I’m addicted to grӧt. Translation: porridge. American translation: oatmeal with stuff in it.
I’ve lived in Stockholm for exactly one month now, and this is what life has come to. I am cold all the time, most foods lead to mysterious stomachaches, and I only want to eat out of bowls. So then, when I went to Pom & Flora (a super pretty and yes, hip, café) one morning and ordered a bowl of what I could only tell was vegan and had bananas and chia seeds in it, I was surprisingly thrilled when the server placed a big bowl of steamy oatmeal in front of me. I’ve never liked oatmeal. But porridge? Sign me up?
Porridge has a certain romance to it—it’s the stuff of the fairy tales, a food consumed by urchin children and forest animals all cozied up in tiny hovels. And, apparently, Swedes. Grӧt appears on the menu of nearly every hipster café in Stockholm (I know, because I’ve systematically visited all of them. Have I mentioned I have no friends here?). At Pom & Flora, it came topped with shaved pears, coconut flakes, cinnamon muesli, hazelnuts, and flax seeds. Greasy Spoon cooks theirs with rice milk, bananas, and cinnamon and tops it with mixed berries and candied pecans. Kaffeverket keeps it simple with cinnamon apple compote and a side of cold havredryck (oat milk).
Today, in honor of my surviving one month of limited sunlight, I’ve developed my own perfect porridge, taking bits and pieces from my café favorites. Speaking of favorites, here are some things I adore about my adopted home:
Cozy. Taco. Friday. The good people of Sweden legit have a single word that means all of those things. Each and every Friday, should you wander into a grocery store, you’ll find the area surrounding the Mexican food aisle completely packed. Likewise, if you try to hit up Taco Bar or La Neta on a Friday night, you’ll have to wait hours for a table. Why? Fridays are taco days. Why? I have no idea. But I love it.
Those of you who know me know I’m cursed with lactose intolerance. I thought, mistakenly, that Swedish cuisine would be my hell: full of milk, butter, and cream. While traditional Swedish food is definitely soaked in dairy, most food establishments in Stockholm tend to offer one or more “laktosfri” options. The grocery stores are even better: there’s always an entire case dedicated to the dairy-free goods. Hallelujah.
Speaking of dairy-free things, havredryck, or oat milk, is one of my new favorite liquids to consume. It’s creamy and not-too-sweet and doesn’t separate in the gross way that soy and almond milks tend to. And oat milk yogurt? Ice cream? Sour cream? All amazing.
Yes, they are real, and yes they live in Sweden. You won’t find any in or around Stockholm, but if you travel up north, check your jerky: it might be made of Rudolph. Eep.
OK, so this isn’t exactly a favorite thing of mine, but I do find it totally crazy: parents will actually leave their babies outside in their strollers while they go into a cafe to eat. Yes, in the winter. Apparently, Stockholm is so safe that people don’t worry about leaving their coats and bags on the backs of their chairs while they get up to order or use the bathroom, and they don’t mind leaving their babies unattended OUTSIDE. I’ve heard the practice defended with words like, “They are bundled up in so many layers that their strollers are like little ovens.” But still, what??
Meet the subway system of Stockholm. It’s unlike any in the U.S. of A. It’s clean, quiet, and you pay by filling up a reusable plastic card that you tap on a reader to enter. No one eats or drinks or talks on the tracks or trains, and there’s no garbage, no used gum or cigarette butts, and no puke in sight. Ever. Imagine that.
There's more, of course, but I'll save some for next month...
Maple Banana Porridge
Yield: one large serving, or two smaller portions.
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 2 cups oat milk
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 ripe banana, sliced
- 1 tbsp toasted hazelnuts, chopped in half
- 2 tsp coconut flakes
- ¼ tsp chia seeds
Stir the oats, milk, and salt together in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer for 5-6 minutes or until it reaches your desired consistency, stirring often. Remove the porridge from heat and stir in the vanilla, sugar, and maple syrup.
Transfer porridge to a bowl and top with banana slices and hazelnuts. Sprinkle on a tiny bit more brown sugar, then the coconut and chia seeds. Finish by drizzling a little more maple syrup over the top. If you like runnier porridge, pour cold oat milk on top.