The final meal of our trip was spent – eating in.
Our hosts had organized a unique kind of home visit. The program is part of a new movement afoot that enables travelers to get a home-cooked meal from a local resident. In Denmark, there’s one called Dine with the Danes. In Malmö, there’s A Slice of Swedish Hospitality.
As we entered the clattering elevator marked Hiss (the Swedish word for it), I realized that whereas I had been in perhaps a hundred Swedish homes during the six years I lived in Stockholm, for my traveling companion, Amy, this was a first. I tried to remember how it was when everything from the word on the elevator to the door handles was new and foreign. How almost every home seems to resemble the ones you see in the IKEA catalog: clean and white with bursts of color and design objects.
It was an odd feeling, entering the home of someone you’ve never met, but it worked: our hosts Cia and Mia were real pros. They welcomed us in and immediately hooked us up with glasses of wine. We stood in the kitchen watching them finish the meal – as you would at any friend’s dinner party.
Mia explained how the program worked, that you sign up through their website and they match you with a host. “It’s an especially great service for people traveling alone, as it gives them a chance to meet people,” she explained, “But it’s also great for families. Traveling with kids and eating out every night can be a challenge, but we can help you meet another family – who can then give you tips on the best outings and things to do with kids.”
Then we sat down to a beautiful meal of beef tenderloin and roasted root vegetables. We talked about our trip thus far, and the girls gave us the inside scoop on their city. My only wish was that we’d started with them – and that we had more time to explore the city. They listed off several places that sounded like great tips, such as:
Tirups Ortgard: a garden cafe on the outskirts of the city
Rosengårds kryddor: courses, events and spice tours of the city’s ethnic enclaves
Yalla Trappan: a social organization that gives immigrant women a chance to put their culinary skills to work. The organization operates a cafe at Von Rosens Väg 1.
Skåneleden: I’m not sure why I’d never heard about this after years of living in Sweden, but they told us about this 1000-kilometer hiking trail that zigzags through the Skåne countryside. (I can’t wait to go back and hike it.)
More than just a slice
As the evening drew to a close, they served a dessert of rhubarb and ice cream – with a basil leaf, which I thought was an unusual and nice touch. Then we sampled from a cheese plate (with cheeses from, among other places, Ängavallen) and we talked about the similarities and differences between our cultures.
When I moved to Sweden to have a network of friends waiting for me. Not every ex-pat and immigrant is so lucky. Sweden can sometimes feel like a cold place. It’s as if too many winters kept indoors has bred a genetically shy people. But when we left for the evening, there were hugs all around. It made me really happy that my friend Amy got to see that Swedes do come out of their shells, and when they do, it makes you not want to go back home.