Marsh Meringue

Here are two pieces of convoluted Scandy and English etymology that converge in my head.

“Marshmallow” was originally the common name of a plant, Althaea officinalis (Sw. läkemalva), from which a thickening agent was made. This agent was added to meringue foam to produce the toastable sweet pillows we all know and love. And so the sweet took over the name of the marsh-dwelling mallow plant.

On GÃ¥lö, the peninsula where I helped with excavations yesterday, is a place called Kärrmaräng. This means “Marsh Lagoon Meadow”, but the Swedish word for meringue is maräng, so “Kärrmaräng” looks like it should be read “Marsh Meringue”.

I wonder if Althaea officinalis grows at Kärrmaräng. It sounds like good place to light a camp fire and toast marshmallows.


Stockholm Blogmeet 2 September


The 6th Aardvarchaeology blogmeet was a friendly three-hour affair with good food, good drink and good company. ‘Twas me, Kai, MÃ¥rten, Per G, Sigmund, Thinker and Tor, and an excellent time was had at Akkurat.

Here’s the historical record of blogmeets past. The archaeological record is, due to modern waste-disposal habits, sadly lost.

  1. Wirström’s, March ’07.
  2. Wirström’s, September ’07.
  3. Wirström’s, January ’08.
  4. Akkurat, September ’08.
  5. Akkurat, March ’09.
  6. Akkurat, September ’09.

In the interest of consistency — three blogmeets at each tavern — we must find a new venue for the seventh blogmeet come spring. Suggestions?

Me And My Tea

I love black tea, and by that I mean brews from leaves of Camellia sinensis and C. s. assamica, nothing else, milk and sugar please.

Earl Grey is basically Assam flavoured with oil of bergamot, a citrus fruit. It’s OK if there’s no plain tea. But many café employees believe that Earl Grey is plain tea.

Sometimes I drink honeybush which is kind of nice, but that’s another plant and nothing compared to real tea. I don’t like rooibos much.

Here are my favourite teas.

  • Assam CTC. This is Crushed, Torn and Curled Assamica. Dark, strong, the main ingredient in “English breakfast”.
  • Yunnan (Swedes, this is pronounced “jynnän”; Anglophones, you will never learn to pronounce that first vowel) and Keemun. Chinese black teas with a hint of woodsmoke, like delicate versions of the outrageous Lapsang souchong.
  • Black tea dust. This is actually considered low-budget stuff, but it makes for a strong brew which is what I mainly care about.

I don’t like these:

  • Oolong and Darjeeling. Sour-tasting.
  • Ceylon. Weak unsatisfying stuff. Maybe I should try grinding Ceylon into dust.

[More blog entries about ; .]

Chanterelle Season


Yesterday saw the season’s first mushroom expedition. A bit early for real diversity, with only four edible species collected, but on the other hand we found quite a lot of chanterelles.

  • Chanterelle, Kantarell, Cantharellus cibarius
  • Birch bolete, Björksopp, Leccinum scabrum
  • Orange Birch Bolete, Tegelsopp, Leccinum versepelle
  • Red russula, Tegelkremla, Russula decolorans

As a Swedish journalist once wrote, paraphrasing the Scarlet Pimpernel:

They find him here
They find him there
They say they find him everywhere
Is he in Heaven or is he in Hell?
That damned elusive Chanterelle

North European Natural Caffeine Source?

An idle thought struck me. Let’s say you’re on the latitude of Northern Europe and you’ve become a locavore, someone who avoids foodstuffs that must be transported far from their production site. Let’s also say that you don’t like greenhouses. And finally, let’s say you’re hooked on coffee or tea. Is there a caffeine source that can be grown outdoors in Northern Europe?

Most psychoactive substances only occur in a small group of closely related plants. But caffeine pops up in widely divergent branches of the floral kingdom. Does anybody know of a caffeine-producing plant that, say, a Dane or a Canadian could grow in his back yard?

Energy is Good, Calories are Bad

Everybody knows that energy is good for you and calories are bad for you. What newagers, health nuts and alties seem to be completely ignorant of is that both words originate in physics and that they refer to the same thing.

Energy “is a scalar physical quantity that describes the amount of work that can be performed by a force”. It can be measured in various units, in the context of food usually kilocalories. A Snickers bar contains about 150 kilocalories, which is equal to the energy content of about 20 ml of gasoline.

Both energy content estimates of course refer to the amount of chemical energy you get out of the stuff when using it to fuel the pertinent piece of machinery, viz a car engine for gasoline and a human body for Snickers bars. The atomic energy content is way, way greater, but we haven’t got the technology to run nuclear power plants on chocolate just yet.

Oh, and you know when newagers speak of “spiritual energy”? It’s a meaningless phrase.

May Entertainments


One of these men is an extremely zany comics artist and celebrated wit. The other is a stuffy scholar in an abstruse field.

We’ve had a three-day holiday thanks to Friday being 1 May — a red-letter day in Sweden since 1939. Here’s the entertainments I’ve enjoyed.

  • Went with wife & kids to the local Walpurgis Night bonfire, met loads of neighbours old and new.
  • Played Abalone, Tigris & Euphrates and Qwirkle with Kai and other friends.
  • Went to a lovely dinner at the home of my friends Mattias & Lina.
  • Took a morning bike ride and walk in the woods to log a geocache that had appeared near my home.
  • Went to the Kapten Stofil tenth anniversary event, met comic artists Joakim Lindengren, David Nessle and Camilla Forsman and off-beat culture historian Martin Kristenson. All a great pleasure to meet, and I was particularly pleased to meet Nessle who, apart from creating achingly funny comics, is also one of the Swedish language’s wittiest bloggers. I have of course been a Lindengren fan for over 20 years.
  • Left the kids with the world’s best ex-wife, drove with the world’s best wife to Duveholm manor near Katrineholm. Had tea, took a long walk among the anemones and over to the next manor over, Djulöholm, saw an abandoned tree-house, had a fine four-course dinner, slept well, had a good breakfast, took another walk.




  • Drove to Eskilstuna prompted by The White Guide, was not terribly impressed by the food at the recommended restaurant.
  • Drove to historical author friends Kristina & Bo in rural Vallentuna, had canapés, admired the resplendent birthday girl and their new house.
  • Played Go fish with wife & daughter.

Did you do anything fun over the weekend, Dear Reader?

Hellish Yoghurt Diversification

i-25c1821dc9872d14f6a7fb0659559093-17440.jpgThere is a genre of complaints that I usually find a little silly: the Starbucks breakdown, which occurs when somebody’s offered too many options. But now I’ve run into the problem myself. Yoghurt diversification.

I buy most of our milk & yoghurt to save my wife some carrying. And the damn yoghurt, that was a single product when I was a kid, now presents me with a four-parameter choice! I need to make sure I get:

  • Non-light
  • Enviro-friendly
  • Mild acidity
  • Unflavoured

Hard Core Finnish Easter Dessert


It looks like chocolate fudge cake. It tastes like compact sour-dough rye bread and molasses. It is basically compact sour-dough rye bread and molasses. You have it at Easter, cold, with cream and sugar. It is a Finnish thing. It is very strange.

It is memma. You will grow to like it.