Most English speakers are familiar with the Swedish word “smorgasbord” which translates directly as “sandwich table,” but which is understood to be a buffet style meal where there are many different foods to be selected by the diners over and over again! The word “julbord” means the same thing, except that the food is real Christmas food, certainly not sandwiches! Directly translated “julbord” means “christmas table” and it seems to be a tradition growing in popularity here in Sweden, for families and friends to go out together to a restaurant, or a manor house in the country to enjoy this feast of the season.
We went yesterday to the little village of Hasselfors, some 50km away, on the same river, Svartån, as Örebro. There we enjoyed our julbord at Hasselfors “värdshus” looking out over the forest encircled lake Toften, to the south of the village. Värdshus is a word that translates as public house, or inn, (the exact meaning is “hosts house”), but it bore no resemblance to the pubs or hotels of small Australian country towns. It was clearly much more a restaurant than either a lodging place or a drinking hole. Before we entered we were greeted and offered glögg – mulled wine with raisons – and ginger bread. We stood in the cold, sipping our steaming sweet wine, surveying the cold dark stream at the bottom of the hill. Then we went inside the house – a spacious two story mansion with large rooms for dining; tables were set, ready for the guests who were just beginning to arrive.
One room in the middle of everything on the ground floor was filled with tables laden with food. There soon everyone would converge, eager to fill their plates. We started with the Swedish staples of bread and ham and cheese, and meatballs and sausages and potatoes. But we were soon back for the wide range of cold meats including roast beef and reindeer and pastrami. There was pickled herring in every variety of flavour imaginable, as well as smoked salmon and fish pate. Enjoyed with a glass of Swedish snaps. Of course there was the famous Jansson’s delight (potato gratin with onion and anchovies) and hot vegetables and a variety of cold salads. After three or four main courses we returned for a range of desserts including the special Swedish cheescake from Småland, to be eaten with strawberry jam and cream, as well as lingonberry mousse and chocolate cake and cold rice pudding and chocolates. And coffee.
We rolled out into the darkness of the winter evening. It had been raining a little. Snow would have made for a real Christmas feel, but global warming seems to have had its way here too and the weather has been too warm for snow this far south. We drove back to Örebro, happy and content, another Christmas tradition complete.