I thought that low tide in Swedish spring was reached during this year’s edition of the annual song contest, with Christer Sjögren’s abysmal sixties-schlager-revival song “I love Europe” and the flopped joint venture ( link updated 1 Sept 08) of Carola and that other cowboy, but no. We are bracing ourselves for the next big event: the Nordic Championship In Pizza 2008.
Nordic Pizza? But of course. Pizza has been around in Sweden since the late sixties, and it has developed into something altogether special: the daily routine of self-punishment for the office worker; a vehicle for just about anything edible on earth, be it bananas, kebab, French fries, sauce Bearnaise or large slices of roast beef; a dumping ground for things that are not really edible at all, such as special processed pizza ham (family of dog food), special processed pizza cheese (no family), special hollowed and de-aromatized pizza olives (family of old black socks), thumb-thick half-raw onion rings, special processed pizza tomato sauce And I Am Not Kidding. Using these ingredients, the united Swedish pizza bakers are determined to find out how much you can undercook a pizza without bringing bodily harm to your guests, or inducing the guests to bring bodily harm to you.
Swedes are tough and so they have managed to survive this collective nightmare for one generation. But you are not supposed to offer pizza when you have Swedish guests. Their disappointment would be too great, no matter what wonders you can create in your kitchen. They also tend to damage their teeth on real olives.
Hah. I am writing off sixteen years of Concert Tours And Their Pizzas here. To be fair, I experienced my very first Swedish pizza as really quite good – it came across our path after a lengthy walk through the outskirts of Borås on a recognition and house hunting trip shortly before we moved here. Of course, after a lengthy walk, almost anything tastes okay. No matter, now comes the Nordic Pizza Contest. There will be six finalists; four from Sweden, one from Denmark and one from Norway. What do they cook?
Borås tidning (27 March 2008, p. 33) presents one of them, Elias from Kinna. Elias tells the reporter that he doesn’t understand why everyone always talks so much about Italian Pizza. “Swedish Pizza is by far the best in the world.”
Really. Pizza bakers sure do learn to sell all sorts of stuff to people.
However, Elias’s creation, Game Symphony, is ambitiously different: the dough is made of wheat flour, omega-3 eggs (Arrr…what be these?), sugar, salt, olive oil and healthy low-GI flax seeds. The topping is wild boar and deer with a morel sauce and blueberries, on top of “luxury tomatoes,” goat cheese and mozzarella. The blueberries are, in fact, “mostly for the visual effect,” which is something of a relief.
In my experience, such a list of ingredients can result in anything between utter bliss and complete disaster. One ought to give Elias the benefit of the doubt: it took him a year of experiments to find the right balance for his recipe. The pizza on the picture looks in fact quite yummy. I hope that he wins: in that case he promises to offer Game Symphony in his restaurant – Kinna is a rustic 45 minutes by car from here.
The other contestants fall apart into those who try to kick a traditional pizza a few yards down the fancy lane (example: spelt in the dough and a topping of tomato sauce, Parma ham, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella, red pesto and arugula), and those who walk it all the way to the end, introducing duck breast (remember Casper Caveman at 2:20 in this cartoon, saying “my favorite vegetable, Duck”?), omelet with white truffles, maple syrup, “cherry tomatoes from Halland” (Halland is no typo but a Swedish province, although I have no idea what’s so special about their cherry tomatoes) and “salt flakes from Australia” (no doubt from Salt Flake City) as pizza ingredients. I believe that Elias is having good prospects.
There would be another benefit if he wins: wild boar have multiplied in the last few years and quickly became a nuisance on the Swedish roads. They are especially good at looking like there was no wild boar at all, at running fast, at completely demolishing car fronts and at attacking strangers even on their deathbeds (not the stranger’s. The boar’s). Imagine a prize-winning recipe for roadkill pizza – hmmmm!