Meat Means War
March 22, 2011 17:13

I have never quite accepted the meatball subs that sustain my sister. (Then again, she also loves that dog food Chef Boyardee calls Spaghettios.) I grew up eating spaghetti and meatballs, smothered in tomato sauce. As a pureblood Italian, it’s just what we do.

To me, meatballs mean business. My mom and I pull up our sleeves and start rolling baseball-size meatballs out of ground beef, mixed with some parsley, breadcrumbs, and a few other extras. Simmering in a saucepan, fishing them out reminds me of bobbing for apples, although my mom insists I use a spoon. They turn out perfectly juicy, and look picturesque atop a mountain of pasta.

So upon my first trip to IKEA, you can imagine my surprise when I read the words “Swedish meatballs” in the cafeteria. Meatballs, from Sweden!? It hurt my hears, but my mouth was curious.

A little research quieted the questions screaming in my head. Almost every country claims its own iteration of a meatball, since it’s essentially a dish made up of leftovers. I withdrew my armies positioned at the Swedish border.

Meat used to be so rare that nothing was ever wasted. And up until meat-grinders were invented, our tightly packed pals were made with hand-shredded meat. Whether it’s beef, pork, turkey, veal, or even moose, the makeup of a meatball is fairly malleable, depending on the country.

The Swedish meatball is a whole other species from my Italian polpette, made mainly by mixing half pork and half beef, and traditionally topped with a sweet-tart lingonberry jam. The Scandinavian appetizer quickly becomes a main meal when dished out of egg noodles and peas. I’d call the lack of sauce sacrilegious if golf ball-sized köttbullar weren’t so adorable.