Monday, May 3, 2010

Is that really Swedish?

People ask me about anything, from "Swedish meatballs" to Swedish massage. "Is that REALLY Swedish?" they say. The answer depends on the question.

Swedish meatballs are, of course, just called “meatballs” in Sweden. They are made by mixing ground beef and chopped up onions with bread crumbs soaked in milk. The meatballs are softer and less dense than the larger ones known in America as Italian meatballs.

In the U.S., I think people avoid the onions because so many people don’t like them. But the Swedish meatballs are very popular. So popular, in fact, that there’s a song about them.

But what about Swedish massage? Is that really Swedish?

The Swedish massage if often attributed to Per Henrik Ling, the father of Swedish gymnastics. As it turns out, Ling visited with a Chinese martial artist to improve body treatment. But a Dutch doctor, Johan Georg Mezger, was the man who adopted the basic strokes of massage known as the Swedish massage we know today.

Mezger may have known Ling and called it Swedish massage because of Ling’s influences, but the massage isn’t Swedish at all. Nor is it called “Swedish massage” in Sweden – it’s called “classic massage.”

I can’t find much online about the Swedish braid, but when I first heard a woman’s hair referred to as having Swedish braids, I thought of Pippi Longstocking. I believe Swedish braids are two braids flying freely, one on each side of the head. A French braid, on the other hand, is more complicated since the entire braid is attached to your head.

And finally, the Swedish fish. It is based on the soft, chewy candy made by Malaco, but in Sweden they come in all shapes and colors, not just fish. For some reason, whoever exported it must have decided that red fish would sell the best in the United States.

No comments: