the Fittja Cafe is here!

September 17, 2012

Today is the first day of Open Fittja! Please stop by Krögarvägen 26 between 3:00 – 6:00 pm today. On this first day, we invite you to come help decorate the cafe, start a batch of apple sauce, take portraits of others who’ve come to the cafe, or record your favorite recipe for the Fittja audio cookbook. Yesterday we harvested dozens of apples from Järna, and are ready to make apple sauce with you today. Check the window at Krögarvägen 26 every day for an announcement about the afternoon’s activities. Here is one of the apple trees from which we harvested yesterday:

If it’s raining, we’ll be inside. Just come to the front window and we’ll pop around the side to let you in.


We began the day by heading to Hallunda, where there was a sort of “NGO day” where about half a dozen NGOs and artisans representing NGOs came to sell various wares to support their organizations. Among the organizations at the festival today was a women’s collective that crafts homewares from recycled materials. The small rugs and trivets below were made using worn t-shirts, and are essentially sold at costs to support future projects for the collective. We bought a small rug and a few trivets for the Open Fittja cafe. We originally went to the festival to hand out fliers advertising Open Fittja, and not only were able to do that, but also wound up meeting a number of women actively involved in local Botkyrka organizations. We spoke with local teachers, librarians at the Hallunda branch library, and women who both pass through Fittja and spend a fair amount of time there. We explained the Open projects taking place over the course of the next two weeks, and invited them to bring their children to the afternoon fikas starting next Monday. One woman who is well-connected to teachers in Fittja offered to scan our flier and email it to contacts within Fittja. Another volunteered to pass it along to a few women she knew in Fittja, too. I should note that public spaces that I’ve seen thus far have been quite gendered, so we mostly encounter either one sex or the other. Being women, it is naturally easier to make inroads with groups of women that it is with men here in Fittja. Of course men and women, boys and girls are invited to the activities over the next two weeks, and it just so happens that so far we’ve only spoken to women about the events.

This afternoon Ariel and I were returning to Krögarvägen 26,  a woman and her daughter were returning from a wildly successful apple harvesting mission. Although she didn’t speak English, we were able to communicate the simple question of “Where do you harvest your apples?”, and not only did she tell us where to find these prolific trees, but she gave Ariel and me each an apple! Here are the apples:

These apple trees are near the lake, and if you walk in the direction of Alby, the next town over, you’re bound to come across the trees. Tomorrow we are headed to the Järna countryside to harvest apples to use in the cafe.

At around 2:00 pm, the folks from Kultivator arrived, along with some friends from Stockholm who helped assemble the chicken coop. By dusk, the coop was completely assembled, and the construction drew curious stares from passersby. Some residents stopped to chat with us about the project, but the neighborhood children were, unequivocally, the most enthusiastic about the coop at Krögarvägen 26.

We invited a few children into the residency apartment, and with Ayhan’s help, explained Open Fittja’s cooking and story telling projects. It’s our hope that the neighborhood kids will attend the fikas, and eventually, it will encourage their parents to join the coffee breaks and Open Fittja workshops as well.

By the time that Ariel and I left for Skärholmen to go grocery shopping, the coop was complete:

Since we’re finding ourselves in Sweden during the height of beet and apple season, we are picking our friends’ brains for recipes that combine the two, and thus far, an apple borscht is the leading contender. Next week residents are invited to partake in any number of beet/apple kitchen festivities: beet apple borscht, beet apple slaw, and assembling beet stuffed apples to name a few. What are your favorite beet apple recipes? How about an apple beet charoset?

Good night!


Fittja Open schedule

September 15, 2012

Apples of Fittja/ the kitchen

September 14, 2012


Ariel and I have both arrived to Fittja for the second installment of Open Fittja. One of the first things we did today was to take a walk to Fittja Centrum, and along the way, we spotted several apple trees, one which was on the grounds of the neighborhood preschool. If you look in the upper left hand corner of the below photo, you’ll spot the ripening fruit. One of Ariel’s ideas is to create a community apple stack cake, a common tradition in much of Appalachia. The apple stack cake was traditionally presented to the bride and groom at a wedding reception, and many guests rally around the honored two to bring the cake to life, layer by layer. This is a way for all those gathered to partake in the cake, but no one party has to bear the load of baking the entire cake, which can be a serious undertaking for cash-strapped wedding guests. In this way, the cake is a combined effort amongst friends, and is assembled in a spirit of camaraderie and revelry.

We are lucky to arrive in Fittja at the height of apple season, and this upcoming weekend, we will venture to Järna to harvest apples by the bucketful. After harvesting the apples, we will have some pressed for apple juice (to serve to Fittja residents at Open Fittja), and also plan to embark on a number of projects with the residents of Fittja that involve apples: the apple stack cake and the making of apple sauce and apple butter.  After our dinner with Ayhan, we’ve been convinced to try our hand at a savory apple preparation as well.

Many of the smaller projects we have outlined for the upcoming two weeks involve the sharing of stories at Krögarvägen 26. Through a series of collaborative works completed with Marjetica Potrč and Kultivator, Open Fittja will transform the Botkyrka Residency apartment into a neighborhood cafe during these next days. Continue to check back here for more updates as well as a schedule of upcoming events.


Today we also began a small renovation in the kitchen that included removing the cupboard doors, hanging the ‘Open’ definition sign on the kitchen door, and placing our canned California goods on the shelves. This is all in preparation for our upcoming projects, which will begin next week in earnest, and residents can stop by Krögarvägen 26 for an afternoon story hour, a fermenting workshop, making apple sauce/ apple butter, and photographing their neighbors as part of a larger community portraiture project. Our workshops will expand the scope of the fika, the widely embraced coffee hour that happens throughout the country at various times of the day. Here are a few photos of the changes we made to the kitchen today:


Above we have the doors to the cabinets, which now rest on top of another row of cabinets.

Next we have the kitchen cupboards, which we’ve started organizing, and are more inviting without the doors.Image

Then we have items canned in California by Amanda and Valerie: tomatoes from Happy Girl farm and Annabel, nectarines, as well as pickles and cherries canned by Valerie. We also have chrysanthemum tea in the upper right hand jar, hojicha tea with roasted rice in the lower left jar, tea dust in the upper left, and pu-er on the bottom right side (partially shielded from view).


… and lastly we have the oft seen ‘Open’ definition, now hanging on the kitchen door:


And I have two questions: do you think the green four-leafed plant are nettles? Do you think the berries might be elderberries?




More soon!


In Fittja again!

August 28, 2012

During the last two weeks of September, members of OPENrestaurant will be working with Marjetica Potrc’s studio (in residence at the Royal College of Art) and Kultivator, creating a temporary cafe at the residency center. We will be opening the windows of the residency apartment to those who wish to eat and cook with us during the opening and exhibition dates of Fittja Open, the annual fall exhibition kicking off Botkyrka Konsthall’s programming in Fittja.

School visits with Erik

June 24, 2012

On our next to last day in Fittja, we visited three schools with Erik, the education specialist at Fittja Multi-Kultural Center.

Fittja School

In the first school, Fittja School, we happened to meet the head chef, Leonor, eating lunch with the other cooks in the school cafeteria after the kids and teachers were done.

She’s on the board that decides what all the kids in the district will eat. She told us that although they get the groceries and recipes from central kitchen, they get to make their own choices about what they do with the raw ingredients once it all gets delivered. Here at Fittja school, her team cooks for about 500 students and staff.

On this day they were eating sausage and turnips gratin (“uncharacteristically not-the-healthiest” said the vice-principal)

Healthy, beautiful fava beans salad, beets, pickles, carrots, and other vegetable salads and sides


Leonor took us through the very-organized school kitchen, a work of art:

Bananas waiting to be made into bread

A painting by one of the former employees hangs by the phone

16 – 18% of the food they use is organic. In two years, that number will be 30%. This figure doesn’t include milk, fish, and some of the meat, which is already organically sourced.

All the ingredients were delivered fresh and whole; breads and other baked goods made on site; and in three enormous fryers, the occasional fried foods were prepared in the school kitchen and brought to table immediately.

Leonor said that in South Botkyrka, where she used to work, she met more hostility toward vegetables. Here in Fittja, vegetables, lentils, other healthier foods are part of home diets, and she can cook almost anything for Fittja school students, who grew up eating Chinese, Russian, Uighur, Turkish, Armenian food – so many different cuisines.

Potatisgratang day!

Förskolan Myran

We went next to the small day-care center near our apartment, Förskolan Myran, which was transitioning to a Reggio Emilia-inspired curriculum.

Sadly, the kitchen of the school was the last part to be upgraded to the new plan – its oven and range were broken.

The students, who were 2-5 years old, were very forthcoming in their opinions on food, and reported eating  “rice, yellow curry with chickpeas, hamburgers, spaghetti, chocolate milk.”

Like the other two schools we visited serving food to a diverse population with a lot of languages spoken, this preschool served vegetarian for Halal eaters and special meals for lactose intolerant and vegetarian students, and of course, no nuts. Unlike the other schools, the meals were made elsewhere and heated at school for the children, many of whose parents had gone to the same neighborhood preschool when they were young!


Leaving Förskolan Myran, we walked quite a ways to a school tucked away in the trees at the edge of Fittja, Kastanien.

In our short time at this school inspired by French educator Celestin Freinet, we met the school’s sizeable reptile population, got a lesson from Paulus the shop teacher, above, on the universal joint which his students had just finished building out of wood (below), and learned about the Modern School Movement. Students explore academics, interests, and skills at their own pace, with the understanding that their work helps to build their school and the society around it.

We also visited Johan the cook with Maria the art teacher. Johan makes 300 lunches a day with two women who seem to contribute a lot of their own understanding of cooking. They send their lunches to 14 different places where kids eat, all with the help of two fifth graders.

Their three slim refrigerators were full of fresh vegetables, whole fish, and fresh dairy products, as well as an entire half-fridge full of leftovers, which he packages for staff to take home at a very low price. They also cater for events related to school and the families at Kastanien.

Before we left Kastanien, we got a lesson in the very important meal of mellenmol, or afternoon snack.

There are about 1,000 kinds of fish and shellfish paste (including caviar!) available for Swedish schoolchildren to eat in the afternoon on bread and/or crackers (knackbrot), and we got a lesson in Swedish and fishpaste on the schoolyard before we left Kastanien.

Thanks, 3rd grade class, and see you next time!

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?