bread, so smörgås came to mean buttered bread. In Sweden, the term breda smörgåsar (to butter open-faced sandwiches) has been used since at least the 16th century.
In English and also in Scandinavian languages, the word smörgåsbord (or in English, more usually without diacritics as smorgasbord) refers loosely to any buffet with a variety of dishes — not necessarily with any connection to the Swedish Christmas traditions discussed in this article. In an extended sense, the word is used to refer to any situation which invites patrons to select whatever they wish among lots of pleasant things, such as the smorgasbord of university courses, books in a bookstore, etc.
The term smörgåsbord should not be confused with the somewhat similarly-named Danish smørrebrød.
Smörgåsbord and Julbord
A traditional Swedish smörgåsbord consists of both hot and cold dishes. Bread, butter, and cheese are always part of the smörgåsbord. It is customary to begin with the cold fish dishes which are generally various forms of herring, salmon, and eel. After eating the first portion, people usually continue with the second course (other cold dishes), and round off with hot dishes. Dessert may or may not be included in a smörgåsbord.
Julbord (see photo above)
A special Swedish type of smörgåsbord is the julbord which is the standard Christmas dinner in Sweden. Julbord is a word consisting of the elements jul, meaning Yule (today synonymous with Christmas) and bord, literally table. The classic Swedish julbord is the highlight of Swedish cuisine, a traditional smörgåsbord starting with bread dipped in ham broth and continuing with a variety of fish (salmon, herring, whitefish and eel), ham, small meatballs, head cheese and sausages, potato, boiled or potato casserole, soft and crisp bread, butter and different cheeses, beetroot salad, cabbage (red, brown or green) and rice pudding and beverages.
As with the smörgåsbord, the traditional julbord is typically eaten in three courses. The dishes include local and family specialties. The first course would typically be a variety of fish, particularly pickled herring and lox (gravlax). It is customary to eat particular foods together; herring is typically eaten with boiled potatoes and hard-boiled eggs and is frequently accompanied by strong spirits like snaps, brännvin or akvavit with or without spices. Other traditional dishes would be (smoked) eel, rollmops, herring salad, baked herring, smoked salmon and crab canapés, accompanied by sauces and dips.
Julbord for "Gustavsberg VII" in 1990
The second course is often a selection of cold sliced meats, the most important cold cut being the Christmas ham (julskinka) with mustard. Other traditional cuts include homemade sausages, leverpastej and several types of brawn. It is also common to serve the cold meats with sliced cheese, pickled cucumbers and soft and crisp breads.
The third course would be warm dishes. Traditionally, the third course begins with soaking bread in the stock from the Christmas ham but this is rarely practised today. Warm dishes include Swedish meatballs (köttbullar), small fried hot dog sausages (prinskorv), roasted pork ribs (revbensspjäll), and warm potato casserole, matchstick potatoes layered with cream, onion and sprats called Janssons frestelse (literally "Jansson's Temptation").
Other dishes are pork sausages (fläskkorv), smoked pork and potato sausages (isterband), cabbage rolls (kåldolmar), baked beans, omelette with shrimps or mushrooms covered with béchamel sauce. Side dishes include beetroot salad in mayonnaise and warm stewed red, green or brown cabbage.
Lutfisk, lyed fish made of stockfish (dried ling or cod served with boiled potato, thick white sauce) and green peas that can be served with the warm dishes or as a separate fourth course. Lutfisk is often served as dinner the second day after the traditional Christmas Yule-table dinner.Julbord desserts include rice pudding (risgrynsgröt), sprinkled with cinnamon powder.photo Traditionally, an almond is hidden in the bowl of rice porridge and whoever finds it receives a small prize or is recognized for having good luck. Julbord is served from early December until just before Christmas at restaurants and until Epiphany in some homes.
In Denmark a typical tradition resembling the Swedish "julbord" is "Julefrokost" ("Christmas lunch"), which involves a wellstocked Danish smörgåsbord with cold as well as hot dishes, and plenty of beer and schnapps. It is distinct from the Danish Christmas dinner which is served on December 24, and is served as a lunchtime meal, usually for family and friends on December 25 or 26. It is a tradition for most Danish workplaces to hold an annual Julefrokost some time during the months of November to January as well.
History of the smörgåsbord
The members of the Swedish merchant and upper class in fourteenth-century Sweden and Finland served schnapps table (brännvinsbord), a small buffet presented on a side table offering a variety of hors d'oeuvres served prior to a meal before sitting at the dinner table. The most simple brännvinsbord was bread, butter, cheese, herring and several types of liqueurs, but smoked salmon, sausages and cold cuts were also served. The brännvinsbord was served as an appetizer for a gathering of people and eaten while standing before a dinner or supper, often two to five hours before dinner, sometimes with the men and women in separate rooms. The smörgåsbord became popular in the mid-seventeenth century, when the food moved from the side table to the main table and service began containing both warm and cold dishes. Smörgåsbord was also served as an appetizer in hotels and later at railway stations, before the dining cars time for the guests. Restaurants in Stockholm at the 1912 Olympic Games stopped serving smörgåsbord as an appetizer and started serving them instead as a main course.
Other use of the term in English
The term is also used as a metaphor to indicate any diverse group, synonymous with a vast array of possible choices. In the final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2013, host Petra Mede performed a song about all the Swedish clichés, referring to it as a "Swedish Smörgåsbord".
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