8 September 2014, by Dan Wolfe:
Probably the most often-asked question I hear is “How is the food?” Before I left, several folks were joking that I’d be sick of Swedish meatballs before I got back. I can tell you right now 100 percent that won’t be the case. In fact we’ve only had them one time. I would say so far the food has been top notch. Mealtimes are rather short and it would be nice to relax more but that is a minor issue. Of course, the food has a European style. I’m not an expert, but Ola our Swedish Food and Cultural Guide, seems to be enjoying himself and classifies the food we’ve been served so far as traditional. Tastes vary widely. The opinions that follow are from someone who likes to eat and is open to most foods.
Our menus are listed in both Swedish and English. It is not always easy to translate from one to the other, though most times what they say it is in English actually tastes similar. The chili was very much as I like it, leaving me craving more Mexican. Hamburgers, on the other hand, had a different texture and were not like American hamburgers. The curry was quite good and got lots of compliments. Sweden is not unlike the U.S. in that they have had a lot of immigrants which translates into many different ethnic foods. The make-up of the crew is primarily Swedish, but we have Americans, British, Germans, Canadians, Russians, one Spaniard, one Portuguese, one Italian, and one Greek. Many of these are students studying at Stockholm University.
Breakfast is comprised of fresh rolls or bread, cheese, assorted meats (sausages, ham, salami, and prosciutto), fresh fruit (while it lasts), vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, and pickles), dry cereal, yogurt (very tasty and different from most in the U.S.), hot cereal, and assorted jellies. Although eggs are not a standard at breakfast, we have had cheese omelets or eggs on bread from time to time. No toasters. The two most unusual things we’ve had so far are ravioli and blood pudding. Of course, juice, milk, tea, and coffee are served.
Lunch is the longer meal time wise and consists generally of meat and potato dishes. This is not to say we don’t have variety. I can’t remember being served the same thing twice for lunch or dinner. We’ve had hamburgers, chili, pasta carbanera, shepherd’s pie, fish (cod, herring), and curry, to name a few. The only meal I can say didn’t suit me was the salted herring. This must be an acquired taste as it seemed way too salty for most anyone but the Swedes. This is also when the salads come out. I don’t know what is in all of them, but we have your standard lettuce salad and then there are a number of bean, pepper, lentil-type salads with onions and great dressings. The cabbage and carrots are starting to come out now that we are probably running low on lettuce and tomatoes. Everything is very colorful, including two recent additions: spiced green pea and carrot pureed salads. Just the one main dish for everyone rather than several different ones like I’ve experienced on U.S. ships. Oh yeah: more fresh bread, rolls, cheese and butter!
Dinner is a little more formal, but the food isn’t too different from lunch. The salads are similar and we again have fresh breads/rolls, cheese, and butter. One of the more memorable meals was ‘elk,’ actually moose… You can see how it was listed on the menu. Of course, this confused those of us from North America. We confirmed this was indeed moose. It was good, but to me didn’t have a lot of flavor. There are two special dinner nights, Thursday and Saturday. Thursday, as we heard from the Leg1 Met Team, is Swedish Pancakes and yellow pea soup night. Their pancakes are more what I would call a crepe (not quite as thin). There is an assortment of jellies to put on it and ice cream, if you so desire ,as the main meal or later as a dessert. The soup is quite tasty with several mustards to mix in. They really complement each other well and the dinner line is especially long this night. Served warm with the meal is a Swedish liquor punch. Somewhat fruity and hard to describe, except to say it is “smooth.” Saturdays are also special, as formal nights. Formal means no work clothes and dress-up if you can. Some ladies and gentlemen go all out with dresses, ties, and coats. It is fun, and makes you forget a little where you are. Wine (in real wine glasses) and beer are also served at this meal.
We eat off real plates and not metal trays with compartments to separate the food! At all meals you can eat as much as you want, but you are requested to not take more than you can eat. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of waste, which I credit to having a single main dish and excellent planning. The cooks are super friendly.
Coffee Breaks (10 and 3) are a Swedish tradition and a must on the ship. With the wind chill outside consistently near 0oF it is a way to warm-up on the outside too. Though I’m not a coffee drinker I can tell you the coffee is extremely strong. There is a hot beverage machine with things like latte, hot chocolate, expresso, and hot water for tea. Tea is almost as popular as coffee from what I’ve noticed. Often for the afternoon break there will be some little sweet treat, or on Sundays a “large” sweet treat. I sometimes forget or skip the breaks, but those who know I like desserts will call me when something special is waiting.
Dessert: I guess you noticed I only mentioned dessert once (Thursday ice cream). So far we have not had desserts. Again according to Ola, the Swedish make wonderful desserts, but they just aren’t served on the Oden. We have experienced cakes and sweets served at the 3 pm coffee break. One of those called a prinsesstårta (“princess cake”) was heavenly. This is the same cake that won Ola the first prize in the NOAA/ESRL dessert contest a couple of years ago. You can purchase snacks, ice cream bars and treats, candy bars, and chips anytime you want.
Bar: Yes we have a bar serving wine, beer, various hard liquor and soft drinks. It’s a serve yourself and honor system. After dinner people will gather round to talk, play games, watch a movie or just relax and listen to some music. The science party and crew are often on shifts so it usually not very crowded.