The Swedish Chef of Metric

By The Metric Maven

I’ve always had a soft spot for Sweden, even though I have never been there. I spent some of my youth living in the American ersatz version called Minnesota. I liked living there enough that a local grocer in my Iowa hometown would say “we don’t allow Minnesota Swedes in here” to rib me about it.

I try not to read too many of the online comments in reaction to my views on the best usage of the metric system from Europeans. Generally I’m told how they are from long-time metric countries, and I, who live in perhaps the last non-metric country, have no standing to discuss metric. Italians tell me they happily use deciliters, and the French embrace centimeters like freshly baked bread. I don’t get that excited, and tend to yawn at their oral gesticulating. I’m only concerned about the US, and should a miracle occur and it become metric, would push it do so with the best metric implementation possible—by 1000. I also have no emotional connection with Italy or France.

Pierre, the master chef, machinist, woodworker and histrionic anti-metric warrior, loves to go for the emotional jugular when amiably pointing out the “difficulties” in using metric to test my mettle, but he did not have good knowledge of an effective European target. Point to the French all you want Pierre, I have no emotional entanglement. But as a stopped watch is right twice a day, Pierre managed to hit an accidental bullseye when he brought up the Swedes in an email:

Next, bad news for you, I’m afraid. But, maybe I can benefit, so it’s really good news.

As you can see from the book “Scandinavian Quilt Style blah blah blah” Scandinavia doesn’t use the metric system! I’ve deleted the part of the book actually related to the contents, except the important page, which I’ve thoughtfully highlighted for you to make it easier to read. You are welcome.

Money quote:

I work with inches. I have used inches for years, my instructions are in inches and the people I sew with all use inches. All the designs in this book were made with inches and the instructions were written while sewing.

Published by a European publisher. For Europeans.

The good news (for me) is that there may be an opening to be an Imperial measurements consultant in Norway. Somebody’s got to help them transition back into the civilized world. Don’t be afraid of inches tour ’18. Yah!

Well, I did my best to remind myself that the clothing and textile industry from the days of Samuel S. Dale onward have done their best to repel any logical implementation of the metric system. Indeed, for some reason woodworking Swedes also hang onto their non-Anglo-Saxon inches, like crayfish at kräftskiva, but I’m also told that woodworkers often don’t bother to measure anything. I kept averting my eyes from Pierre’s prose, as if I was watching Freddy Kruger chasing down teenagers. Then Pierre continued his schadenfreude laden monologue:

This whole metric system thing is soooooo easy, huh?

Here’s a page from noted Swedish food author Erica Palmcrantz Aziz …. In her brand new book Superfood Boost, she presents a lovely voice trying to convince us to eat raw kale as often as possible. Yum! She also has a page on growing your own sprouts.

Here is that page. I call your attention to that first paragraph. The rest makes more sense, if you don’t mind moving your sprouts around from container to container for no reason.

Now, …. I’m sure that you are just like me and measure out precisely 1.5 fluid ounces of mung bean seeds, each time you sprout. But, how handy to know that in Sweden, she would use, and correct me if I’m wrong, one deciliter of seeds. That sounds like about a pound, which would fill my kitchen sink with product.

I’d use a tablespoon or two per quart jar. Apparently, their metric jars must be much bigger in the festive, kale eating world of Stockholm. (Actual quote from her book, “Kale is not just for Christmas anymore” p.27)

Later she says this: “Massage and toss the cabbage (and by this, she means kale) with some olive oil, salt, and lemon, or

add it to a smoothie or juice, or enjoy it with a creamy dressing. “

So, slather that stuff with a traditional Swedish ranch dressing and it’ll help you get it down. You know, for health.

Another time she says a benefit of kale eating is, “To fill up on chlorophyll, which is said to purify and detoxify the blood”

Now, I have a liver for that function, but your shitty cold-weather desperation tundra food “is said” to detoxify my blood?

We’ll let’s have some of that.

Massage your kale, Maven. Embrace the deciliter. Purify your blood. A wealth of wisdom here. You might want to download it.

So 100 mL and 500 mL was too difficult to use in Sweden?—deciliters are a better idea? Oh…the pain “Børk! Børk! Børk!”

A point I have made over the years is that countries that adopted the metric system in the 19th century are at a disadvantage over those who waited until the late 20th century to convert. Sweden, showing their progressive nature, embraced the metric system in 1876, after ignoring it for 9 years of their 10 year conversion, but like most metric countries, they adopted it, and then never thought about upgrading its use. This lack of introspection really cuts me to the quick. The happy Sven jokes I heard in Minnesota, are not as fun when I think of this fact. The use of deciliters and such by the Swedes indicates they are Mormons Making Coffee when it comes to the metric system. New Zealand (1969), Australia (1970) and South Africa (1971) use millimeters in their housing construction. They fearlessly use milliliters and grams without the prefix cluster around unity to cook.

Please Sweden, don’t leave me bereft, measure your meatballs in grams, measure their diameter in millimeters, and express their volume in milliliters. Until you do, it will perennially feel as uncomfortable as a warm winter for me. Don’t make me wait until Fimbulwinter freezes hell over, although that might still happen before the US becomes metric.

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5 thoughts on “The Swedish Chef of Metric

  1. At last, the United States has set a precedent for metric-only measurement. Quietly, in 2018, she nixed the teaspoonful and the tablespoonful from all liquid medication label instructions! Go to any “Drug Facts” panel on any medication product box or bottle from sea to shining sea. Not only will you now see only milliliter doses, you will even get a “dose” of metric education in the form of the statement, “mL = milliliter.”

    That being so in the world’s last bastion of legacy units, let’s take the SI out of parentheses and drop the legacy units EVERYWHERE. Let metric stand as our sole frame of measurement reference. The sooner, the better!

  2. Hmm. 1.5 fluid ounce is stated to be 1 dL. If a US fluid ounce is 30 mL, 1.5 fluid ounce is 45 mL, not 100 mL. Unless the Swedish Fluid ounce is bigger and equal to about 65 mL. This would be confusing. An American following the recipe would assume there is only one fluid ounce based on 30 mL and measure out 45 mL using a standard 15 mL tablespoon and be way short of the 100 mL required.

    There has got to be a plethora of wasted food when people follow non-metric recipes due to the local interpretations of pre-metric cooking words.

  3. Decilitres are awful. I lived in Norway for a while and that wouldn’t be the first conversion error I’ve seen related to their use. 1dL is obviously not the same as 1.5 fl oz.

    Their use should absolutely be abolished from all metric countries, along with centilitres.

    Litres and millilitres are the only volume measurements you need for cooking. Though the occasional “1 teaspoon” is also acceptable where the exact amount doesn’t matter. But teaspoons (plural) and tablespoons should still be avoided.


    I can look up Swedish recipes and if linked to an American site I’ll get cups and spoons. The site I linked above uses grams with some items showing ounces in parentheses.

    This one uses grams with ounces in parentheses. The thing is they are all in English.

    These are in Svenska and are fully metric. They use a mixture of mass and volume, volumes being in decilitres and “tsk” which I’m assuming is a teaspoon.

    I did come across one site with the introduction in Swedish but it stated they were American recipes in English. None of the recipes originating in Sweden and in Swedish used English measures, especially ounces. I believe the claim by the person trolling Metric Maven to be fake.

  5. I tried to scour the internet to find evidence of Swedish Quilt Style (Svenska Täcke Stil) only to find completed products all measured in centimetres. I didn’t find anything in Swedish or English giving actual dimensions of quilt patterns.

    However, I did find this website and noted on page 37 of 43 the following comment:

    There were classes, of course, and, except for the default language and preponderance of Husqvarna sewing machines, it looked a lot like American classes. Contemporary quiltmakers in Europe are generally influenced by American books, fabrics, and patterns, rather than by their own textile history, which, as we’ve seen, is largely invisible.

    So, it seems if there are no books on quilt making in Swedish and only American books are available, so it would be no surprise they are in inches with the possibility of centimetres in parentheses. One would have to inquire further as to how popular quilt making is in Sweden before one concludes how many people actually make an attempt to learn and work in inches.

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