Words & Photography by Kristina Sälgvik
My mother was born in rural Sweden in 1948. She lived with her parents and maternal grandmother in a little red one-bedroom cottage. There was no bathroom, only an outside toilet and the lake nearby.
“I remember how we used to wash our clothes and rugs in the stream when I was a child, I thought it was so much fun! But looking back on it now it can’t have been easy for my mum and grandma, sometimes they had to break the ice to get to the water”
My grandfather was, amongst other things, a butcher. Meat was hung from the ceiling in the barn to tenderize, and stored in large barrels of salt to keep from spoiling. They kept chickens and pigs and fished for perch and pike in the lake. My grandmother was – also amongst other things – a seamstress, and weaved and sewed to meet the family’s needs.
When my mother was 6, her family built a new house on the same land. It had bathrooms, heating and a fridge/freezer that my great grandmother refused to accept. She would not eat anything that had been stored in the fridge, claiming it was dangerous and spoilt the food.
Considering her background, it is not strange that my mum is so tenacious when it comes to foraging and making the most of what nature has to offer. I remember hours of childhood boredom in blueberry & lingonberry woods, picking and picking until we could hardly carry the buckets back. She generally picks far more than her & dad will eat, and thus gives her conserves away left right and centre. Countless jars of lingonberry jam have found their way to the UK in my suitcase, along with bags of dried mushrooms and herbs.
Mum’s staples are:
Currant Jam (black)
Currant Cordial (black & red)
Apple Sauce & Cordial