AskDefine | Define smorgasbord

Dictionary Definition



1 a collection containing a variety of sorts of things; "a great assortment of cars was on display"; "he had a variety of disorders"; "a veritable smorgasbord of religions" [syn: assortment, mixture, mixed bag, miscellany, miscellanea, variety, salmagundi, potpourri, motley]
2 an assortment of foods starting with herring or smoked eel or salmon etc with bread and butter; then cheeses and eggs and pickled vegetables and aspics; finally hot foods; served as a buffet meal

User Contributed Dictionary



From the smörgåsbord.


  1. a buffet

Extensive Definition

Smörgåsbord [smœrɡɔsboːd] refers to a type of meal served buffet-style in Swedish cuisine. It is typically a holiday feast at which the family and guests can help themselves to whatever takes their fancy from a range of dishes laid out for their choice. In a restaurant, the term refers to a buffet-style table laid out with many small dishes from which, for a fixed amount of money, one is allowed to choose as many as one wishes.
A traditional Swedish smörgåsbord consists of both hot and cold dishes. It is customary to begin with the cold fish dishes which are generally various form of herring, salmon, eel and so forth. After eating the dishes, people usually continue with other cold dishes, and round off with hot dishes such as Swedish meatballs (köttbullar), and other specialties like Janssons frestelse. Dessert may or may not be included in a smörgåsbord.


The Swedish word "smörgåsbord" is a combination word consisting of the words smörgås (translated "sandwich") and Bord (translated "table"). "Smörgås" (sandwich) in turn consists of the words smör (literally "butter") and gås (literally "goose", but in its old meaning, it's the churned butter floating on the skimmed milk).
According to a Swedish linguist, Catharina Grünbaum, gås referred to pieces of butter that formed and floated to the surface of cream when it was churned; these pieces resembled fat geese swimming to the surface. Such pieces were just the right size to be placed and flattened out on bread. Smörgås came to mean butter and bread together. In Sweden, the term bredda smörgåsar (buttered sandwiches) has been used since at least the 16th century, and nowadays refers not only to buttered bread but also buttered bread with foodstuffs between sandwiches.

Julbord (Yule smörgåsbord)

Julbord is a compound word consisting of the elements jul, meaning Yule (today synonymous with Christmas) and bord, literally table. The classic Swedish julbord is the traditional smörgåsbord served from the beginning of December until just before Christmas in homes and at restaurants. A traditional julbord is typically eaten in three courses. The first course consists of the cured salmon, pickled herring and eel served in a variety of sauces. It is customary to eat particular foods together to ensure the appropriate combination of taste and textures. For example, herring is typically eaten with boiled potatoes and hard-boiled eggs and is frequently accompanied by a snaps of vodka with or without spice.
The second course of a selection consists of cold sliced meats, such as turkey, roast beef, and julskinka (Christmas ham). Sliced Cheese, cucumbers and liver pate are often eaten on top of hard bread.
The third course of hot dishes include köttbullar (Swedish meatballs), prinskorv (small sausages), kåldolmar (meat stuffed cabbage rolls), jellied pigs' feet, lutfisk (a reconstituted dried cod served with thick white sauce), revbenspjäll (oven-roasted pork ribs), and Janssons frestelse (literally "Jansson's Temptation", a baked dish of matchstick potatoes layered with cream, onion and sprats). Side dishes include beetroot salad and warm stewed red cabbage.
Julbord desserts include risgrynsgröt, rice pudding sprinkled with cinnamon Traditionally, an almond is hidden in the bowl of rice pudding and whoever finds it receives a small prize or is recognized for having good luck. There is also a traditional saying that the one who gets the almond will get married within a year.

Use of the term in English

In English, the word smörgåsbord (or often smorgasbord) refers loosely to any buffet with a variety of dishes — not necessarily with any connection to the Swedish traditions discussed in this article. In an extended sense, the word is used to refer to any situation which invites patrons to select whatever they wish among several pleasant things, such as the smorgasbord of university courses, books in a bookstore, etc. It may also be used to indicate any diverse group, synonymous with hodge-podge.
In Australia, the word smorgasbord is often used for any form of buffet, including the noted Australian Buffet. Smorgasbords are very popular at privately hosted parties.
In Canada, Chinese smorgasbord is a buffet style used for Canadian Chinese cuisine. This tradition dates back to Gastown, British Columbia, which later became Vancouver, when Scandinavian-immigrant mill workers and loggers encouraged their Chinese cooks to arrange Chinese food as it was done in their homelands.


smorgasbord in German: Smörgåsbord
smorgasbord in Spanish: Smörgåsbord
smorgasbord in Dutch: Smörgåsbord
smorgasbord in Korean: 스뫼르고스보르드
smorgasbord in Norwegian: Koldtbord
smorgasbord in Polish: Szwedzki stół
smorgasbord in Swedish: Smörgåsbord

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

antepast, antipasto, aperitif, appetizer, automat, beanery, bistro, buffet, buvette, cafe, cafeteria, canape, canteen, cantina, chophouse, chuck wagon, coffee shop, coffeehouse, coffeeroom, cookhouse, cookshack, cookshop, diner, dining hall, dining room, dog wagon, drive-in, drive-in restaurant, eatery, eating house, fast-food chain, foretaste, gallimaufry, grill, grillroom, hamburger stand, hash, hash house, hashery, hodgepodge, hot-dog stand, jumble, kitchen, lunch counter, lunch wagon, luncheonette, lunchroom, medley, melange, mess hall, mishmash, pastiche, pizzeria, potpourri, quick-lunch counter, restaurant, snack bar, tavern, tearoom, trattoria, whet
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