Despite their belligerent Viking roots, modern Scandinavian people are not renowned for their fierce pride or strong sense of nationalism. The 21st century’s Nordic nations are considered models of stability and compassion – case studies of progressive politics, strong social support and gender equality; offering a warm welcome and understanding ear to other outlooks and cultures. 5 unexpected places to see the Northern Lights from But if there’s one thing Scandinavians, and especially Swedes, apparently hold dear – it’s their meatballs. A bitter furore recently erupted when Scandinavian Airlines, the flag carrier of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, released a witty advert debunking myths about where the Nordic nations’ most emblematic exports really come from. “What is truly Scandinavian? Absolutely nothing”, the opening voice-over smugly declares, introducing a not-so-subtle ode to the virtues of travel by way of acknowledging the Nordic peoples’ pillaging past. The Danish pastry, we learn, is actually Austrian; Norway’s proud paper clip is American; democracy is, of course, Greek; today’s eco-friendly windmills took inspiration from ancient Persia; and even Switzerland is thanked for the region’s notorious statutory paternity leave. Then, halfway through, the music stops for climactic effect to announce the gutter punch – “Swedish meatballs might not be so Swedish,” before the grand unveil: they’re “really” Turkish in origin. How did pizza come to be and what do chefs think of pineapple topping? It backfired royally. The internet was having none of if, and the ad was pulled after less than 24 hours as the airline was targeted by a “coordinated attack” from vehement right wingers, only to be later republished in an edited form. The agency behind the clip was subject of a hoax bomb threat. So what’s the truth? Where are Swedish meatballs really from? A national icon View this post on Instagram Swedish Meatballs! The perfectttt cold weather dish! This #whole30 #glutenfree #paleo dish is soooo creamy and delicious! I can't believe how good these are! They did take a bit longer than my normal meal prep because I decided to cook these on the stove top rather than bake but you can totally bake them to save time! I really despise oil splatter on my stove top, but cooking meatballs on a cast iron pan is just the wayyy to go. The texture is great and I found myself spoon feeding the sauce to myself in between taking photos. This recipe is by @40aprons . She has so many other amazing healthy recipes on her page - check her out! A post shared by Erin | Healthy Recipes (@spinachandbacon) on Dec 4, 2019 at 7:52am PST Typically made from a half-half mix of beef and pork, pan-fried Swedish meatballs are properly served alongside the jarring contrast of sweet lingonberries and bitter pickled cucumber, all balanced and neutered by fluffy mashed or moreish boiled potatoes, ideal to soak up the creamy gravy liberally layered on top. Such a combination is as intertwined with our image of Sweden as Abba and Volvo. But just because it’s the fourth most popular weekday meal for Swedes, doesn’t mean it’s their own. It started with a croquette View this post on Instagram [unbezahlte Werbung] Eine der vielen leckeren Köstlichkeiten aus dem Europa-Park Auch kulinarisch gesehen der beste Freizeitpark für mich #europapark #themepark #amusementpark #picoftheday #photooftheday #pictureoftheday #instagood #instacool #instafollow #instalike #instapic #wanderlust #bestoftheday #happy #bestplace #foodporn #food #delicious #tasty #yummy #köttbullar #hungry #life #loveit #insta #freizeitpark #tastyfood #foodstagram A post shared by Stefan Schaal (@stef.schaal) on Jan 7, 2020 at 8:05am PST Rather than enter the fray, the governmental Swedish Institute directed me to a here’s-one-we-prepared-earlier educational video clip, which claims that a Swedish cookery book from 1751 first mentions a fried minced meat dish called “hachimunkar”– spherical in nature and therefore spiritual forefather of today’s “köttbullar”, a recipe for which dates back to 1822. The adoption of the meat grinder in the 1880s, increased the ease, and therefore popularity of meatballs, while growing prosperity saw the balls bulge from bite-sized appetisers to the robust, gravy-soaked fork-fillers enjoyed today. Sweden’s imperialistic claim to the dish came following the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 – the precursor to today’s World Expo – which introduced the meatball as part of the Swedish smorgasbord, a recipe picked up by American chefs and associated with the country forevermore. The Finnish (dis-)connection View this post on Instagram #finnishmeatballs with #middleeast #spicies #lihapullatjamuusi #lihapullat #meatballs #swedishmeatballs Ruokaa mun urheilijalle @hugo_ikavalko A post shared by Sanna Innola (@sannainnola) on May 17, 2019 at 8:41am PDT Of course this smart bit of marketing was far from the whole truth. Unsurprisingly, the idea of rolling meat into pleasant, easily fryable spheres was hardly unique – balls of fried meat were cooked more than 2,000 years ago in China, while England’s Henry IV was served pork balls to celebrate his coronation in 1399. Many other European nations have authored their own take on the meatball, including but not limited to Poland, Italy, Germany, Bulgaria and Hungary. Naturally, the rivalry is greatest when the distance is smallest – especially in the case of neighbouring Finland, a former colony of Sweden which also ranks meatballs among its proudest national dishes. View this post on Instagram Rockin' it with chef @nykaane @tyrvaanpappila #whatanight #chefatwork A post shared by chefsanteri (@chefsanteri) on Jun 6, 2018 at 11:38am PDT “I really don't know what makes a meatball Swedish or Finnish – perhaps we tend to season ours very lightly, and there is old bread or some other cheap ingredient besides the ground meat,” says Santeri Vuosara, a Finnish chef, cookbook author and Hungry for Tampere ambassador. “Meatballs were something my grandmother used to make – ‘mummolaruokaa’. The childhood memory kind of fantasy meatball is very simple, sometimes fried, sometimes boiled, served with dark sauce, mashed potatoes and pickled little onions. Still waters my mouth and warms my heart when I think of it.” Suddenly, everything changed View this post on Instagram If you can go to @ikeausa and not get the Swedish meatballs it must be because you’re a vegetarian.. or a total rookie A post shared by @ menumasters on Jun 20, 2018 at 2:05pm PDT Helped heaps by the never-ending expansion of Ikea – which serves 150 million meatballs a year – the meatball remained Sweden’s purview to the rest of the world. Until, one day, an out-the-blue Tweet from Sweden’s official Twitter account, in 2018, which declared to the glee of Turks everywhere: “Swedish meatballs are actually based on a recipe King Charles XII brought home from Turkey in the early 18th century. Let’s stick to the facts!”. Swedish meatballs are actually based on a recipe King Charles XII brought home from Turkey in the early 18th century. Let's stick to the facts! pic.twitter.com/JuTDEjq9MM — Sweden.se (@swedense) April 28, 2018 Apparently, after losing a battle to the Russians, the Swedish monarch was exiled to a part of the Ottoman Empire which corresponds with modern Moldova. There he gained a taste for kofta – the Mediterranean’s own mixed ground meatballs that had been in the Ottomans’ imperial cookbook since the 15th century. When Charles returned to his own empire five years later he took the recipe – as well as coffee and cabbage – both because he liked it, and as a means of bolstering diplomatic relations. Gnocchi: the true origins of Verona’s ‘light, fluffy pillows’ That 2018 proclamation prompted its own round of bewildered soul-searching and jingoistic tub-thumping oddly reminiscent of SAS’ current bout of backlash. It seems, however suave and sophisticated Swedes might be, some remain awfully attached to their round balls of meat. Want more stories like this? Sign up here . 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