In Sweden, a hot dog is not simply a hot dog. It must have mustard, ketchup, gurkajonäs (chopped pickles and mayo), prawn mayo, hell, even mashed potato. In short, it has cultural legitimacy.
In the UK, eating a hot dog is imbued with no cultural significance whatsoever. It’s cheap processed meat, pure and simple. It even looks and feels like Piglet from Winnie the Pooh. You’re a glutton and a piglet slayer.
But in Sweden, you can be sure that any stretch of forested highway will soon be interrupted by the neon light of a kiosk of hot dogs. They are a Swedish institution – just as fridge-cold Ginster’s pies are to Britons.
A good hot dog
Being offered a hot dog in Sweden is a liberation. You aren’t simply eating a hot dog, you are having a ‘cultural experience’ – and as all good tourists know, cultural experiences cancel out calories.
It means that when you eat a hot dog in Sweden – which you call a korv, naturally – it has so much cultural legitimacy that it’s essentially zero air miles, carbon neutral, plant-based goodness. Amazing!
The same goes for meatballs – that other mighty Swedish culinary edifice. It’s processed meat made happy for the Scandinavian socialist utopia. It has the same guilt-free X-factor that deep-fried fish has in Britain.
The icon halo
This halo effect is fantastic, but we all know it’s ultimately a con. That’s why IKEA has taken to offering a veggie dog to its customers. It can’t get rid of the hot dog – that would cause a riot – but it can offer a clean alternative.
Swedes are super-hot on being super-environmentalists. They’re world famous. But hey, even zeitgeists need downtime with a hot dog every now and then.
Talking of how we eat, Fancy A Dinner Share?