• Would you like sugar with that?

    (Photo by Laura Ockel)

    Swedes love sugar. Seriously, they’re sugar monsters. I know what you’re thinking: who isn’t? But where other nations mix the sweet stuff with other vices – be they fags, booze or deep-fried snacks – Swedes just stick to the sugar.

    Example 1: fika. It’s a cute name for extremely regular coffee breaks at which you eat super-sweet cinnamon buns, with a side of coffee.

    Example 2: Lördagsgodis. Literally, Saturday sweets, this is the weekly ritual of buying a shed load of candy every Saturday, without fail, because it’s Saturday.

    Example 3: supermarket sweets. Sweden has a supermarket dedicated entirely to sweets. Seriously, it’s called Hemmakväll. Google it.

    I rest my case.

    It’s not so trad

    Wall-to-wall sugarcoated pastry and buckets full of sweets feels like a traditional part of Swedish life. But then I went into Malmö’s brilliant Technical & Seafaring Museum and read this…

    ‘In 1850, Swedes consumed 4 kilos of sugar per person (annually). Today, they’re up to 40 kilos per person.’

    Did they just get way more into sugar? Well no, and yes. The museum went on to explain the 19th century sugar beet industry (ok, you can stop reading here, but I thought it was interesting).

    The Skåne region – Sweden’s southern breadbasket – decided to try out their first cash crop.

    Harvesting and refining sugar beet was incredibly labour intensive, which was useful since there were a lot of poor Swedes who needed a job in the 1800s. It also meant there was a lot of, well, sugar.

    And in the day’s before globalisation, the closer your market, the better. So they sold the refined stuff to those same Swedes – by the truckload – and hey presto, everyone’s sugar intake ballooned.

    So there you go. Next time I succumb to a cinnamon bun, I can blame 19th century agri-business. Ah, that feels better!

    While we’re on Swedish tastebuds, how about hot dogs with added Swedishness?