The word Smörgåsbord in the United States is often defined as any old buffet that offers a large choice of food. However, the word originated in Sweden. Its roots are found in the upper class of 14th century Sweden where a small spread of bread, butter, and cheese was offered before mealtime. The smörgåsbord grew to include meats, both hot and cold, and at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm it officially became the main meal instead of an appetizer.
Smörgåsbord became internationally known at the 1939 New York World’s Fair when it was offered at the Swedish Pavilion’s “Three Crowns Restaurant”.
In Norway it’s called koldtbord or kaldtbord and in Denmark det kolde bord (literally “the cold table”); in Iceland it is called hlaðborð (“farmyard/courtyard table”); and in Finland voileipäpöytä (“butter-bread/sandwich table”) or ruotsalainen seisova pöytä (“Swedish standing table/buffet”). Although it is far from a Scandinavian country in Japan it is referred to as バイキング / ヴァイキング (baikingu / vaikingu, i.e. “Viking”).
In English and also in Scandinavian languages, the word smörgåsbord refers loosely to any buffet with a variety of dishes — not necessarily with any connection to Swedish Christmas traditions. In an extended sense, the word is used to refer to any situation which invites patrons to select whatever they wish among lots of pleasant things, such as the smorgasbord of university courses, books in a bookstore, etc.
Even Elvis used the term to reflect, well his own idea of what a smörgåsbord is:
But back to the smörgåsbord or julbord you will find this Christmas in many Scandinavian homes that features tables full of food and no choreography.
SwedishFood.com lists some of the foods you may find at a traditional julbord:
A julbord normally has lots of courses, each with a fresh plate. The number varies but five courses is typical:
- pickled herring,
- other fish,
- cold meats, pâtés and terrines,
- hot food,
Often there is a nice welcome drink of glögg (Swedish mulled wine) or a cocktail. With the meal there should be lashings of snaps and julöl (a dark sweetish beer brewed for Christmas) and julmust for children and drivers. Julmust is a non-alcoholic drink made from water, sugar, hops, malt and spices.
It also lists some of our favorites as part of the menu: pickled herring, Swedish meatballs, lutefisk, salmon, smoked sausage, and pickled beets among other dishes our customers come to Ingebretsen’s every year to get as part of their traditional Christmas feast.
Of course one of our favorite authorities on Scandinavian foods is the Muppets’ Swedish Chef. Based on his song “Swedish Smörgåsbord” it is quite a feast.
Some of the items on his menu are:
- Lutefisk And Rice
- Swedish Meatballs
- Marinated Fishballs
- Swiss Nut Nougat Gourd
- Reindeer Stew
- Queens Blend Preserves
- Black Currant Preserves
- Gooseberry Preserves,
- Cloudberry Preserves
Hear for yourself:
Whatever you do for the holiday meals we wish you God Jul.