August 23, 2012 § 1 Comment
My arsenal of Swedish vocabulary is pathetically small.
Hej = Hi or Hello
Tack = Thank you
Fika = Coffee break
(No, I don’t know the Swedish word for “tomato.” You think I would by now, considering the nature of my work.)
“Fika” is my favorite of these words. As a volunteer, I’m entitled to one half-hour fika per day. This happens mid-morning. I down a mug or two of strong Swedish coffee and slather slices of day-old bread or knackebrod (crisp, whole grain crackers) with the creamiest, sweetest honey I’ve ever tasted. My preferred combination is a slice of sharp cheese and a generous helping of honey. There are also plenty of “second sort” tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers available.
Today, there was a real treat: tiny, juicy plums from my hosts’ own trees. A whole plate full of them. One of my favorite fruits. I had a sizeable collection of plum pits wrapped up in my paper napkin by the time fika ended.
I chat with fellow volunteers until it’s time to start work again. Fika breaks up the work day nicely. Then it’s only two- and-a-half more hours of picking tomatoes, sticking labels on cellophane bags, or weeding before it’s time to eat lunch.
Lots of eating happens around here. Hardly any of the food, with the exception of that honey or those plums, is noteworthy. Think pasta, pasta, and more pasta. And salads consisting of tomatoes and cucumbers. With some rejected dishes from my hosts’ restaurant thrown in here and there. Usually roasted potatoes or fish cakes. The fish cakes are quite curious. I’m tempted to hurl them against the floor to see if they bounce.
But sometimes the food itself doesn’t matter. What really matters is the effort behind it and the people with which I share it. My fellow volunteers make fine dining companions, I must say. We’re often on our own for meals. We cook each other lunch and dinner with the limited ingredients we have available to us. (Our hosts won’t spring for olive oil or good spices because they’re not “local” or “fair trade.”) We openly discuss our feelings about work, school, politics, travel plans, and the future.
Even if I ate better meals at my last volunteer post, I lacked the sense of community I have now. There were many occasions in Denmark when I ate alone. My lunch or dinner would sit solemnly on the dining room table, wrapped in plastic to deter flies.
I almost never eat alone these days.
The social component of food inspires me. Food, regardless of how it was made or how good it tastes, always manages to bring people together. Or at least here on the farm it does.