Fridges in Fittja

May 31, 2012

As we met folks in Botkyrka, we photographed the inside of their refrigerators, as a way to get to know the landscape and habits of the place. We were surprised at how much food was imported, but there was also a lot of local milk, butter, yogurt, and cheese.

Peter’s pantry on the farm in Jarna.

Joanna and Jakob’s fridge.

 The staff lounge refrigerator at Botkyrka Konsthall.

Botkyrka Konsthall.

Leila and the refrigerator at Verdandi.

Fridge at ArtLab Gnesta.

Ayhan’s refrigerator. The only home canner we met while we were here.

Dinner at Ayhan’s

Before we left the US, we received a really nice email:


I am a resident in the neighborhood your are going to visit in may until 10th of june. I got quite interested and curious in what you are going to do.
What’s the idea for your project to come here to sweden? I just saw a small notice on facebook today.

One of my interest of this project mainly comes from that I study culinary arts and ecology at Örebro university. It´s a mix between agroecology/sustainability/meal science and culinary arts. And of course it´s interesting when something that you like comes to your neighborhood.



Ayhan and his housemates Erik and Ingemar hosted us for an amazing dinner in their apartment in Fittja – almost an exact replica of the residency apartment but on the 10th floor of his building:

As we ate more kinds of vegetables than we had had in all our meals combined so far, Ayhan, Ingemar, and Erik filled us in on many of the mysteries which still remained for us after almost a week of residency.

They let us know the schedule and demographics of resident traffic through the subway station:

6am construction workers (mainly Eastern European and African workers);

8/9 am Royal Tech High School students (mainly well-dressed young women);

6pm/evening cleaning professionals (mainly African and Latin American women);

1am/early morning bar denizens (mainly Eastern European males, Swedes).

About the punk rock household in the apartments across from ours.

About the shish kebab place in Vörby that’s actually the best in Stockholm.

And we ate:

Golden beets sous vide with beet vinegar and sea weed.

Shell beans in vinaigrette.

Cabbage with seeds in a sweet vinaigrette

Ingemar with gratinéed potatoes and carrots with confit onion hollandaise

We also consumed: red beets; almonds with coriander, fennel, and coffee; rhubarb pie; Ayhan’s homemade vinegars, including one made with pine; copious amounts of Acquavit.

Thank you, Ayhan, Ingemar, and Erik, for sharing your knowledge about canning, beekeeping, and cohabitating in Fittja with us!

Ingemar and Erik, who tried, unsuccessfully, to keep bees on the roof at Fittja.

Apparently, although Botkyrka Byggen, the apartment management company, is fairly friendly toward organized initiatives, they weren’t into bees on the roof last year when Ingemar wanted to continue a childhood interest in apiary…


May 28, 2012

Kultivator’s creation at ArtLab Gnesta is the treehouse you always wanted to live in–a growing, joyful, spiraling, welcoming garden designed by local school kids. Kultivator is an artists and organic farming collective who live in rural Southeast Sweden, and includes Malin Lindmark Vrijman, Mathieu Vrijman, Henric Stigeborn, Mia Lindmark, and Marlene Lindmark. They are also part of the current exhibition at Botkyrka Konsthall, along with OPENrestaurant, and we hope to collaborate with them on a future project.

The milk produced by the cows on their farms is picked up by a central dairy organization who pasteurizes and consolidates it along with other organic and non-organic milk in Southern Sweden. Farming regulations won’t allow them to commercially distribute the rapeseed oil or vegetables that the farm produces.


Malin Lindmark Vrijman!!!

Worm Tube — Botkyrka project by Kultivator

“Since the beginnings of the 1930’s, a series of anthroposophically inspired enterprises has grown up in ytterjärna and the surrounding area- market gardens, a clinic, a dairy, biodynamic farms, schools, institutions for functionally disabled persons, a cultural center and much more.”









The last (and first) thing you see in Järna:

“Rudolf Steiner would be turning in his grave” – Jakob Hallberg, architect and musician living outside of Järna with his wife, Joanna Sandell, director of Botkyrka Konsthall

Nice visit to the small farmers market reflected the early spring. Not much yet, root vegetables, cilantro, parsley. Plant starts were in abundance though, lots of tomato varieties and greens. Krav is the organic certifier in Sweden and most of the market had their label. The market had curious onlookers but not a frenzy of shopping that you might see in the bay area. The honey was great, what do the bees do in the winter?






In Fittja

May 27, 2012

Fittja has a garden allotment program for residents.




Residents apply for a plot, then wait three to six months until one becomes available. The gardens are rented for a small fee, typically 1000 or so Swedish Kronor per year. Residents can then farm, build fences, and make the small houses on each plot that hold tools and materials for gardening, socializing, and barbecuing.

Here is Abul Kalam with his extra-long rake in his plot, which he’s had for about a year. He grows onions, lettuces, radishes, potatoes, beans, and cilantro – which he says his family eats every day. They still cook traditional Burmese food for lunch and dinner, although he says they’ve begun to eat Swedish breakfast now like everybody else – not sticky rice with sweet yam, since sweet yam is one of the foods they can’t get here.

Like many Swedish immigrants, he says they can get almost anything they need at the supermarket, but he also listed a few things his friends bring from Myanmar or Pakistan (where he worked from 11 years old tying carpets before coming to Sweden as a Rohingya political refugee) – various kinds of eggplant, squash, yams, and chili peppers that don’t grow in Sweden.

At Verdandi Women’s Center with Leila Sözen

Leila Sözen at Verdandi Women's Center making bread rollsAbove, Leila bakes bread to sell at Verdandi Women’s Center. Women bake here every day, but the kitchen is not equipped to code for cooking, so they can’t have a complete cafe. Instead, they sell bread, pirog, and other pastries as a part of the center’s activities for underemployed women. These include a secondhand shop, a weaving atelier, a sewing shop, and other job services.

Long view of the kitchen at Verdandi women's center

Bread rolls fresh from the oven

Krudpeppar in leila's hand

Leila holds out a handful of krudpeppar, a larger, milder black peppercorn than the ones we use in the United States.

Spices in Leila's spice drawer

The spice drawer at Verdandi. This includes a spice rub for Sweden’s top summer sport – barbecue! Leila also keeps several kinds of peppers and other spices on hand for Swedish and her own Turkish Assyrian cooking, which, she says, includes lots of casseroles, soups, and stews.

Lamb heads and organs for bone broth

Leila is a natural teacher, and as we visited with her at Verdandi, she told us how to make many dishes, including a morning broth made from the contents of her shopping bag above – lamb skulls and organs which she cleans well and cooks slowly to make a nutritious soup to eat in the morning with hard bread.

Weaving loom in Verdandi weaving workshop

Verdandi’s weaving loom – a modified Swedish loom shortened and with another crossbar added to make Kurdish carpets. Women at Verdandi are practicing crafts and skills from regions as diverse as Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Iraq, and many other parts of the world, including Sweden, which traditionally produces woven textiles like the one below.

Weaving of seagulls hanging above rows of chairs at Verdandi women's center, Fittja

Fika service

May 26, 2012

OPENfittje backpacks with coffee and tea.

OPENfittje backpack

We’ll leave hand-made cups by Jessica Niello and Amanda Eicher with the people we meet, as well as tea or coffee from Four Barrel coffee and the Imperial Tea Court.

We are here

Two taxi rides from the Arlanda airport later, Valerie Imus, Sam White, Amanda Eicher, and Yasi Perera are in Fittja through the Residence Botkyrka.

Our taxi driver, Mohammed Mire Gure, helped us begin our research in the taxi from the airport by filling us in on Somali culture in Rinkeby, Sweden, a suburb north of Stockholm which seems much like our residence location in Fittja.

He underscored a fact which is becoming more and more clear the longer we’re here: immigrants have dramatically shaped Swedish culture, especially food. Supermarkets which only carried fish and potatoes and a few other staples as few as six years ago now almost universally carry curry spices and a wide array of imported international foods. Most people we talk with say they don’t miss anything from their home countries, though usually, like Mohammed, they can think of one or two things after a moment – like camel’s milk, which Mohammed says he drinks in London when he goes there to visit family. He lives an international life, doing business as a flower importer between Nairobi and Amsterdam and visiting family at least twice a year in England.

We’ll try to visit Mohammed this week to eat Somali food and hopefully hear some music in Rinkeby.