Tasting the Differences

Greetings.  We learn a lot from our differences and that's one of the things that makes traveling fun and valuable.  Sure we use our similarities to connect and build an initial bond, but differences give us room to grow as we discover new things about other people, places, and our own potential.  And now that we've been in Sweden a few days some of the big and little differences are striking.  If you followed the national healthcare debate in the U.S. you'll recall that opponents of a new approach often cited Sweden as a model of "socialism" where everyone had access to care but very few had any choice about who would provide their care and when it would be provided.  As you might imagine, the contrast in approaches is significant but clearly more complex and important–with Swedes being much more focused on health than healthcare.  But that's is a longer discussion about culture, economic systems, and our shared need for innovation that I'll reserve for a later post.

Today I'd like to talk a bit about food, which is an important part of any trip.  And I should preface my thoughts with a note that we spend most of our time in Sweden in a small fishing village on the west coast about halfway between Gothenburg and Oslo, Norway.  So you can imagine that fish is central to the local economy and our diet.  And it's also brought out the genius in everyday people and some of the region's finest chefs.  Take mackerel for example, a real staple of the area's cuisine.  It can be fried, grilled, smoked, marinated, pickled, or used in a soup, casserole, pie, or souffle.  And, thanks to the magic of travel, we know that it also makes some incredible sushi especially when the sea is at your doorstep.  Or shrimp which are also plentiful and popular here in this corner of the North Sea.  Not the jumbo shrimp (one of my favorite oxymorons) we see at home, but a smaller version boiled in salt water right on the ship and purchased in one kilogram bags to peel and eat as quickly as possible.  Shrimp are also popular in sandwiches, soups, pies, pates, summer salads, mayonaise-based spreads, and an amazing creation called "rak ost" or "shrimp cheese" which comes in a tube and can be squeezed onto any type of bread or cracker.  It's fun, portable, and if you can get past the notion of pureed shrimp that you can keep in your pocket it's almost a perfect snack.  As you might imagine the winter here is long.  So while the fresh fish is amazing, generations have out of necessity used their ingenuity to figure ways to preserve fish and broaden their dietary pallet. 

A few other notes.  First, there's no such thing as "decaf" coffee here in Sweden.  The Swedes just can't understand why anyone would want or need to take the caffeine out of this essential beverage.  Coffee is meant to be strong, tasty, abundant, and well caffeinated.  And, there's no such thing as nonfat milk.  The closest you get is 0.5% milk which is mighty tasty.   There's also a unique twist on pizza where the most interesting variations also celebrate the bounty of the sea.  My personal favorite includes shrimp, mussels, crayfish, asparagus, and a touch of garlic sauce.  Not your typical toppings in New York, Chicago, or Rome.  But a delicious twist on one of the world's favorite foods.  And while McDonald's and other fast food chains are expanding across the country, Swedish fast food is often found and a local kiosk (pronounced "shaw-sk") and while the menu includes burgers and fries, it also includes a large hot dog or "korv" with or without a bun and smothered with mashed potatoes.

But enough about food as I'm getting a bit hungry to try something new…


We win in business and in life when we challenge ourselves to taste the differences around us.  And when we combine our genius with the genius of others.

Cheers and have a delectably innovative week ahead!