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Your meatballs are delicious but also lies

Tim Nelson
May 03, 2018

What’s more synonymous with Swedish culture than Swedish meatballs? Often served with gravy or lingonberry jam and stuffed with everything from ground beef to venison, you can find them everywhere from Stockholm’s trendiest restaurants to your local IKEA (where some horse meat may wind up in the mix). But a shocking revelation from Sweden’s official Twitter account has upended everything we thought we knew about the Scandinavian country’s culinary staple.

That’s right: perhaps the most identifying element of Swedish cuisine seems to be the product of literal cultural appropriation. They came to the country from Turkey by way of King Charles XII, who historians believe spent some time hiding out in the Ottoman Empire during the Great Northern War. In addition to the Turkish meatball recipe (which are usually a mixture of ground beef and ground lamb and seasoned with parsley), Uppsala University researcher Annie Mattson told Turkey’s Andoly Agency that Charles XII also brought back coffee beans and stuffed cabbage.

While Turks have greeted news of Sweden’s “confession” with pride and enthusiasm, the shocking revelation has sent some in Sweden reeling. Örjan Johansson, in charge of the official @Sweden handle (which rotates between Swedes every week) when the news broke, simply tweeted that “My whole life has been a lie.”

So what happens next? Will Swedes embrace köfte, the Turkish cousin to Sweden’s saucy köttbullar? Will they latch onto lingonberries as their signature foodstuff? Not even the Swedish Chef knows the answer to those questions. In the meantime, just make sure you say “teşekkür ederim” for Turkey’s newly-revealed contribution to IKEA’s food menu.  

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