Swedish Women, do they have it all?.

Last Thursday, March 11th we enjoyed FIKA at Hillside Residence, in Hannam-dong, Seoul. Petra Sjögren was our fabulous tour guide who shared with us many facts and stories of Sweden, a far away country – although after this Fika I have the feeling it is not so distant any more. (You can follow our board on Pinterest and discover all about Sweden: https://es.pinterest.com/womenlabkorea/wmlabtalks-fika/).

Found on subdisc.com2015-03-12 20.21.082015-03-12 21.42.00Now you might wonder what FIKA is. FIKA is a concept in Swedish culture with the basic meaning “to have coffee”, often accompanied with pastries or sandwiches. Nowadays coffee may be replaced by tea or juice. Sometimes, a sandwich or a small meal may be called FIKA, similar to the English concept of afternoon tea.

But FIKA is more than a Swedish Coffee Break.  The definition given by FIKA KOREA, which promises no less than heaven to me: “a Scandinavian style coffee-house offering premium gourmet coffee and authentic Swedish food”.

FIKA is considered a social institution in Sweden, it means having a break with one’s colleagues, friends, date or family. This practice of taking a break is a common practice at workplaces and central to Swedish life.

Traditionally, FIKA requires sweet, baked goods, especially cinnamon rolls and according to Helene Henderson, author of The Swedish Table, one needs the following for Swedish guests: “to impress, serve a variety of seven freshly baked items and be ready to talk about the weather”. Funnily enough, in our FIKA we intended to talk about everything except the weather. In fact our purpose was to know more about Swedish women (to go beyond myths, stereotypes and preposterous clichés…) and discover if they are really winning the battle of the numbers.

FICKA (8)FICKA (4)90f690b01f4ad4966319d9e4e81fa949Moreover this FIKA had a deeper meaning for me. FIKA was the first in our series of #WMLABTALKS this term. #WMLABTALKS are meant to be inspirational thought-provoking lectures about women and the future of world. In April we are hosting two more!

#WMLABTALKS SEORAE(1) We are Korean Women(5)

We are Korean Women(4)I conceived of these #WMLABTALKS as events where we can share and understand more about our lives; events to discover more about our wishes and hopes. I wanted to create a space where women can speak freely and be ready to challenge stereotypes. Furthermore, I wanted to dedicate a time to celebrate us, to celebrate women’s rhythms and women’s vision of the world´s cultures. To celebrate how far we have come and all that we have conquered. On this topic, Swedish women have something to say.

Sweden ranks as one of the world’s most gender-egalitarian countries, even in terms of language. We just learned that a gender-neutral pronoun, hen will join its binary counterparts han (he) and hon (she) in the new edition of Sweden’s official dictionary.

With an extensive welfare system, Sweden makes it easier for both women and men to balance work and family life. In the Global Gender Gap Report 2013, Sweden is named as a world leader in equality while Korea ranks 111th, out of 136 countries.

In Sweden, women are closer to sharing power and influence equally with men. The knowledge and experience of both sexes are used to foster progress in all fields of Swedish society. When talented women quit their jobs or abandon their chosen profession, not only does the country suffer a great loss of talent, but this lost potential is also painful for the women themselves.

Can we concur that Swedish women have it all? Of course not, there is still room for improvement in many areas, but after Petra’s speech we found Sweden an attractive place to live!

My reflection is that this progress on gender egalitarianism might set Swedish women a step ahead with regards to European or Asian women.  They might be starting another kind of battle. As they are “allowed” to undertake traditionally male roles, they put themselves in a position where they can choose to “opt out”. They can decide to re-invent roles and workplace culture, not following the male lead. They can put value in their own goals rather than trying to fit in the ones recognized and rewarded in a male-dominated society. This shift in views can reconcile the strong disconnect between men and women’s preferred ways of doing things.

I am Spanish and consider that we Spanish women are not in that desirable position. But in a context where many of the ways of working that we have taken for granted for 20 years are disappearing (Lynda Gratton), in a transition to a knowledge-based economy, where rules and practices that determined success in the industrial economy need rewriting, we women and men have an extraordinary opportunity to switch the paradigm and reduce the gender’s gap. There is a correlation between a country’s gender gap and its national competitiveness. Women account for one-half of a country’s potential talent base and a nation’s competitiveness in the long-term depends significantly on whether and how it educates and uses its women’s talent (http://www.weforum.org/reports/global-gender-gap-report-2014) and in the “creative economy” (President Park) there is no talent to spare.


“Cooking up a tribute” to the revolutionary Basque cuisine

Ongietorri!, welcome in Euskara, the Basque Country language. That’s how we have started our two workshops in March.

Our friend Hye has published her own version in Korean: [스페인 요리] 스페인 바스크 요리 쿠킹 클래스 (Discovering the Basque gastronomy) – http://blog.naver.com/pyano7/220295989738

BASQUE COUNTRY WORKSHOP HILLSIDE(1)BASQUE COUNTRY WORKSHOP(2)Far more modest than the tribute paid to the American cuisine by the Roca Brothers in their documentary “Cooking Up a Tribute” [the film is the result of the tour that took “El Celler de Can Roca” to the Texas cities of Houston and Dallas; the Mexican cities of Mexico City and Monterrey; Bogota, Colombia and Perú], we want to embark you on a trip around the Basque Country, mostly San Sebastián, to discover this territory and its gastronomic treasures and above all, to pay tribute to the revolutionary Basque Cuisine.
As mentioned by Jesús Rodríguez in “El País”, we wish you to discover “what drives the culinary excellence of a region that is home to five of the world’s best restaurants”.
I guess everything in this culinary experience is about discovery. It was our first cookery class & “pintxos lab” and we did it, as Pickering and Higgins congratulate each other in My Fair Lady’s film. Mónica García Cabello and I we say that we would do it and indeed we did it!.
But a lot of the glory goes to you, dear participants, for you co-created the “pintxos” and that was an awesome experience. We thank you all.

GRUPOGRUPO2Our motto, inspired by Ferrán Adriá, was “the great revolution of the future will be to recognize that the diner is also cook”. And we believe that. We believe that participants should be “more” participants. That is why we will try to carry out this “learning-by-doing” experience in all our workshops, for it goes both ways around: you learn, we learn –a lot- from you. That’s the idea of a cooking lab…And that is where our commitment with innovation begins and so does our biggest challenge: turning people from mere observers into value creators.

Ongietorri to Euskal Herria, “the land of the Basque speakers”, and let the music leads you to the beauty of this country: “Lau teilatu Mikel Erentxun eta Amaia Montero”,

As casual Cicerone, we say a few words about the Basque traditions like the Pelota Vasca and inevitably, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has to be mentioned.

The Guggenheim has had a powerful impact on Bilbao’s transformation, now a mecca for design and architecture but until not long ago, a city full of decaying industrial complexes.

In our trip we walk on the most beautiful urban beach in Europe: la playa de la Concha, in San Sebastián. But everything in the Basque Country revolves around the passion for food, so we have to shift our swimsuits to aprons…

San Sebastián

Revolutionary?. The Basque cuisine took the dishes that were being prepared a century ago and reinvented them over the course of 40 years. We reflect on the drivers of this “spicy” culinary innovation and his/her pioneers, like José Mari Arzak or her daughter Elena. Firstable, the sum of culinary tradition [“txokos”, cookery clubs, and traditional recipes, local and seasonal products] and the so-called “avant-garde”. Secondly, that this (r)evolution has involved everyone: producers, the food and culture industry and the innovation hub.

And after all this talking and reflecting, Mesdames and Messieurs we were happy to introduce you the Marmitako recipe (Tuna Pot). In the euskoguide.com or in Jonathan McCallum’s blog you can find the recipe for this classic Basque meal. But our gift is the Begoña Hualde’s aunt’s recipe, a Tuna Pot recipe from Navarra (another region close to the Country Basque).

portadaAnd while the Marmitako is “over the flames”…We can devote ourselves to Donostia, San Sebastián. San Sebastián has gained significant press for its cuisine, just imagine that the city alone has 15 Michelin stars spread across 7 restaurants and it is also famous for its “pintxos”…

The Vaga Brothers  teach us that “Pintxos” are small finger foods served at bars and taverns, and that is typical to go into a bar in the Basque Country and find the entire counter lined with plates of various “pintxos”. From the verb “pinchar” (to stab or to poke), “pintxos” are served on a small slice of bread and have a toothpick piercing them, hmm…umm yammi. (check all the pictures we have on our Pinterest board https://es.pinterest.com/womenlabkorea/spanish4fun-euskadi-the-basque-country/). Follow WOMENLABKOREA’s board Spanish4Fun. Euskadi, the Basque Country on Pinterest.

DSCF9349DSCF9343And the time comes for the participants to co-design and co-create an appetizing & tasty “pintxo” and decide about ingredients, flavors, colors and textures…And the toughest part of it: to “test” the “pintxos” and the wine…This time it was Australian, next time we hope you will enjoy the slightly sparkling, very dry white wine with high acidity and low alcohol content of a Txacoli…

C360_2015-03-05-15-05-30-093(1)1425427411084 (2)Muchas gracias (thank you, in Spanish), agur (Goodbye in Euskara) or better: gero arte (so long o “hasta pronto” in Spanish).