Make Scandinavian Buffet Food at Home

For a fun entertaining idea, consider hosting a smorgasbord with these Scandinavian buffet foods.

| Capper’s Farmer Holiday Special, Winter 2012

  • Smorgasbord Table
    Festive smorgasbord tables are decked out with fresh flowers and greens, candles and perhaps even flags, though the colorful variety of foods provides the most exciting decoration.
    Photo By Karen Keb
  • Smorgasbord Menu
    Despite the different names for smorgasbord, the customs, etiquette and menu are similar, yet each is enriched with the local delicacies of the country.
    Photo By Karen Keb

  • Smorgasbord Table
  • Smorgasbord Menu

In colloquial English, the word “smorgasbord” is used to describe “a delightful (if not overwhelming) array of choices,” and rightly so. The true and original meaning of the word relates to the traditional Scandinavian smörgåsbord that originated in Sweden, where myriad dishes were laid out buffet-style for guests to help themselves, with frequent trips to the table encouraged. Nowadays it’s typically prepared as a celebratory meal, as at Christmas, when it’s known as the Julbord (yule table).

Scandinavian Recipes

Swedish Rye Bread Recipe 
Swedish Almond Toast Recipe
Danished Poached Fish Recipe
Swedish Cucumber Salad Recipe
Danish Onion and Beet Salad Recipe
Danish Braised Red Cabbage Recipe
Finnish Potato Salad Recipe
Finnish Turnip Casserole Recipe
Danish Rice Pudding Recipe
Boiled Potatoes Recipe Browned in Sugar
Finnish Beef Meatballs Recipe
Easy Swedish Sausage Recipe
Swedish Sour Cream Cake Recipe
Christmas Ginger Cookies Recipe 

Smorgasbord: Buffet Food at Its Best

Smörgåsbord translates to “sandwich table” and is found in all five Nordic countries. In Denmark and Norway, it’s known as the koldtbord; in Finland, it’s the voileipäpöytä; and in Iceland, it’s the kalt bord or hladbord. Despite the different names, the customs, etiquette and menu are similar, yet each is enriched with the local delicacies of the country.

The hordes of Scandinavians who immigrated to the Midwest sections of the United States in the 19th century brought their culinary traditions with them. The smörgåsbord was enjoyed in their new country, though only officially since the 1939 New York World’s Fair, when it was offered at the Swedish Pavilion’s Three Crowns Restaurant. After that, the diacritics were dropped from the term, and the buffet-style meal became known all over America as simply “smorgasbord.”

History of the Smorgasbord

The origins of the smorgasbord date back to the 14th century when members of the Swedish upper class would serve a small buffet table (brännvinsbord) of schnapps and hors d’oeuvres prior to a meal. Consisting usually of bread, butter, cheese, herring and liqueurs, the brännvinsbord was meant to be a light repast for guests, served two to five hours before dinner, and eaten while standing. This custom expanded in the 17th century when the “Lord of the Manor” invited folks from all over Sweden’s sparsely populated countryside. Cold dishes — like salty herring, potato and vegetable salads, hard-boiled eggs, smoked salmon, sausages, cold cuts, and bread — were prepared several days in advance in order to feed the arriving guests.

Through the centuries, the smorgasbord tradition continued to evolve until it became the main course rather than just the appetizer. Hot dishes were added to the traditional cold ones, and a dessert table laden with Scandinavian specialties eventually became the norm for special occasions.



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