Wednesday, March 06, 2013


Today I went to Fika, which is a Swedish cafe. In Arab Street. In Singapore. Serving food which is halal. There's a fair few collisions of different cuisines, cultures and nations going on there. A pity, perhaps, that all I had was some cheesecake. I suppose the horsemeatballs would probably have been out of stock.

Fika is on the corner of Arab Street, quite near a Mexican restaurant that used to be quite good (and isn't any more) and down the street from a place selling carpets, and another one that sells Shimano fishing equipment.  There's a sign outside the cafe with the silhouette of an enormous moose (or perhaps an elk, or a reindeer - I was frequently chastised by my Swedish friends for not paying attention to exactly which were the native species of Sweden) and inside there is a good range of different cakes.  There's also strong coffee, but since I'm avoiding caffeine this week, that wasn't much good for me.

The Swedes, along with the Finns, have a reputation for being some of the heaviest consumers of coffee in the world.  It's all those long dark nights and short days.  Then again, London is on the same latitude as parts of Sweden, and you don't get Brits drinking lots of coffee and being doleful - well, you didn't, before Starbucks arrived and extolled the benefits of a North-Western lifestyle.  But think about it a bit more carefully - there's huge numbers of Scandinavians holed up in the Pacific North-West; the countryside is a bit like a big flat field somewhere outside of Gothenburg.  Starbucks' move into the UK was just another invasion by the Vikings, designed to confuse us by coming from the wrong direction and about 900 years late.

Enough of such econo-geo-political paranoia.  Fika is the only Swedish cafe that I have found in Singapore, which either means there hasn't been a concerted effort to invade, or they've been so good at it that we just haven't noticed.  Well, I've checked the road signs and there are no Os with a slash through them, or polite looking people crossing the road while wearing hats.  Singapore is fairly free from Swedes, I would have to say.

My wife had a cinnamon roll, which looked a bit like a semlor, but not quite enough. I had a block of fudge cheesecake only slightly smaller than my head, which was probably a mistake.  You need lots of energy to conquer the Great White North/assemble Volvos/fight polar bears, which is why Swedes chew tobacco and eat Dumle. That sort of dense energy supply isn't so necessary in Singapore (far fewer bears to fight) and the more significant problem is how to shed heat and avoid dehydration.  Still, I can't complain, I did choose it.  As we got in a taxi and headed back to Chinatown, it was only with the greatest of efforts that I remained conscious, rather than falling into the post-sugar-high trough of despair.

Anyway, today I learned that there was a Swedish cafe in a vaguely improbable place, and I also read about the US military killing lots of sheep with nerve gas in the 1960s.  It's been a busy day, one way or another.


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