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Summer means the much beloved ritual of eating crayfish – noisily, greedily and in great company.
The Swedes are crazy about those little shellfish that come from the lake every year, and that, starting in August, invade the markets and fish shops throughout the country, causing a commercial frenzy.
Every country house, every inhabited island, every garden fills up with paper lanterns, streamers, table cloths, napkins, paper plates, cups and hats with decorated with a single motif: the red crayfish. Evenings are spent eating dozens of them, of singing and drinking.
The traditional red shellfish are those found in the lakes and rivers, fished during the night and that are, these days, rare and expensive. With the country’s high demand for crayfish, many now are imported from the United States and even China.
A summer crayfish party is a chance to gather friends and relatives around a table for a meal. The centrepiece of the meal is a large tray full of shellfish, cooked in salt water and scented with anise. The ritual for eating them is known by all and rigorously adhered to: the shell is pierced right behind the head and then the juices get sucked out – noisily. Then, it’s time to remove the legs, one by one, and suck those as well. And then comes the claws: suck, break the shells, eat the meat inside. And finally it’s time for the tail, the best part of all. This whole feast is accompanied by rye bread and seasoned cheese with cumin. And of course, washed down with beer and schnapps, a glass for each claw – as tradition dictates.