Why ‘Matlag’ might be your new favourite Swedish word

15 July 2016

Cooking, eating, hanging out with friends, it’s hard to choose which one we’d like to do most. Which is why we’re in love with the idea of matlag or food club. We met up with a group of young Swedes to learn how they turn a simple cook up into a super fun social event.

A group of young Swedes enjoying a matlag or food club A group of young Swedes enjoying a matlag or food club A group of young Swedes enjoying a matlag or food club A group of young Swedes enjoying a matlag or food club A group of young Swedes enjoying a matlag or food club A group of young Swedes enjoying a matlag or food club A group of young Swedes enjoying a matlag or food club A group of young Swedes enjoying a matlag or food club A group of young Swedes enjoying a matlag or food club A group of young Swedes enjoying a matlag or food club A group of young Swedes enjoying a matlag or food club A group of young Swedes enjoying a matlag or food club
A young man stirring a pot on a stove in a modern kitchen A young man stirring a pot on a stove in a modern kitchen A young man stirring a pot on a stove in a modern kitchen A young man stirring a pot on a stove in a modern kitchen A young man stirring a pot on a stove in a modern kitchen A young man stirring a pot on a stove in a modern kitchen A young man stirring a pot on a stove in a modern kitchen A young man stirring a pot on a stove in a modern kitchen A young man stirring a pot on a stove in a modern kitchen A young man stirring a pot on a stove in a modern kitchen A young man stirring a pot on a stove in a modern kitchen A young man stirring a pot on a stove in a modern kitchen
Food clubs or matlag are something we’re seeing more and more of in Sweden. The concept is pretty simple; gather a group of friends, choose a meal to make at each other’s houses and repeat every week or so. The common thread is that’s it’s an opportunity to hang out, try new foods, and save yourself from cooking every night. 
 
Over here they’re becoming a popular activity for families with young kids and, as we find out, students looking to expand their diets from ramen noodles and macaroni. 
 
Claudio and Gustaf are buddies from high school that use a food club as a way to keep in touch now that they’ve moved on to different jobs and colleges. They let us hang out with them for an evening to show us how it all works.
A young man selecting ingredients from a farmers market A young man selecting ingredients from a farmers market A young man selecting ingredients from a farmers market A young man selecting ingredients from a farmers market A young man selecting ingredients from a farmers market A young man selecting ingredients from a farmers market A young man selecting ingredients from a farmers market A young man selecting ingredients from a farmers market A young man selecting ingredients from a farmers market A young man selecting ingredients from a farmers market A young man selecting ingredients from a farmers market A young man selecting ingredients from a farmers market
The first part is checking out fresh ingredients at a local grocer with Claudio.
 
“We normally decide what to cook when we’re at the store. Anything seasonal is always good and normally cheaper too. This time it was asparagus and beets. I don’t think I’d ever worked with them before. They’re so distinctive.”
 
Even if the menu is flexible, the boys like to get organised by agreeing on a price range first up and pitching in money together. Then different people can be dispatched to buy different ingredients or drinks.
 
Gustaf explains; “part of sharing costs is that it lets us eat things we wouldn’t normally eat, and discover new dishes as well as splurging on something really nice from time to time.”
 
Then comes assigning roles. The boys recommend apart from cooks, make an entertainer, or dj, or drinks maker, or table setters. So everyone feels like they’re a part of things and no-one gets swamped doing something that starts to become like work. Just be sure to swap roles for different matlag even if not everyone’s a natural chef.
 
“We have two guys in the crew that never really cook, they’re more like we’ll buy the wine, we can shop for the ingredients, but they’re also the absolute jokers of the crew. On their shoulders, they’re the entertainers. Actually sometimes they cook, and sometimes it’s sloppy but somehow it’s always really good too.” says Claudio.

“Well, we were already hanging out all the time so it just became natural that we should eat together as well.”

Claudio, Food club enthusiast

A group of young Swedes cooking together as part of a food club. A group of young Swedes cooking together as part of a food club. A group of young Swedes cooking together as part of a food club. A group of young Swedes cooking together as part of a food club. A group of young Swedes cooking together as part of a food club. A group of young Swedes cooking together as part of a food club. A group of young Swedes cooking together as part of a food club. A group of young Swedes cooking together as part of a food club. A group of young Swedes cooking together as part of a food club. A group of young Swedes cooking together as part of a food club. A group of young Swedes cooking together as part of a food club. A group of young Swedes cooking together as part of a food club.
Even if they’re big fans of freestyling with recipes, a couple of classics shine through because of ease of making. Like many time poor chefs, Gustaf is a big fan of one pot dishes.
 
“I like to do one of those big pot dishes too, like a beef stew or chilli, because you can just chop everything up and let it bubble away, while you chat or do other stuff. Plus, often it can be really cheap.” 
 
But he’s big on trying new things too. 
 
“If you’re a meat and sauce kind of person, try out salads and veggies too. They’re cheaper and in lots of ways easier to cook and dish out. Pickling I love because you can be so creative with it. I once made pickled onions with star anise that we were pretty keen to try out as a dessert.”
 
Finally comes the plating and serving. As a point of difference (at least to some of our former student days), the boys like to dress the table and sit down to restaurant style settings for a sense of occasion. 
 
“Usually we sit down together because we think it’s important. But it’s not like a formal dinner! It’s music, hanging out, the whole experience.” Claudio explains.
 
Thanks guys for inviting us to your matlag. We loved seeing how you combined your enthusiasm for food with catching up with friends and making time for good times. Ps like the looks of that aspargus dish below? Here’s the recipe.
A young man setting a table as part of a “matlag” or food club A young man setting a table as part of a “matlag” or food club A young man setting a table as part of a “matlag” or food club A young man setting a table as part of a “matlag” or food club A young man setting a table as part of a “matlag” or food club A young man setting a table as part of a “matlag” or food club A young man setting a table as part of a “matlag” or food club A young man setting a table as part of a “matlag” or food club A young man setting a table as part of a “matlag” or food club A young man setting a table as part of a “matlag” or food club A young man setting a table as part of a “matlag” or food club A young man setting a table as part of a “matlag” or food club
A plate of grilled white asparagus and pickled beetroot. A plate of grilled white asparagus and pickled beetroot. A plate of grilled white asparagus and pickled beetroot. A plate of grilled white asparagus and pickled beetroot. A plate of grilled white asparagus and pickled beetroot. A plate of grilled white asparagus and pickled beetroot. A plate of grilled white asparagus and pickled beetroot. A plate of grilled white asparagus and pickled beetroot. A plate of grilled white asparagus and pickled beetroot. A plate of grilled white asparagus and pickled beetroot. A plate of grilled white asparagus and pickled beetroot. A plate of grilled white asparagus and pickled beetroot.
Taking a photo of a plate sometimes is as important as eating it. Taking a photo of a plate sometimes is as important as eating it. Taking a photo of a plate sometimes is as important as eating it. Taking a photo of a plate sometimes is as important as eating it. Taking a photo of a plate sometimes is as important as eating it. Taking a photo of a plate sometimes is as important as eating it. Taking a photo of a plate sometimes is as important as eating it. Taking a photo of a plate sometimes is as important as eating it. Taking a photo of a plate sometimes is as important as eating it. Taking a photo of a plate sometimes is as important as eating it. Taking a photo of a plate sometimes is as important as eating it. Taking a photo of a plate sometimes is as important as eating it.

“Come take a photo before the food gets cold!”

Gustaf, Matlag Maestro

 A group of people enjoying dessert outdoors as part of a food club in Sweden.  A group of people enjoying dessert outdoors as part of a food club in Sweden.  A group of people enjoying dessert outdoors as part of a food club in Sweden.  A group of people enjoying dessert outdoors as part of a food club in Sweden.  A group of people enjoying dessert outdoors as part of a food club in Sweden.  A group of people enjoying dessert outdoors as part of a food club in Sweden.  A group of people enjoying dessert outdoors as part of a food club in Sweden.  A group of people enjoying dessert outdoors as part of a food club in Sweden.  A group of people enjoying dessert outdoors as part of a food club in Sweden.  A group of people enjoying dessert outdoors as part of a food club in Sweden.  A group of people enjoying dessert outdoors as part of a food club in Sweden.  A group of people enjoying dessert outdoors as part of a food club in Sweden.

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