Let’s Do Fika!

“What the world needs now is love sweet love.” Love would be the whipping cream on the cake. While we can’t make all humans loving, we can make life sweeter—especially those of us with more time than responsibilities.  

The word fika comes from the 19th-century word kaffi (coffee). The Swedes switched the positions of the two syllables, kaf-fi, and removed an “f” to make it fika. “Fika” translates as “a coffee and cake break.” 

Scandinavians, like Americans, enjoy their morning joe, but fika isn’t just about helping us wake up. Fika is about bringing people together and strengthening social bonds. Retirement is a great time to host a fika, be it one friend or ten. The key is to carve out time with your best buds. It can be a matter of mental survival.  

People with Swedish and Icelandic backgrounds have the concept of fika ingrained in them from childhood. Routinely, our mothers had something in the oven to welcome friends for a fikastund (the moment you have fika). In my mind’s eye, I can see my aunts sitting at the kitchen table talking about the recent fish catch of cod and haddock, etc. In the fifties, fisheries (not tourism) were the pillars of the Icelandic economy. But I also recall family talks, current events, and laughter. It wasn’t until later I recognized the importance of women coming together.

Fika, pronounced “fee-ka” is as common as breakfast. It describes the moment when we take a break with coffee or tea and pair it up with baked goods. Like Dr. Seuss told us in Green Eggs and Ham, “You can do it here. You can do it there. In your house or with a mouse.” The essential thing is that you take the time to connect; that’s what fikastund is all about. 

For my mother’s generation, baking from scratch was the norm. Baked classic recipes, the kind you’d find in grandma’s recipe box, apple pie, scones, pönnukökur, cinnamon buns, gingerbread cake, etc. Being together in person instead of Zoom, Messenger, or FaceTime is the difference between home-baked versus store bought sweets. What can be more meaningful than taking a moment to pair coffee, baked goods, and your favorite women friends?  

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Crepes (pönnukökur) are a popular offering for fikastund in Iceland. These thin, delicate crepes are fried in a pan, served with sugar or jam, and whipped cream, rolled up or folded. Pönnuköku panna (crepe pan) made it on my daughters’ bridal registries. They are passing this tradition to their daughters.  

But, there may be a middle ground for those who can’t see themselves baking anything— but value time with friends— a good bakery could substitute.

Instead of sending off another text to connect with friends, take a break from screens. Resist the urge to make Facebook, Skype, or Zoom your social life. Celebrating events with a heart or thumbs-up emoji lacks the impact supportive relationships offer. Time spent together in person nurtures us. Next time you need to be with other human beings, call them on the phone and say, “Let’s do fika.”

Sources: 

Grandma’s Best Baking Recipes https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/grandma-s-best-baking-recipes/

Recipe for pönnukökur https://evalaufeykjaran.is/islenskar-ponnukokur-me-sultu-og-rjoma/

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