Yesterday my friend Lindsay forwarded me an email she received from IKEA about a “crayfish party” the Swedish furniture chain is holding in stores next Friday, August 16th. It reads…
The “kräftskiva” (crayfish party) is one of the most important social events of the year in Sweden. It is usually held in August during the height of the crayfish season, and it’s a time for friends to gather together and celebrate the warm weather, warm company and heaping piles of fresh crayfish.
Participants often wear funny hats and enjoy “singing drinking,” songs while taking snaps (or shots, as we call them.) The parties continue well into the night, when the unmistakable sounds of laughter and singing can be heard from the balconies, verdanas and gardens all across the country.
What the hell? With the exception of the “funny hats,” the “kräftskiva” sounds an awful lot like the backyard crawfish boils I’ve been attending all my life as someone born and raised in Louisiana. Is Sweden trying to co-opt a slice of South Louisiana culture? Curious, I Googled “kräftskiva” to learn more and discovered a Wikipedia page for it.
Crayfish parties are generally held during August, a tradition that started because crayfish harvesting in Sweden was, for most of the 20th century, legally limited to late summer. Today, the kräftpremiär date in early August has no legal significance. Dining is traditionally outdoors, but in practice the party is often driven indoors by bad weather or aggressive mosquitoes. Customary party accessories are comical paper hats, paper tablecloths, paper lanterns (often depicting the Man in the Moon), and bibs. A rowdy atmosphere prevails amid noisy eating and traditional drinking songs (snapsvisa). The alcohol consumption is often high, especially when compared to the amount of food actually eaten. It is considered acceptable to suck the juice out of the crayfish before shelling it.
Akvavit and other kinds of snaps are served, as well as beer. The crayfish are boiled in salt water and seasoned with fresh dill – preferably “crown dill” harvested after the plant has flowered – then served cold and eaten with one’s fingers. Bread, mushroom pies, surströmming, strong Västerbotten cheese, salads and other dishes are served buffet-style.
Now, more enlightened on the subject of the “kräftskiva,” I have determined that you should absolutely not, under any circumstances, attend an IKEA “crayfish party.” At the risk of sounding like the proverbial “ugly American” who sh*ts on the everything foreign, allow me to explain why…
- First of all, it’s “crawfish,” not “crayfish.” Get it right.
- One does not serve crawfish cold. Crawfish are to be served HOT, fresh from a bot of excessively seasoned, scalding hot water.
- One does not season crawfish with dill. What sort of perverted Euro f*ckery is this? This alone should be an acceptable reason for Louisiana to declare war on Sweden.
- One does not supplement a crawfish boil with “bread, mushroom pies, surströmming, strong Västerbotten cheese, salads and other dishes” served buffet-style. At a crawfish boil, everything you eat is cooked in the pot. Crawfish, corn, potatoes, mushrooms, sausage, onions, etc. Everything. Bring salad or a cheese plate to a crawfish boil where I come from and someone will KICK YOUR ASS.
- One does not move a crawfish boil indoors due to “aggressive mosquitoes.” One welcomes the presence of blood-thirsty mosquitoes because it separates the crawfish boil contenders from the pretenders at the table. GROW A PAIR, SWEDES!
- I have tried crawfish harvested in other parts of the world — namely China and Spain — and they are universally TERRIBLE. So I suspect crawfish harvested in Sweden are no less of a culinary abomination. The only crawfish any self-respecting human should ever consume are crawfish harvested in Louisiana, and they go out of season in June.
- Paper hats and paper lanterns? No. The only paper allowed at a crawfish boil are newspaper — which is what you use to cover the table the crawfish are served on — and paper towels for hand wiping. Paper hats are to be worn on New Year’s Eve and at children’s birthday parties. Period.
Stick to exporting rock music and the works of Stieg Larsson, Sweden. Just leave the crawfish thing to us.