Swedish Meatballs Not Exactly Swedish: The Largest, Meatiest Scandal To Date

Today in things to destroy humanity’s perception of reality: If you’ve ever loved IKEA’s Swedish meatballs, you may want to stop considering it as Scandinavian cuisine. In a recent bombshell, it appears Swedish meatballs from IKEA may not be Swedish at all.

This is courtesy of the country’s Twitter page, where it dropped a bombshell that stated the acclaimed meatballs may have been something King Charles XII brought home as a recipe from a recent trip in Turkey. That’s right – Swedish meatballs may have been a variation of the Turkish delight.

The tweet has actually gained traction – with over 20.8-thousand favorites and thousands more talking about it – from amused, dismayed, and shocked Swedish folks (and global audiences alike). Others used the popular quote, “My whole life was a life…” to describe their reactions to the recent reveal.

Some continued to jest on ways for Sweden to “atone” for such a surprise. One of which was a reply from Ismail Unal who suggested Sweden give fans Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a popular Swedish soccer player.

Others offered unique historical insights. For instance, even if King Charles XII did bring the recipe back from Turkey, “Turkey” as a nation hasn’t existed back in the reign of the king. Others noted on similarities between Turkish and Swedish appropriations, such as “kalabalik” which meant “chaos” and “crowded” in Turkish and Swedish, respectively.


Not The Case: The Argument Against Non-Swedish Swedish Meatballs

Interestingly, not all appeared to be convinced with the Sweden.se tweet. Richard Tellstrom, a math historian, said the data is not necessarily accurate. Tellstrom takes note of “frikadeller,” which is a word that translates to “meatballs” that have been derived from the word “fricandeau.” As a word, “frikadeller” has been found in Swedish literature as early as 1650, which is approximately more than 50 years before Charlex XII even stayed with the Ottomans.

Tellstrom said this likely means the meatballs have been Italian or French in nature. He added meatballs ought to be expensive at the time, especially since fresh meat is needed to serve it. The word “kottbullar,” which is related to “kalabalik” from earlier, only appeared in Swedish literature with sources as far back as 1755, and have no direct link to Charles XII.

As such, Tellstrom said the origins of meatballs in Sweden goes as far back as theorized, as after all meatballs and sausages almost have the same recipe. Tellstrom said he needed to state this opinion as the Swedish Institute may not have attributed its sources appropriately. It is important to take note, however, that Swedish meatballs are popularly attributed to King Charles XII.


MeatballsThe Meaty Scandal: What Are Swedish Meatballs?

Regardless of the controversy, Swedish meatballs remain to be a staple and popular dish among the Swedish. The meatballs are often accompanied with boiled or mashed potatoes, as well as a special brown sauce. Sometimes it’s also accompanied by lingonberry jam, a popular sweet condiment from northern Europe created from lingonberry, a cousin of blueberries and cranberries.

Swedish meatballs also come in different variants, with the most popular coming from Spain and Sweden. They’re also popularly eaten with pasta and potatoes, as well as spices, ketchup, and vegetables. The meatballs themselves are normally made from venison or veal, ground pork, ground beef, and even mixed with bread crumbs soaked in onions and milk, as well as cream and broth. These meatballs are also often seasoned with salt, allspice, and white pepper.

King Charles XII became king at the tender age of 15 back in 1697 and spent years in Bender in Moldova (Bendery today), which was then under Turkish rule at the time, before making a return in Sweden back in 1715. If the tweet was correct, he came back with a meatball recipe in tow – alongside stuffed cabbage and coffee bins.

Swedish meatballs received global popularity aside from the tweet courtesy of Scandinavian superstore IKEA, which is globally-acclaimed for its various products. In fact, IKEA is also offering vegetarian variants of these meatballs in its various restaurants, especially in its efforts to offer healthier options for dishes and decrease carbon footprints.



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