, when Swedes traditionally take down the tree and children plunder it for the candy canes and chocolates that hang there?

Maybe it's just that if you're like me, it takes that long to be assed to take down the tree after all the extensive holiday entertaining.

To be honest, I'm a sucker for a Christmas tree. I have been ever since I was a little boy.

I blame my parents. Oddly, they grew up in strict Calvinist households with no trees and not much Christmas celebrating aside from church, exchanging a few presents and a bit of holiday noshing. But like many Americans who grew up during and immediately after the Second World War, they were determined to give their children luxuries they never had. So Christmas in our house was a major production, something that as a boy I used to plan for starting in September. And in the most extreme years - my last two grades of high school - the mountainous pile of loot under the tree was so obscene that my parents eventually racheted the consumption down more than just a few notches.

But I still have a nostalgic love of Christmas trees. So to be honest, it takes me 20 days to get to the point where I am so sick of the tree I have to get it out of my apartment.

To be fair to myself, it took only 19 days this year.

"Isn't it nice to have everything all clean and put away?" asked the husband, once everything was disposed of and tidied. He has no nostalgia for trees, and no great fondness for the holidays in general.

Yes, well, of course, I answered.

The Swedish word for the day is julgran. It means Christmas tree.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

O, the horror. 

My old commenting function is defunct. And I thought I'd just switch to blogger comments, but my jury-rigged ancient template (I'm warning you, do not under any circumstances look under the hood of this blog) won't let me. 

So bear with me. I'll probably switch to a generic template if I can figure out how to import my blog links altogether instead of one at a time, which will take an eternity.

Anyway, if you want to comment, just send me a mail using the contact-me link at left.

In the meantime, I'm recovering from a marathon of guests and dinners formal and informal, a flooded basement in Chicago, prolonged jetlag and post-Christmas distress syndrome. 

The Swedish word for the day is shit. It means shit in a more emphatic, colorful and cussy way than plain old skit, which also means shit.

- by Francis S.