Mellan hummer och pölsa – kulinarisk transition i Torgny Lindgrens och Ella Nilssons 'Maten'


  • Krzysztof Bak


Torgny Lindgren, Ella Nilsson, Västerbotten, svenskhet, Europa, nationalkökskonstruktion, det svenska köket, västerbottnisk matkultur, essentialisering, supplementering


The contribution investigates culinary transitions between Sweden and Europe in Torgny Lindgren's and Ella Nilsson's epistolary cookbook, Maten. Hunger och törst i Västerbotten (2003) (Food: Hunger and Thirst in Västerbotten). With a theoretical starting point in discourse-analytic approaches to nationalistic ideology, primarily elaborated within cultural studies, the contribution examines uses of the binarity of Sweden/Europe in essentialist and deconstructive practices of the cookbook. The argument comprises three parts. In the first part, the cookbook's conception of Västerbottenian cuisine is scrutinized. It is argued that Lindgren's and Nilsson's construction of gastronomic Västerbottenianness brings into play a whole range of rhetorical strategies that are usually utilized to construct national cuisines. Västerbottenian cookery is: (a) codified as a normative canon, (b) connected to a specific place, to a historical tradition and to ritualized customs, (c) defined as a restitution project preserving regional heritage from entropy, and (d) organized according to certain culinary icons, each of which mythologically incarnates some part of the "soul" of the region. The second part discusses the position of Europe on the cookbook's gastronomic map. The concept of Europeanness in Maten is shown to be constructed as a cultural "Other" and – by analogy with other counter-images – (a) excluded from the field of genuine cookery, (b) smuggled into the cookbook's culinary discourse through devices of disguise and (c) manifest in "typical" Västerbottnian recipes its presence in "typical" Västerbottenian recipes by generating contradictions, semantic displacements and aporetic paradoxes. The final part examines the role of Sweden among the cookbook's gastronomic identities. Unlike traditional cookery books dedicated to Swedish national cuisine, Maten problematizes the relationship between centre and periphery, constructing Swedishness as a "double" identity: both the internalized "Self" and the oppressive "Other". Correspondingly, Lindgren and Nilsson have an ambiguous, partly ironic, attitude towards their own local patriotic cuisine project using the notion of "Saminess" to undermine Västerbottenian culinary logocentrism.