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?






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