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Culinary Ambassadors: Pizza in Sweden Is a Sloppy Outlet for Individual Choice
Serious Eats' Culinary Ambassadors check in from time to time with reports on food fare in their homeland or countries of residence. Here's the latest! (Find out more about CA or join here!) —The Mgmt.
Just as it is in the U.S., pizza is a popular fast food in Sweden. It is the No. 1 hangover food and is both cheap and found everywhere. Small rural villages that hardly have a grocery store are still sure to have their own pizzeria.
In parts of the U.S., pizza is also a typical "finger food," bought by the slice and eaten on the go. In Sweden this is not the case. I still remember as a young child and recently relocated to the U.S., when my parents ordered pizza for the first time to eat together with the new neighbors. They laid the table. With plates. And glasses. And knife and fork. No eating slices with hands from box. No Coke drunk from the can. This become a laughing matter for months.
In Sweden, the use of knife and fork, however, has can be explained partly by the dish itself. Traditional Swedish pizza (if a pizza can ever be said to be traditionally Swedish), is thin crusted. Very thin crusted. This does, however, not mean crisp.
Instead, the thin crust is rather sloppy, both due to a lack of brick ovens, and to the overuse of canned tomatoes and cheese on this very thin crust. Also, the pizza is almost always served with a "pizza salad," which is cabbage that has been marinated for quite a while in a vinaigrette dressing. Eating this with your hands is not a good idea.
Swedes also have a tendency to think the more the merrier when it comes to toppings, and there are really no limitations to what a pizza might include. The most popular Swedish pizza is actually the kebab pizza, which includes, other than the tomatoes and the "pizza cheese" (quite often not mozzarella), doner kebab meat, two types of sauce (one hot and one yogurt-based), and to top it off, iceberg lettuce sprinkled over the pizza just before serving.
Other popular pizzas that fill my Italian friends with fear are the "filet of beef and bearnaise sauce" pizza, which is just what it sounds like, and the "Pizza Africana", which usually includes peanuts, bananas, chicken and curry powder, lots of curry powder.
Anything you can eat can be placed on a pizza — and often is. There are very few limits to what people will combine. On top of the often 30-plus pizza choice offered, many people alter and add to the pizza toppings, which is easy as it is never bought by the slice but as a full pie.
This is a bit surprising in a country where alterations to many items in regular restaurants is not encouraged and often met with a "the chef wants it the way it is" attitude. Perhaps the pizza parlour becomes the oasis of individualism, a small outlet for total and limitless personal choice. However, when seeing my neighbor trying to attack his self composed banana-pineapple-curry-chicken-shrimp–garlic sauce pizza, I wonder whether the pizza parlour is really the ideal place for personal choice.
And when comparing to my very standard but very edible "Quattro Stagioni," I realise that in many cases, going with the chef's combination might not be such a bad idea after all.
Want to tell the Slice/SE community about pizza where you live? Go here! »
To find out more about the Culinary Ambassadors initiative or sign up, see this SE Talk thread »