My name is Barbro and I was born and raised in Malmo, Sweden. My family traveled quite a bit and we visited many other European countries on our yearly vacations.
My favorite memories as a child growing up in Southern Sweden was of course the seemingly endless summers. The light summer evenings, the beautiful white sandy beaches, the smell of the pine trees in the big forests, picking berries and mushrooms, camping and celebrating Midsommar in the beautiful countryside. I remember my mom always setting the table in the garden for every meal in the summer if the weather was nice, enjoying every moment outside in the warm summer weeks, which seemed so long and wonderful when you’re growing up.
Christmas was another favorite, with the lit candles in every window of every house to light up the dark afternoons and evenings, the advent where you lit a candle every Sunday until Christmas Eve. The wonderful aroma of freshly baked pepparkakor, klenater and the glogg spices brewing. I loved being in the Luciatag and the early mornings lussande with coffee and saffranbuns, lussekatter. Such good and happy memories that I have tried to carry with me and make as traditions in my family here as well. My daughter sang her first Natten gar tunga fjat when she was barely 3 years old and she has since been in many Lucia pageants throughout the years. Unfortunately, my son was harder to convince to be a stjärngosse after the age of 5! But I know that both my children will always feel a certain nostalgia and belonging when they hear “Midnatt råder, Staffan var en stalledräng and Små Grodorna”. Some things will always be with you, and hopefully many can be carried on in their own families one day.
In Sweden, I was a busy teenager, active in the gymnastics group, “Malmo Flickorna” for many years. I taught Sunday school and Girl Scouts, but was dreaming of traveling and seeing the world on my own one day.
At age seventeen my travel dream became a reality when I decided to go to New York for a year as an au pair (a domestic assistant from a foreign country working for, and living as part of, a host family). I would do that before continuing my education in Sweden. It was in the late 70’s and a lot of girls my age took a year off to go abroad as au pairs. Two days after my high school graduation, I boarded the SAS plane that would take me to the Big Apple. The adventure that was supposed to last a year would turn out to be the biggest change in my life ever.
I arrived at JFK airport in New York a naive teenager in Swedish clogs (against my mom’s better judgement, since she thought clogs weren’t appropriate attire for the big city!!). I was told to look for a chauffeur in a uniform with a red carnation in his breast
pocket. I remember feeling like I was in a movie as I traveled though New York for the first time. It all looked so much like the American movies I had seen on TV at home. The skyscrapers, the limousines, the fancy apartment buildings lined up on 5th Avenue with doormen in uniforms ready to open the door for you or hail you a cab.
It took me a while to feel at home at the 5th Avenue apartment with my new family and two young boys who were in my care. I remember thinking the first few weeks that surely the English I learned in school must not have been correct because I couldn’t understand everything that was said around me; so completely different sounding was the language I had learned. But I got used to it and was even told that I sounded like a New Yorker with a Swedish accent!
Spending two years in Manhattan and two summers in The Hamptons on Long Island, my life was forever changed; It was two years of my life that became an adventure that continued on for years to come. Eventually, after living here for 5 years, I suddenly realized I was really here to stay. Nothing makes a 17 year old girl from a sheltered life in small Sweden grow up faster than all of a sudden being just referred to by the family as “our Swedish nanny”, sleeping in the maid’s room and to only have Sunday afternoons off.
I remember missing mom’s cooking, and not liking the American food that much, but once I found Baskin Robbins and proved that one can live on ice cream for quite some time, I was fine! Unfortunately, that couldn’t continue to be my only nutrition so I slowly started to seek out all international stores trying to find anything remotely Swedish. Very little was offered at the time and the result was that every year I traveled home with a suitcases filled with all the stuff my family wanted from the U.S., and then on the return trip it was full of falukorv, leverpastej, choklad, smagodis, gifflar, makrill, sill, knackebrod, kaffe, salt lakrits and all the other goodies one can’t live without.
But today the airlines charging for suitcases and there are new limitations on what we can bring with us, so it makes it next to impossible to find an affordable way to get all our favorites with us back to the U.S. So, instead of just eating nonstop while visiting Sweden to make sure you get a taste of everything there that you can’t bring with you, I’m hoping to be able to offer a wide variety of the products right here through this website. I miss a lot of the food from home and figured there has to be a better way to get all the Swedish back in my life, even for us over here.
At age 19, I moved from New York to Southern California, where I have been ever since, with the exception of a year in Sweden in the early 90’s. The longer I live here and the older I get the more I cherish my Swedish heritage and traditions, including the wonderful foods and sweets. I cook more Swedish recipes now than I ever have before. Yet many recipe ingredients cannot be found, or the shipping cost is outrageous. So I decided to try make it easier for all my fellow Swedes and others interested in Swedish products to find the things they miss the most from their home country.
I’m also asking for any input you can provide as to what is missing in our product line from Sweden. With your input, I can more easily create a site that would be the “go to” store for all your Swedish needs. I know that there are many things you miss from Sweden, so I will try to include as many of all your favorites as possible. Let me know what they are and I will personally go to Sweden frequently to research product availability and the best products and quality.
Now, that I’m older it is even more important to me to make sure that my children continue the traditions and keep the Swedish language in their families as they grow older. I think it’s important not to forget our roots and the more we can blend our Swedish traditions into our American lives, the more of our heritage will be preserved and carried forward with our children and grand children. Through this website we hope to share some of those traditions.
Having been in the US for this long I have long ago adopted many of the American traditions and customs, but still my Swedish roots will always be very important and always have a very special meaning to me. I guess you always feel more connected with the country where you grew up even if you have lived other places longer than you lived there. So I feel blessed, having two “home” countries now and double the traditions and cultures to experience. But I will always be a Swede at heart.
I hope you will let me know what’s important to you to have from Sweden, share your stories, memories and recipes and help me make this a truly Swedish site where we all can connect and feel at home.