Christmas in the Middle East – STRÅLA and Sardine-flavored Candy Canes

Darling! It’s here!! It’s finally here!!! The day when we may with clean conscious start to decorate for Christmas.

If you live in Canada, the snow is falling, the carols are singing, you are crying over your World Cup ouster, the Glühwein is flowing and you nibble your Tim Hortons doughnuts while you power shop at 4,896,392 on-line stores. In the Middle East, we are limited. There is only one game in town – and that game is full of Kramig. Yes, it’s time to wipe down the Linnmon, put the green Dvala on your Sagstua, hold tight to your Knorva, fill the Upphetta and open the IKEA website.

It’s not Christmas – it’s “Vinter.” Lantern shopping transports you to the worlds of Tolkien, Norse mythology and gnomes with enchanting names: Enrum, Borrby, Rotera, Sinnesro. Just scrolling through the pages puts you in a jolly mood: Pomp or Toppig? Laiva or Hemnes? Millberget or Remsta? Romdrup or Bollolvon? Tobias! Lill! GÖRLÖSE!

And you had better be jolly because you have no choice. We are all Scandinavian for Christmas in the Middle East. Talk about your captive audience, for most of us it’s IKEA or spending hours at work cutting A4 paper into snowflakes during Zoom meetings. So we string up our HÖSTPROMENAD, SNÖYRA, LEDFYR, and STRÅLA and send a prayer of thanks to our northern brethren.

And we send those thanks as, for some reason, this year the grocery stores are being difficult. Difficult as in brutish, surly, cruel and trollish in extremis.

The French store which is usually reliable with the foie gras and cheese boards has extremely unexciting German milk chocolate and Italian panettone (remember: star-shaped pandoro is associated with Verona and made from flour, butter and eggs; cone-shaped panettone is associated with Milan and made from flour, butter, eggs and sugar with candied fruit and sultanas).

While the other grocery store, not to be out-done in Grichisness, has sardine-flavored candy canes. I am not kidding. I wish I was kidding. I wish I could sic Cookie Monster on the CEO of ordering. I wish I could blink my eyes and be magically transported to the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt or the F & M foodhall but, hélas, I am here. With sour-cream-and-onion candy canes.

When I first saw these, I gathered up some boxes, brought them to a manager and asked what the what was going on. After waiting a week, I returned to find that they had added catsup and macaroni-and-cheese flavors, but no peppermint. I took one sample of each abominations, gathered up three managers and kindly/ gently said: “I swear on all eight flying reindeer that if you don’t get regular peppermint candy canes I WILL MAKE YOU EAT THESE.”

We shall see what happens next. We all know how saintly patient I am but there are limits, my dear. THERE ARE LIMITS.

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