The shoemaker’s wife

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Staying in

Speaking about shoes and Sweden, this dish is called Shoemaker’s box and is yet another classic. It’s robust and substantial and makes for either a great weekend celebration dinner or a comfort meal during a rough week. There’s always a reason to eat great, isn’t there?

A start-your-own-firm consultant advised me to specialize in writing about the historical aspect of the dishes I make. Like where does it come from and why. So I googled a little to try to find out why it’s called Shoemaker’s box, but all I could find was page up and page down with images and recipes and that distracted me so much I gave up on the project (it’s near dinner time and I don’t have the blood sugar to specialize in anything at the moment).

My guess is: once upon a time there was a shoemaker. He (because once upon a time, in male chauvinist society, only men worked while women stood chained to the stove and birthed babies right on the kitchen floor) had a sturdy wife and three snotty, hungry children (born in the kitchen). He also had an old cow and a fat pig and lots of potatoes in the yard.

The children of course needed to be fed and one day, the shoemaker’s wife, bored with her simple existence, broke the chains to the stove and opened the cabinet and took out that one bottle of red they had saved for a rainy day and drank half of it. Then she had an epiphany, the way you do after half a bottle, and went out to put down the cow and the pig and mashed the potatoes  and picked some parsley from the garden and fiddled around a little and boom – there it was. Since she was a shoemaker’s wife, and a little on the poor side, she didn’t have any fancy trays to serve it in, so she took what was at hand: a shoe box.

Now the shoemaker had a very important customer that day who happened to work as a food critic, and when she (because this was an avant-garde frontline kind of person, like Rosa Parks and Marie Curie) felt that wonderful smell of beef and bacon and wine, she snuck into the kitchen, discovered the half-drunk shoemaker’s wife and that delicious dinner and then she wrote and article about it that got published in all the important magazines.

The shoemaker’s wife became famous and a millionaire, but she still stayed married to the shoemaker because he was a decent man after all (but they split the household chores evenly after that and she only cooked when she felt like it and only real fancy dinners) and the kids cleaned up and moved out eventually, but they would come home every Sunday to have their mother’s famous Shoemaker’s box. Something like that, I imagine.

If you don’t want to put cattle down yourself or need more specific instructions than “fiddle around”, here’s how I make Shoemaker’s box: make mashed potatoes. Cut up, season and sear fillet of beef to your liking. Fry some bacon. Take the meat out of the pan and, in that same one, pour about one glass of red wine and some veal stock in and let it simmer for a few minutes. Place your mashed potatoes on a plate and put your beef and bacon on top of that. Pour the sauce over it and top it off with a little parsley. Boom.

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

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