When I was growing up people only really used candles on birthday cakes, for a special dinner or if there was a power cut (and there were quite a few in the early seventies during the three-day week). This was not true in my house, however, because my Norwegian mother brought over her country’s tradition of lighting candles at all times of the day or night. She would stock up on them during our holidays in Norway because she swore that Scandinavian candles were better and did not drip. Imagine her excitement (yes, really) when Swedish, not Norwegian, Ikea opened its first branch over here and she could buy candles almost anytime she felt like it. It meant she could use them with abandon, finances permitting, without having to worry about when she was next going to visit her relatives or when they’d next be crossing the North Sea to visit us and could be persuaded to bring candles with them.
If this is sounding somewhat obsessive I have to admit I’ve inherited the candle dependency. They add ambience, and let’s be honest, make everything look better and hide a multitude of blemishes, whether it be the lines on your face or the chips on your paintwork. What with Scandi Noir TV dramas and a growing interest in Scandinavian cuisine over here, we feel that we know a lot more about those countries. Magazines talk about hygge and give us tips on how to achieve it in our homes. Well, candles are part of that, and you don’t only have to light them when it’s dark. In my family a candle would always be lit at breakfast on someone’s birthday, for example.
I didn’t pay my usual pre-Christmas visit to Ikea to stock up on candles because I felt we had enough to see us through. I was right but I’ve been using them sparingly ever since for fear of running out completely, which would be a disaster. Seriously. Anyway, when I was there the other day I picked up my favourites: Jubla (tall, slim and white; see above), Fenomen (fat and white) and a couple of packs of tealights. I only ever have white candles. Red is lovely at Christmas but doesn’t go that well with the decor in our living and dining rooms so I find it easier to stick to white.
No recipes for you in this post but there IS food. It’s hard to drop into Ikea without picking up something to eat. This time I bought spicy ginger biscuits or “pepparkaka”: delicious with a cup of tea or, should you feel the urge, a glass of mulled wine.