August in Sweden is crayfish season: a time-honoured tradition celebrated by eating mountains of crustaceans, drinking bottles of Aquavit wearing silly hats and singing even sillier songs. Want to have a try? FREYA MCCORMISH shares four essential ingredients…
First ingredient for a stella crayfish party is, yep, you guessed it, crayfish! Until 1994, it was actually forbidden to fish for crayfish until the first Wednesday in August. Naturally, Swedes celebrated the season by eating as many crayfish as possible, and generally going cray cray (never gets old, I promise). The tradition remains, and we’ve reaped the benefits of silly songs and silly hats. Rejoice!
You eat crayfish cold, with your fingers. Sucking noisily to extract the juices is perfectly acceptable behaviour, even a little encouraged. Take a crayfish, suck the juices out from its belly and pick out the meat from its claws (use your teeth to break them!). Then break off the tail and feast on the best bit. And for the bravest amongst you, open its back and suck on the rest. How much crayfish do you need? Swedes would normally provide about 0.5 kg (1 lb) per person.
This bit’s important: you need Aquavit. Aquavit is the Swedes traditional ‘schnapps’ distilled from grains and herbs and you can get a lot of different varieties, all of which you’ll forget by the next day. This stuff is like rocket fuel, seriously, you won’t realise as you sit there for hours but you are actually completely intoxicated from the waist down. But, it’s TRADITION! Just make sure you’ve cleared out your schedule for the following day
G&T organised the most excellent DJ to be the toastmaster of the evening. She guided us through the traditions, and most importantly the silly songs. This involved some of the traditional songs sung by Swedes, or my personal favourite: ABBA’s Gimme Gimme Gimme a Kräfta till middag.
SILLY HATS AND DECORATIONS
In Sweden virtually every supermarket stocks crayfish accessories. This involves hats, bibs and moon lanterns as standard!
Originally eating crayfish was something only done by the Swedish aristocracy. Soon the middle classes started to copy them and have crayfish parties of their own; they took to wearing silly hats to poke fun at the rich and their posh versions. Isn’t that just the best thing?
FREYA MCCOMISH writes for Scandinavia Standard.