A Beginner’s Guide To Swedish Midsommar

Bengt Nyman, Flickr

Pickled herring, drinking songs, a pole covered in flowers, boiled potatoes, dancing like frogs. Yes, that’s Swedish Midsommar (otherwise known as “Midsummer” in English).

Thanks to Swedish roots around the world and a general love of Scandinavian culture, the popular Swedish holiday – the sun was gone all winter, you would want to celebrate the longest day of the year too – is well known outside of the Nordic lands.

Not well versed on this Swedish celebration? First off, get the basics from this video by the Sweden.se:

Now, let’s get to the important part: celebrating. How are you going to get a Midsummer celebration going if you’re not in Sweden? Easy. Follow these simple steps.

Round up a few friends that like to eat and drink.
This will probably be your easiest task.

Find a long table.
Midsummer dinner tends to be served as a sit down meal complete with a nice tablecloth, napkins and real silverware. This is not your average American BBQ.

Make a midsummer pole.
If you don’t have the manpower to hoist up a long one, construct a smaller makeshift one.

Dance around said midsummer pole.
Dancing is a precursor to eating.

Track down some pickled herring.
It’s not Swedish Midsummer without it.

Serve Aquavit.
Again, you can’t call it Swedish Midsummer if you don’t have the classic drink.

Make a dessert that involves fresh berries.
Preferably strawberries and ideally in cake format.

Eat and drink late into the night/early morning.
The sun isn’t really going to ever set after all.

A few Swedish inspired Midsummer recipes to get you started:
Gin + Aquavit Cocktail
Matjessil Salad
New Potatoes with Dill Butter
Pickled Mustard Herring

Glad Midsommar!

Cockpit Chronicles: Video—Food in the cockpit. How it’s prepared and what is served

“I’m getting kind of tired of these chicken Caesar salads.”

I said those words just a few months into my career at American. The statement resonated loudly after I was furloughed and flying for a freight airline with barely a bottle of water on board, so I vowed that I would never complain about a crew meal again.

In fact, when I came back to AA I nearly cried when a flight attendant entered the 727 cockpit and asked us what we wanted to drink.

Now, after ten years of international flying, mostly to Europe, I’ve enjoyed more crew meals than I probably should have. Warm dishes on an airline flight might be foreign to today’s passengers and even some of our domestic pilots, but on the international side we still enjoy food just as it was in the earlier days of airline flying.

The usual transatlantic daytime flight might include appetizers, such as nuts and cheese, salads, a main course with an overabundance of bread and a slice of cheesecake perhaps, followed later by a Sundae or cookies. Before landing in the afternoon, there’s often a cheese plate or fruit dish, followed by a pizza or steak sandwich.

Honestly, it’s too much. But if you’re paying for a business class experience, over indulging every now and then isn’t bad. For pilots however, these crew meals can add more pounds in the first year of international flying than during a freshman year in college.

I limit myself to just the nuts as a starter followed by the salad. Later, if there’s any fruit available, I’ll have some of that, or if it’s morning in Europe, the cold cereal is a good choice. Anything more and I begin to feel overly tired during the overnight flight across the pond. Since I’ve cut back I’ve noticed a definite slackening of my uniform pants.

Typically three meals are put on for the three-pilot cockpit crew, two items the same, often chicken or steak and the third perhaps being a pasta dish.

Most co-pilots give the choice of meal to the captain, and the captain often defers back to the co-pilot. It can become comical at times; neither pilot wanting to make what is probably the least important decision of the flight. Alas, it’s typically decided that whoever is flying the plane for that leg should choose.

I’ve enlisted the help of our flight attendant Susan, who made a brief appearance in my Boston to Paris video seven years ago, to appear again in front of the camera to show how she manages the cockpit and passenger meals for a 10½ hour flight from Rio to New York.

Notice just how busy Susan is before boarding. As the “number five” flight attendant out of nine aboard our 767, she’s ‘the cook’ up front, responsible for not only preparing and cooking the meals, but setting up the galley on the ground.

Passengers in the back also enjoy a hot meal, and there’s another flight attendant with three ovens getting ready to prepare that food as well.

Every month the meal types and even the kind of cheese in the appetizer change. Some plates are exceptional-a white chocolate glazed chicken dish sounded terrible but turned out to be fantastic-and some I’ve avoided after just one bite, such as the foie gras stuffed chicken.

The ‘insert’ shown in the video is mostly an international custom. It keeps the pilots from having to call back every time they’re ready for more water or soda. It’s brought to the cockpit only after takeoff to prevent anything loose from bouncing around the flight deck.

The sundaes and baked cookies aren’t normally part of our meals, but some of the nicer flight attendants will still offer them.

In the past, no two pilots could eat the same meal, and they had to be served at different times. At my airline, these restrictions have been relaxed, however.

For the past year or so, I’ve taken to capturing some of the crew meals with a camera. Apparently I fall into the crowd that likes taking food pictures. The gallery below shows some of my favorite crew meals of all time:

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Cockpit Chronicles takes you along on some of Kent’s trips as an international co-pilot on the Boeing 757 and 767 based in New York. Have any questions for Kent? Check out the Cockpit Chronicles Facebook page or follow Kent on Twitter @veryjr.

Eat early – Dining out tip

One of the best parts of a vacation is trying new and tasty cuisines. Unfortunately, it can also be one of the most expensive parts. To give your wallet a break and still relish in the joys of fine dining, opt for eating out earlier in the day.

As a rule, breakfast, brunch and lunch menus are less expensive than dinner menus. A big meal earlier in the day is also a great way to keep you energetic for the day’s sightseeing activities.

It’s okay to splurge on dinner every once in a while, but consider something quick, easy and inexpensive for most of your later meals. Bonus: by not filling up late at night, you’ll feel more awake, ready to tackle your destination’s nightlife!

Enter to win a trip to San Antonio

San Antonio is celebrating 15 days of holiday giving by giving away 15 great trips to explore San Antonio. The contest started December 1, but there are still 12 more days to win a prize package for a trip to the city.

Each day, a different themed trip will be awarded. Each trip includes a three-night stay at a different San Antonio hotel, plus activities and extras like spa treatments, cooking classes, meals, gift cards, horse-drawn carriage rides, magazine subscriptions and rounds of golf.

For example, December 9th’s prize is a three-night stay at the Omni La Mansion del Rio on the Riverwalk, a $500 VISA gift card, dinner at Biga on the Banks, and a day at Enchanted Springs Ranch and Natural Bridge Caverns.

For every entry, the San Antonio CVB will donate $1 (up to $10,000) to the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Antonio. To win, all you need to do is enter using the online form. Entrants must be 21 years of age or older and be residents of the US. Winners will be notified by email within five days of the prize drawing and will have ten days to claim their prize.

It’s Rioja Restaurant Week in NYC and Chicago!

Last January, my husband and I took a trip to the Rioja region of Spain. We sampled Rioja wines and visited underground cellars by day, and hopped from bar to bar snacking on tapas and drinking Rioja wines by night. We found that there were several Rioja wines that we loved, at that the tapas served there (while not incredibly creative like those offered in the Basque country) were simply delicious. So I was very excited to see that this week, October 18 to 25, is Rioja Restaurant Week both here in Chicago and in New York City.

From now until Sunday, dozens of restaurants in both cities will offer special deals and dishes to celebrate the wine and cuisine of the Rioja area. Some will offer $12 tapas and wine pairings and others will offer $25 or $50 prix fixe menus paired with wine. Other specials offered as part of the promotion include a 15% discount on dinner or a 20% discount on a bottle of Rioja wine. Not a bad deal. This means that at Eivissa, a Catalan tapas restaurant in Chicago (for example), you can either get a multi-course dinner for two for $50, or just nosh on their signature tapas, which are half off weekdays from 4pm-6pm, and enjoy a bottle of Rioja wine for as little as $30.

Over 50 restaurants in NYC are participating, along with nearly 30 in Chicago.