Every Summer, in August to more more exact, Swedes throw a party in honour of a very special crustacean. They wear hats, they sing songs and they drink copiously to celebrate its existence and that, regretfully in its case, it’s really tasty.
Keen to find out about this odd tradition, I recently spoke to Bronte Aurell, co-founder of Scandinavian Kitchen in London, to find out about these so-called Swedish Crayfish Parties (or kräftskiva as they call them in Sweden).
In this post, you’ll find out what you need to throw your own Swedish Crayfish party, but not before we learn about why this became such a favourite among Swedes.
A Brief History of Swedish Crayfish Parties
As a result of an early 1880’s law prohibiting crayfish from being fished in all but one month of the year, the freshwater crustaceans found themselves in extremely high demand. They really are that delicious!
Bronte says: “Back in the day, crayfish stocks were running low and a law was put in place to reduce the fishing. Only one month of the year was crayfish fishing allowed – so people looked forward to it so much that soon, the ‘season’ became a real event in the Scandinavian annual calendar.”
When the ban was lifted in August of each year, Swedes celebrated with vigour, eating them by the bucket load along with cheese, bread and copious swigs of beer and aquavit.
Even though the law has since been abolished, the tradition lives on and Swedes in both Sweden and Finland celebrate the crayfish with just as much enthusiasm as they did in the 1880’s.
The Perfect Swedish Crayfish Party (aka Kräftskiva)
So what’s it like going to a Swedish Crayfish Party and what do you need to throw your own successful, fun and ultimately authentic Kräftskiva? Who better to ask than Bronte…
Matt: Is going to a crayfish party a really important part of being Swedish?
Brote: Yes, absolutely. Even though the actual fishing season for crayfish is no longer enforced, we still stick to the tradition for the Crayfish Season – it keeps it special.
M: When was the last time you went to a crayfish party?
B: I had one this weekend, actually. At home, a perfect end to the bank holiday weekend. Surrounded by some good friends and some delicious crayfish. I think we tend to have 2-3 a year at home – we really enjoy the whole thing. And so many of our friends have grown to love crayfish season, too.
M: What typically happens at a crayfish party?
B: Aside from huge bowls of delicious crayfish and a lot of shelling? Ohhh, we sing quite a bit, eat a lot and slurp!
M: What does one need for the perfect crayfish party?
B: The main event is the crayfish – budget around 600g per person. Along side this, you need some ‘fillers’ – a few salads, maybe. But mainly, it’s the crayfish, the crusty bread, the crispbread and the cheese. On top of this you need crayfish bibs, serviette and silly crayfish hats, too.
M: If you could only give one top tip for the perfect crayfish party, what would that tip be?
B: Always make sure people know how to peel a crayfish. It makes it so much easier. Always also make sure that you have food on the table that fills you up – or else novices may end up tipsy a bit too soon if enjoying the One Shot of Aquavit per Claw. The trick really is to pace yourself!
M: Can we get our crayfish party stuff from ScandiKitchen?
B: Yes – you can get the lot. Boxes of ready cooked crayfish, napkins, lanterns, bibs… Silly hats, too. Add to this some great crispbread such as Leksands. A good hunk of Vasterbotten cheese – and a bottle of chilled aquavit… And you’re good to go. Just add good friends and some ABBA on the old stereo…
More about Scandinavian Kitchen
Scandinavian Kitchen (or ScandiKitchen for short) is a very popular cafe and grocery store providing freshly made and imported food from all over Scandinavia. On the menu, you’ll find hotdogs (with all the trimmings), meatballs, scrumtious cakes and a selection of tasty open sandwiches. As well as eating in, you can browse the shelves for Scandinavian treats or order online from their website.
How to get to ScandiKitchen
You can find ScandiKitchen just off Regent Street on Great Titchfield Street (find it on Google Maps). The nearest Underground station is Oxford Circus.
Will you be holding your own Crayfish Party? Have you already held one? How’d it go? Any tips? Let us know in the comments below.