Kräftskiva - Gastro Obscura
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Ritual & Medicinal

Kräftskiva

Don your party hat, sing, and chow down at these seasonal Swedish crayfish feasts.

When you arrive at a Swedish kräftskiva, or crayfish party, the first thing you’ll need to do is put on your party hat. These cone-shaped crowns are often adorned with cheery images of the freshwater-dwelling crustaceans. As you pull up a chair to the table, look up at the moon-shaped paper lanterns that your host has strung overhead. 

Don your bib and try not to be intimidated by the piles upon piles of crayfish that will be brought out to the table. The main course has typically been boiled in a mixture of water, salt, sugar, beer, and lots of crown dill, then chilled overnight. As you suck out the brainy bits from the critter’s head cavity, be sure to make a loud sucking noise. It’s not only allowed; it’s encouraged.

You’ll wash down the meal with large quantities of aquavit and beer. Then, it’s time to start singing. There are several official crayfish party songs. After each number, remember to raise your glass and take a shot.

These fun feasts, typically held between the first Wednesday of August and early September, originated as a way to celebrate the narrow window of Sweden’s crayfish season. After over-fishing decimated local populations in the early 20th century, the government limited the season to a few months, starting in August. Though restrictions have since eased up (and many diners buy imported crayfish), Swedes still toast the beginning of August, and the end of summer, with kräftskiva.

As they’re held at home, these parties are generally are not open to tourists. Many restaurants do offer traditionally prepared crayfish during the season, so one can at least taste what all the fuss is about. However, for the full kräftskiva experience, it’s best to make a Swedish friend and hope for an invitation.

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