In Sweden, there always seems to be a right time and place for most everything you do. Right now, the thing to do is have a crayfish party. Starting in August, the newspapers begin rating which crayfish are the best ones to eat this year. While those from the US, China or Turkey will make it into the rankings, it always seems that the crayfish from Sweden are deemed the best. Then armed with this knowledge, you can safely buy your crayfish and have a party.
If it’s warm enough, the party is outside and there should be lots of paper lanterns and candles. Paper table cloths, napkins, bibs and hats decorated with crayfish are all laid out for guests. As for the crayfish themselves, they are cooked in a brine with dill and served cold on a heaping platter with lemon and dill. You eat the crayfish with your hands and are expected to also suck the juices from the crustaceans as well, so there tends to be a lot of slurping going on at the table. Since I did not grow up eating crayfish, I am none too skilled with getting the meat out. Luckily, I’ve always sat next to an obliging helper. (Like any Swedish party, you are never allowed to sit next to your spouse.)
As all this finger food gets messy, bowls of water with lemon also accompany the meal so you can clean up along the way. Mounds of empty shells pile up and lots of napkins get used.
On the side, the tradition calls for having bread and a strong cheese such as Västerbotten. But perhaps most importantly, you have to drink snaps and sing drinking songs. Every crayfish party that I’ve been to thus far has provided songbooks for the guests so that there’s no excuse to not sing along. And as the night goes on, the party inevitably gets a bit loud what with all the snaps and singing.