Viking Imagery Contested On Pizza Box

A buddy & colleague of mine took this picture in an Eslöv pizza place, commenting drily that it's a fine example of how the cultural heritage can be used. We've got Thor's hammer, we've got two cartoon Vikings, we've got Swedish flags, and note the three yellow crowns on a blue background: the arms of the Kingdom of Sweden, a strong nationalist statement.

Rural Eslöv municipality is one of the anti-immigration Swedish Hate Party's strongholds, with 22% of the vote in the last election. Vikings and Scandinavian Paganism are of course much beloved by the extreme Right, and stylewise the logo's design is straight out of white supremacy iconography.

But, but, but. Naples' priceless gift to world cuisine, the pizza, was completely unknown in Sweden before the 1960s. And Pizzeria Viking, as is the rule with Swedish pizza places, is owned and staffed by non-Italian immigrants. The proprietor Idris Husein is from Mardin in Turkish Kurdistan, not far from Diyarbakır. Mr. Husein and his family has been running restaurants in Sweden för 20 years. And when I look at their company logo, I get the feeling that they have a both a fine sense of humour and a keen eye for political imagery.

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This raises an important question though, why did the Turks migrating to Sweden in the 70s and 80s open pizza places? Some of those who migrated to Germany, as an example, opened Turkish restaurants instead. That's why you can get a lahmacun in Germany but not in Sweden. While the kebab pizza shows that Swedish taste buds are open for some foreign flavours, the lahmacun are still missing.

P.S. Horns on helmets still pisses me off, but the group Soldiers of Odin pisses me off even more.

By Matti Palmström (not verified) on 11 Feb 2017 #permalink

Partly that may be that in Germany so many Italians opened pizza places that the market was saturated. (As well as Italian Ice Cream places at least in the 1980s)

Personally, I love that kind of fusion stuff. As an American, I'm used to it since we've had a long line of immigrants since before Columbus. It sounds like those guys are adopting to the iconography of their new country. There are things associated with authenticity which is why Olga of Kiev celebrated her conversion to Christianity by issuing coins with Allah Akbar on them. Allah Akbar meant real money. The fact that no long time Swede would consider wearing a "Viking" helmet or lugging around Thor's hammer, except maybe for a convention, doesn't mean newcomers don't get a kick out of it. They're becoming Swedes and changing Sweden.

I recently had a fun experience with this cross national fusion. Our car broke down in Poulsbo. That part wasn't fun. We wound up needing to take a few taxis. There are a lot of folks with a strong Scandinavian heritage in the area, so we wound up taking Viking taxis. The driver would call in on the radio, "Heimdall to Valhalla, I'm almost at the ferry for the drop off." It definitely added some local color.

Lyle: If you don't like horns on helmets, avoid a lot of US cities on Von Steuben Day. Von Steuben was a German immigrant who served as a general in the American Revolution. Many Americans of German descent celebrate the day by wearing horned helmets, eating German food and marching in parades. I learned this some years back when I noticed a huge group of women in horned helmets near Grand Central Station in NYC and asked them what the helmets were for. I think they were Valkyrie. (Of course, the weirdest group I saw was when the entire midtown region was flooded by girls in green Girl Scout uniforms, but that's another story.)

I think that the Turks in Germany initially opened restaurants mainly for other Turks, whereas later the locals also started attending them. (In contrast to, say, Chinese restaurants, which have always been primarily for the locals.) There are enough Turks in Germany for this to be viable. Perhaps not an option for Middle-Eastern immigrants in Sweden, so pizza was a little less foreign and more attractive to the locals.

By the way, Swedish pizza---exactly the kind Martin is talking about---is the best in the world.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 13 Feb 2017 #permalink

The connection between Vikings and Scandinavian Paganism and the Right can be weird for some Americans who aren't aware of the connection. My family has Swedish ancestors (and family still) and one of my cousins is really into the idea of being a Viking (he's got the beard for it) and occasionally links to articles and websites that look OK at first glance but then are actually super Nazi.

But I totally get why he likes the idea of Viking ancestors; because the reality of fishermen or farmers who took to the cold, boring parts of the US, hardly ever said anything and never, ever spoke about their feelings is no fun at all. Great-great-grandfather Lars who never told his kids he loved them? Blah. Lief Ericson? Way cool!

By JustaTech (not verified) on 13 Feb 2017 #permalink