foodholidaysLife in Sweden

A Free Lunch – in the Grocery Store!

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means that Swedish Freak will earn a commission if you purchase anything from these links. Thank you for your support!

Today, I spent extra half an hour in my favorite grocery store, eating a complimentary lunch from their julbord, which they put up one day every year a few weeks before Christmas. (Please see explanation of julbord below.)

The julbord is open for all customers, free of charge. You’re invited even if you haven’t been in the store before… you don’t need to buy anything either. Come in and have lunch!

julbordI accepted a plate from the attendant with homegrown beard and found two different herrings, a slice of ham, a piece of pate, meatball, wiener, a few more meat dishes, a slice of smoked sausage, a beetroot salad, a cabbage dish, a spoonful of a dish called “Jansson’s temptation”, and a buttered slice of bread. Condiments such as mustard were at the end of the table together with non-alcoholic beverages and a small dessert of rice pudding with raspberry jam. All excellent in taste, premium quality! Yummy!

Munching on jul foodLooking around, there were of course customers munching everywhere, young men eating and trying to maintain a cool and laidback attitude while leaning against the cheese display cabinet, elegant housewives manging their plate and purse with one hand, daddies with cardboard plates on the stroller top, little old ladies with a desperate look trying to balance their plates, handbags and shopping baskets to some place where they could put things down and start eating!

Short explanation of concept:

The Swedish word smörgåsbord is worldwide known as smorgasbord – a buffet of cold dishes, however often with a section with a few hot dishes at the end.
[smörgås = sandwich, bord = table, i.e. smörgåsbord = sandwich table]
For instance, a typical smörgåsbord at a gästgiveri (˜ inn) in Skåne offers at least half a dozen saucers with differently marinated herring, 3-4 salmon dishes (cold smoked, hot smoked, baked, marinated, poached), a few saucers of eel (smoked, grilled, poached), shrimps au naturel, shrimps in eggs with mayonnaise or aioli, a number of meats (lamb, beef, pork, smoked, grilled, sauteed), a number of patees, a number of veggie dishes, … oh yes, there’s also breads and cheeses and potato dishes. If you are really hungry, try real hard and take very small servings of every dish, you might get to taste it all… or no, I don’t think so.

At Christmas time, the smörgåsbord is supplemented with some dishes typical for the season, and renamed to julbord.

[jul = Christmas, bord = table].

little old Swedish ladies
Fridge counters were used as tables by little old ladies.

1 Comment

  1. Leslie
    December 17, 2012 at 21:53 — Reply

    Never heard of this custom before but needless to say it sounds great! I’ve experienced some fantastic smörgåsbords in hotels, though!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

nine − six =

I accept the Privacy Policy

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

The Author



Thomas is a retired IT professional, who lives alone with his golden retriever Ziggy Stardust in a small townhouse in a small town in the southern half of Sweden. He has two grown-up kids and at least five grandkids – "as far as I know".

Thomas enjoys daily long walks with Ziggy in the forests around town, he loves cooking for his guests, and he likes to make things with his hands. He says he loves good food, good wine, people who smile and make him smile.

Having spent most of his life developing things, methods and organizations, he's passionately interested in all kinds of technology, natural science, politics,... anything that raises a problem, whether it can be solved or not. Consequently, he is consistently short of time.

While he was professionally active, he lived in San Francisco a few years, working as software engineer down in Silicon Valley. He claims that he did leave his heart in San Francisco, and is constantly planning to go back and pick it up. Quoting Hoagy Carmichael's Hong Kong Blues, he says "... every time I try to leave, sweet opium won't let me fly away... ...i.e. my opium is Sweden, my kids, my dog, my friends, my forest,... you know, I'm Swedish."