The secret of the Swedish crayfish party

Every year after 12th August it is crayfish party time (kräftfest, literally crayfish feast)  in Sweden.

sweden: Crayfish have been eaten in Sweden since the 1500s. For a long while, only the aristocracy enjoyed these delicacies, as popular suspicion of shellfish was widespread. Originally, crayfish meat was used for sausage, ragout, patties or puddings.

In the mid-1800s, people started eating crayfish as they are eaten today. The crayfish feast or crayfish supper in the month of August spread through the middle classes. In the 1900s, crayfish became a national delicacy and people in all sectors of society began celebrating the occasion. The price of crayfish fell as a result of imports from Turkey and elsewhere. The crayfish feast, at which people gather to eat, drink and be merry, is a typically Swedish festivity marking the end of the summer.

I attended my first crayfish party of the season yesterday – and very enjoyable it was – but not because of the crayfish.

I find crayfish bland. It is a strange animal without the delicacy of shrimps or prawns and without the strength of lobsters. It is a lot of very fiddly work for very little meat. The predominant taste is of dill (which is not my favourite herb). Nearly every crustacean I have ever eaten is superior in taste to crayfish – shrimp, prawns, crabs, soft-shelled crabs …. . But it is one particular custom, a behaviour, which makes the crayfish party such a blast.

But the real secret of the crayfish party is that one must wash down every crayfish with a snaps (schnapps). One is expected to burst into song. Naturally every song must be accompanied by a skål, and the songs get shorter and more frequent as the night wears on. The bread and cheese and Västerbottenpaj, also usually available, takes care of hunger. It also provides for some absorption of the alcohol.

Crayfish 2016

I try to hold with traditions. I tried to respond properly to every skål. A shortage of glasses meant that I even had to pour some of my snaps away since we were going to finish with whiskey. (Fortunately I had my my coffee available to pour the snaps away.) But since I don’t much care for the taste of crayfish, I only had eight last night!




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