Ah, midsummer. The harsh ways of the world won’t find you if you are near Nordic water, swans, and fika as summer solstice dawns. That’s where I was last year – travelin’ solo in the Swedish archipelago – and I thought I was turning 56 on my mid-summer birthday. My family later corrected me – I was a mere 55. But for a few magic hours, I was timeless in a sea-spray of tiny islands with a bunch of wild swans, shrimp sandwiches, and a wicked coffee buzz from spending the morning on a fika-crawl around Stockholm.
Fika is designed to keep you happy with warmth and beauty and human comraderie. It is the Scandinavian tradition of sitting down with friends or colleagues for strong coffee and sweet pastries, morning and afternoon, and it creates highlights. Midsummer Day, the summer solstice holiday that falls in late June, is celebrated with family, friends, and bonfires for internal and external warmth. In this gorgeous landscape of blues, greens, greys, and vivid reds, fika pastries carry out the palette. Red currant, boysenberry, meringue, and chocolate harmonize in pastry cases around Stockholm. Most famously, the lime green princess cake, crowned by a single pink rose, has classic artistic quality. My pilgrimage led me to a palace of pastries: Haga Bageri.
If I ever have another lost year and disappear in time again, you’ll know where to find me: among the swans and pastries of Scandinavia. Here are a few great books with recipes to bring the timeless delight of fika home to you:
The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trine Hahnemann (and all of her other books)
The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson
…and while we’re on the subject:
The Wild Swans at Coole by W. B. Yeats
And here’s NYT on the story just this July 2017.