Monday, October 1, 2012

Cafe Lagom

This many strollers in front gives you a good indication of its popularity
There is a super sweet cafe behind our house that is an old farmhouse, Cafe Långagen, that is about a 10 minute walk from our front door.  It is one of the best cafes on our island and has a great playground in the back for kids.  Calvin loves playing in its sandbox and the food is top notch and reasonably priced.  You can enjoy a gourmet lunch outside, watching your kid play on the slide and relaxing with your dog at your feet.  What's not to love?

However, there is one aspect
of this cafe that is unlike any other Swedish cafe that we've come across.  It has a lagom policy when it comes to desserts.

What is lagom, you ask? Lagom is a Swedish word with no direct English translation, meaning "just the right amount."  Apparently you can walk into a Swedish butcher shop and if he asks you how much meat you want, a legitimate response could be, "Oh, you know. Lagom."  What?!? How is that acceptable?  Anyway, we've worked this word into our lexicon and have fully embraced its beautiful ambiguity. "Was there enough sugar in your coffee?" "Oh yes, lagom."  It's an awesome word and everyone could benefit from using it.

So, back to Cafe Långagen and their lagom desserts. Like all cafes here in Stockholm, you order your food at the cashier and then sit down and wait for them to bring it to you.  Not waiter service, but there is no counter either.  When you order a dessert, the cashier tells you, "Ok, go take your cobbler/cake/pie/delicious dessert from the table there."  You look at the table and figure, Ok, the cake will be pre-sliced or something so that I know how much to take.  Nope.  It's lagom style.  You have the knife and you are in charge of cutting a piece that is lagom sized.  Not too big and not too small.  Do you know how STRESSFUL that is?  You just paid 40 SEK/$6 for a slice of cake and you want to take your money's worth but not look like a greedy American or just a plain fatty.  Not wanting to come across like a uncouth fat American who doesn't understand that the world is not an endless happy hour buffet, I stood there with the knife hovering over the full piece of carrot cake for about 2 minutes.

As soon as I put the knife into the cake, I regretted it. I portioned out a piece that wasn't lagom at all.  It was too small!  Regardless if your piece of cake is teeny weeny you can't go back for another slice. I didn't pay for TWO slices, only one.  And how does the cobbler work?  That comes with a spoon and is all crumbly and impossible to measure lagom-ly, right?

And how ballsy is the proprietor of the cafe?  Trusting customers not to take him for a sucker and only take a portion they paid for.  I suppose it's not a bad idea because you'll figure that people will err on the side of caution (like I did) and cut a piece that is smaller than what you would normally serve for the same price.  Money in the bank.  Being in Sweden, you can count on people to be honest and not rip you off by just taking the whole pie and calling that their portion.

By the way, this policy would NEVER work in the US.  Because too many people believe the world is their happy hour buffet and they "take what I want."  Am I wrong?  

I went outside to our table with our very non-lagom piece of carrot cake and was emotionally exhausted.  From now on, I think I'll just stick to sandwiches.


  1. And now I'm in the mood for some carrot cake. I hope, at least, that it was delicious!

    1. Oh it was delicious cake! All of the food there is excellent. Next time i order dessert, I'll have Jon do the cutting ;-)

  2. Good call on that one! I know Michael would take PLENTY! Very American of him I guess! I like Lagom. I need to start using it!

    1. it's a good word!

      Michael would come out ahead here in Sweden. You should visit! :-)


Leave your thoughts here