KRÄFTSKIVA AKA SWEDISH CRAYFISH PARTY
Today we are attending Marianne and Helge’s family Crayfish party or “kräftskiva” in Swedish. The Crayfish party is a time when family and friends enjoy each other's company at the end of the summer in Sweden. What better way for us to celebrate our last days in Sweden than with our awesome new friends!!!
I wake up at 5:30 to make vanilla ice cream for the party tonight to accompany Leila’s Peach Crisp. After working on Marjo and Larkan’s farm in Jarbo for several hours, we buy the peaches at a local market and head to Berglunds Bageri to meet Marianne. After stopping off at the bageri, we head over to Marianne and Helge’s home to start the peach crisp. We arrive bearing the Lymmla Gott Tunnbröd from Lillemors Bak, smoked ostrich from Sahlins Struts, and my vanilla ice cream mix. As we prepare, Marianne’s children, Gustav and Markus, their wives, Erica and Ingela, and their grandchildren, William and Julia, arrive and greet us. We are so appreciative that everyone speaks English, because it allows us to truly connect. We have forgotten flour (which I think was planned by Leila) so Marianne runs over to the mill and scoops up a few fresh handfuls. Once we complete the peach crisp we walk to Mariannero, a small, two-story tea house, for some apéritifs and appetizers. Prosecco, fresh salmon with roe sliced on rye bread, cheese, olives from Gustaf & Erica’s recent Greece trip, baby shrimp marinade, herring served on a piece of lettuce with light cream cheese, and fresh bread from the bageri filled the sunlit tea house with a chipper and festive atmosphere! After we finish munching and chatting, Gustaf orchestrates the construction of our newspaper hats. Newspaper hats are required at the crayfish party and without one you are banned from sitting at the dinner table.
Just as it becomes breezy outside, we head into the dining room for the Crayfish! The table is bountiful with two giant saucers full of bright red Crayfish. One being locally sourced from Sweden, while the other, is imported from China. Upon sitting at the table, I began to feel a little nervous. See, I really wanted to go to the party, but I have never ever been able to stomach lobsters or any shellfish, for that matter. How am I going to do this? Will the crayfish make me nauseous? Only time will tell, but I decide to give it all of my effort, “cento per cento.” Marianne takes the lead and explains that the Crayfish party has been an August tradition in Sweden since she can remember. Originally, Crayfish parties were a natural occurrence during August, when crayfish are most abundant due to the warm waters. Families would go out into the rivers and ponds to catch Crayfish and bring the summer delicacies home for dinner. In 1907 a crayfish plague struck Sweden’s fresh water ecosystems and the native crayfish population in Sweden drastically declined. During this time the fresh water to table tradition halted. In 1932, in an effort to curb the spread of the disease and to regulate over-fishing, Sweden passed a law limiting the harvesting of crayfish to the 1st Wednesday in August. Even though you can import crayfish all year round, most people respect tradition by waiting until August to throw their kräftskiva.
Anthony Cracking Open his First Crayfish
Marianne Leading the Snaps Songs
After learning this history, Marianne passes out napkins inscribed with snaps songs or “snapsvisa.” Meanwhile, Gustaf passes out snaps in shot glasses and his brother, Markus hand everyone a bottle of beer. Before we crack into a Crayfish ourselves, Gustaf kindly shows and explains to the table how to open and eat the crayfish. Following Gustaf’s lead I break open the red shell and suck out the juicy flesh. Luckily for me, the crayfish lacks that fishy, shellfish taste and I feel fine. The next thing I know, Marianne is taking the lead belting out the lyrics to our first snaps song. Everyone joins in joyous unison. Upon finishing the song, we all exclaim “skoal” and take a shot of snaps, followed by a gulp of beer. Is this really happening?!
Aside from the newspaper hats, the sucking, squeezing, squirting, and oozing of juices reinforces us to feel at home! There are at least 3 songs left on the napkin and snaps at 40% alcohol is not sustainable for our low tolerances. Helge steps in after noticing our American drinking style and says the shot glass full of snaps is supposed to last for many songs so a sip, rather than the full shot, will do. Phew! The first bottle of snaps is Swedish and goes down quickly so Marianne passes around their homemade snaps infused with herbs to enhance the Crayfish flavor. This is going to be a fun night.
The table is full of such pleasure and joy as we crack open the Crayfish one by one and share various stories of our travels. The snaps songs continue passed the 4 on the napkins because there are hundreds. I had learned one of the songs from Lärkan so to everyone’s surprise I take the lead: " the tug boat goes wooohooo and the submarine goes [gargle gargle]” as I gargle the snaps. Everyone laughs in astonishment and Leila looks across from me in disbelief and says “who are you?” Markus and Gustav continue the creativity with a snaps song in reference to Ingmar Bergman, a Swedish movie director. They begin and end with a quick: “Ready, Action” and we take the shot. As fast as the song went, the next course of homemade bread, a variety of cheeses, and green tomato jam is served.
Marianne's Family Kräftskiva Tablecloth
Throughout the stories laughter, and camaraderie, Marianne and Helge fill us in on some great memories they have had with this tradition as they point to the tablecloth we are using. It has been signed by every person since 1982 that has taken part in their kräftskiva tradition. After each person signs the tablecloth, Marianne sews over each signature in the color designated to that year!! Another tradition that I know Leila intends on adopting.
Next up is dessert. Serving dessert to a room full of bakers is probably the riskiest move we could have made, especially after my ice cream maker had broken. Although the ice cream is not fully frozen (I tried by visiting the freezer several times to mix it around), everyone insists on the peach crisp ala vanilla soup. Leila calls the table into the kitchen in her newly learned Swedish, “dessert är klar,” and everyone returns to the table with their dessert. The spoons go a clinging and silence hits the table. Leila’s peach crisp and my ice cream soup is a huge success!
We express our appreciation for welcoming us into their family. Just as everyone is leaving I ask Erica about her grandma’s kroppkaka recipe that she mentioned earlier to see if she wanted to record it as a Made with Love Recipe with us. Erica lights us and tells us about the recipe. She immediately says yes!! Although full and tipsy we are happy that the momentum will continue tomorrow with baking Gustaf’s cinnamon buns at Berglunds Bageri and Erica’s kroppkaka for dinner. What better way for us to celebrate our last days in Sweden than with our awesome new friends!!!
Written by The Recipe Hunters:
Anthony Morano, edited by Leila Elamine