“Bing tells me you’re eating herons for dinner- How unusual!”
First I thought that it’s strange that my dear friend refers to anything in particular that I might have for dinner, since I knew I hadn’t mentioned the menu for the evening… Then I thought there must be some kind of misunderstanding… This friend and I have had a few funny conversations where misinterpretation or misunderstanding was the reason. I needed to check my vocabulary, since I wasn’t familiar with the word “herons” at first. I thought maybe it’s some vegetable or some odd animal we don’t have in Sweden, or maybe a pastry of some sort. After I realized the mistranslation I smiled, of course! Herons are lovely birds and I admire their beauty and noble looks compared to other more ordinary little birds I may see through my kitchen window. The phrase my friend referred to, ”kvällens middag hägrar” does not suggest that we eat herons, although Bing was right about the GENERAL translation, since hägrar means more than one of a heron (=häger). In My sentence however, I wasn’t talking about the food at all, merely about the dinner I was waiting for. I used the word “hägrar”, which is the present tense of the verb HÄGRA. The looming dinner… To loom… att hägra, något hägrar. I thought it quite fun that you Americans have turkey for Thanksgiving, and we have herons an ordinary Friday. Turkeys are farm animals, but we would definitely need to hunt for our herons… J
If you know the Swedish culture a bit, you may have noticed that some dishes preferably would be served certain weekdays. One such dish is pancakes, not the American type, with maple syrup, but the Swedish type, thinner, served with jam and sometimes whipped cream or ice-cream.
For some the only topping would be sugar. A long time ago, it was more common to have pancakes for dinner on Thursdays than it probably is now. One of the reasons for this dish returning weekly was simply that it was affordable for all, since it’s cheap. Nowadays when people are more aware of the connection between food and health, many avoid pancakes since its anything but a low carb diet. in the old Swedish tradition we didn’t just have our pancakes on Thursdays, we also had a typical kind of soup, made of yellow peas spiced with thyme and served with mustard.
Pancakes every Thursday is not at all a varied diet. But who would want to skip the lovely pancakes? There are several similar dishes made with the same ingredients and sometimes a few more added. One of those dishes is in Swedish called “plättar”. The most equivalent translation would be a “blini” but that’s not really the thing… Plättar are smaller than pancakes and they take an eternity to make, since you need about seven of them to get the same amount of food as one single pancake. I have no patience whatsoever, so I make the ordinary pancakes, but my husband sometimes have time and patience enough to make plättar. Oddly enough, the kids love plättar more than pancakes, although it’s made of the same ingredients. As if this wasn’t enough, another dish we would make out of the same batter is called fläskpannkaka in Swedish. Fläsk means “pork”, and the reason why the pancake has this odd name, is that it’s filled with diced pork. When I’m in hurry or when I’m hungry, I’m not fully aware of what I say and my regular skills in translation seem to have disappeared completely.
As my American friend and I were chatting on ICQ about ten years ago and I was about to sign off, I was BOTH hungry and in a hurry! I mentioned that since it was Thursday we would have “what many Swedes have on Thursdays” for dinner. My friend asked: ”And what is that?” I said: ”It’s yellow pea soup and flesh pancakes”. After I had eaten and thought things over, I realized what his remark meant: “So you are a cannibal, are you?!” I’m glad he didn’t comment on the pea soup… What if I had spelled the word ”pee”?