Peas and pancakes, tradition and taste

"sweden" "ärtsoppa" "pannkakor" "tom sjöstedt"
Any given thursday

Sweden eats a strange combination of pea-soup and pancakes every thursday for lunch. I have been wondering about this since I got here. Any coffee place, restaurant, catering and sometimes even desperate Pakistanis serves these two meals once a week. The pancakes could of course be considered a dessert, but they actually come at the same time. With cream and jam. My oberservations show that most people eat the soup first while the pancakes wait on the side – and are guaranteed cold by the time they get to them.

On thursday, you eat two meals with one spoon and they just don’t harmonize. Or do they? I often see pieces of pork floating around in the soup and (the veggie I am) have never been tempted to try.

Today I asked Tom Sjöstedt. He just improved the lunch restaurant at my office by about 1000% and even he offers the thursday-classic.

"ärtsoppa" "tom sjöstedt"

He had heard a theory about this tradition being a leftover from the old farming days and that it was eaten only  in months including the letters “RI”– like JanuaRI, FebruaRI, (not Mars) ApRIl, Juni Juli Augusti September… “Wait, Tom says. I either dreamt this or I have been fooled.”



The best explanation I found so far, is that they used to eat rich pea soup on thursday nights to survive fasting-friday, when the country was still catholic.

Cooked, salted pork was a basic ingredient in the Middle Ages and peas were considered a festive alternative to the inevitable cabbage. There is however no explanation to why pancakes need to be the inevitable sweet dish next to the warm green puree.

Not even Pär Granlund, who wrote an entire book about the history and different regional variations of pea soup, has found an explanation to why pea soup and pancakes teamed up to a mutual mandatory.

Pancakes dessert qualities are no reason to not exchange them with chocolate mousse or raspberries once in a while. But no Swede would ever do that.

Not on thursdays.

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