That’s the Swedish meatballs

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Staying in

Last time, I told you about the Swedes’ love for meatballs. It’s like the cinnamon buns, a national treasure and pride. Everyone has their one family recipe and everyone of course thinks their balls are the best. I don’t know why this is, many other countries have meatballs too and I don’t hear them Italians brag about theirs as we do. But as I said, it’s our thing, it’s what we’re known for in the world. Italy has pizza and gladiators, Sweden has meatballs and Vikings.

Once upon a time, many years ago, I was on the soccer team of a small Baptist college in the northern part of Georgia. I was there on a fluke; I had gotten a scholarship for a year and the school had been chosen by my sponsors. It wasn’t exactly my dream of American college life (as I had seen it on Dawson’s Creek and Felicity) but it was college and America and free so I jumped at the opportunity. I was 19 and it was my first time away from home for real, so naturally, I was nervous. Would I survive? Would I make friends or would I be the weird foreigner?

If had learnt one thing from Dawson, it was that you had to have the right friends to be a successful college student, and the easiest way to obtain this was to join some sort of club. I was pretty far from those Baptist Student Union-gatherings and at the teeny, tiny college, that left me with sports. I had played soccer for most of my childhood and teens, so I figured I could always try out for the soccer team.

It wasn’t so hard to get in, we were a pretty sad bunch to be honest. Many of the players had dropped out right before the semester which left us with only eleven players, just enough to fill the field but not enough for substitutes. Half of those, like myself, were panic recruits from the first days of school, when the coaches desperately tried to fill the team.

Even though it had been a while since my glory days, I still had some game in me. I was slow and in bad shape, but every time I did a dribble or a smart move, my assistant coach would shout ”That’s the Swedish meatballs!”. It was pretty neat. It made me feel special, like I had super powers no one else had. Swedish meatball-powers. Even so, we still lost most of the games with 10-0 or more. A couple of the girls got injured right away and we played most of our games with ten and sometimes even nine players. We did our best, and our coach did his best to inspire us. He would give Remember the Titans-inspired speeches and made us run in the early mornings when he was particularly disappointed with us. With only nine players, some completely new to the game, that didn’t really help. The whole thing was really pretty humiliating.

It did serve it’s purpose, though, I made friends and all things considered, had pretty much a great year. I don’t think it had anything to do with Swedish meatballs, but who knows?

If you want to try for yourself, here’s how: let 3/4 dl oats soak in 1,5 dl milk and 1 tbsp potato flour for at least ten minutes. Chop up an onion, add to the milk mixture along with 2 eggs and about 800 grams of ground meat (it’s best if you mix ground beef and ground pork). Season with salt and white pepper. Get down and dirty and mix it all with your hands. Rinse your hands and a cutting board in water (it’s easier when your hands are soaking wet) and start shaping your balls. Remember size matters: the bigger they are, the juicier they get. Fry them either in a pan on the stove, or if you’re making a lot at once, in the oven on a high heat (250 degrees Celsius for about 15 minutes). If you want to go all in on the Swedish, serve your meatballs with mashed potatoes, gravy and lingonberry.

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Malin Ågren is a copywriter living in Sweden. Food is her number one hobby.

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