Fika in Stockholm
“Fika” is a lovable tradition in Swedish culture. The basic meaning, as a verb, is “to have coffee” or, as a noun, something similar to a coffee-break, or something akin to afternoon tea. Fika is usually coffee accompanied by sweet pastries, traditionally cinnamon buns–and friends and conversation. Fika is more than just the coffee and pastries. It includes a social dimension of meeting together with friends, family or colleagues over a cup of coffee, accompanied by a pastry.
On my first day in Stockholm, after indulging in the hotel’s sumptuous breakfast buffet, I decided to explore Stockholm on a long self-guided walking tour. After meandering through many, many miles of Stockholm’s Old Town cobblestone streets and Ostermalm’s shopping districts and scenic waterfronts, I finally regained an appetite. Searching for the best nearby place to fika, I was fortunate to find Vete-Katten.
Vete–Katten, possibly the most famous café in Stockholm, is located at Kungsgatan 55, amidst some wonderful shops. Its own website includes an interesting history of the cafe: “Vete-Katten was founded in 1928 by a particularly forthright lady, Ester Nordhammar. In those days – women had only had the vote for a couple of years – very few companies were run by women, and even fewer patisseries. Ester, who was 42, had considerable professional experience, including working as a clerk, but had barely even set foot in a bakery. She had the idea to start a simple patisserie, “decorated like a vicarage”, as someone said, offering pastries, bread and buns of the highest quality. It is said that the name was spawned when Ester was asked what her bakery would be called and answered: “Ja, det vete katten”, which in Swedish can mean both “the cat knows” and “the wheat cat”. Somebody must have liked the spontaneity of this and the play on words, so the name stuck. Another idea she had was to exclusively employ young women in the business (and she held by this, as not a single man was employed at Vete–Katten until 1961, the year Ester died)….” http://www.vetekatten.se/en/
The cafe was filled with people of all ages, some alone and some in groups and all enjoying the atmosphere and delicious coffees and pastries.
I asked for help in English in making selections and my companion and I opted for the recommended cinnamon bun and princess cake, along with espresso and cappuccino. (on a return trip a few days later we branched out and ordered the cinnamon bun and the blueberry vanilla cream filled bun). (At this point, you may be thinking–wait–those are not whole food, plant-based, vegan and oil free!!! And, you would be right. Part of my Table Karma philosophy is–when in Rome…. My companion was not vegan, and I opted for the most vegan version I could, while still enjoying the local culture, cuisine, and travel experience. So, I had the cinnamon bun and espresso.) After ordering in line and paying, we picked up utensils and napkins at a nearby station and were surprised to see a platter laden with a generous selection of fresh baked breads, butter and jams that were offered for the taking! It was an amazing place to Fika!