Pea soup with pork has come to be something of a Swedish "national dish," if such a thing is possible, and is consumed in almost ritualistic form ó always and exclusively on Thursdays.

If a Swedish restaurant were to serve pea soup with pork on a Tuesday, for example, any right-lined Swede would clutch his brow and conclude that the owner must either be a foreigner or have taken leave of his senses.

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Pea soup with pork just can't be eaten on any day but Thursday. This fixation goes back a long way, and undoubtedly arose in the Middle Ages when Swedes were still Catholics. Friday was a day of fasting, and it was natural to lay in supplies against the privations of the fast. So the habit developed of eating your everyday salt pork on Thursday, along with the best they had available in those days, namely, neither the fibrous root vegetables nor the watery cabbage, but boiled dried peas. By the time Swedes turned Lutheran in the 16th century, Thursdays and pea soup had become so wedded together that, 450 years on, we still sit there eating our pea soup on Thursdays.

Could anything illustrate better the persistent nature of eating traditions, particularly with a bit o' ritual tacked on? There are many workplaces where a group of friends sally forth regularly on Thursays to eat their pea soup together, accompanied by the obligatory glass of warm punch, itself a relic of an earlier age, if not quite so remote.

Excerpted from an article by Jan-÷jvind Swahn, professor of folklore in Lund, Sweden. Read the rest of his article that explains how the Swedish table is more than just pickled salmon and fermented herring at http://tiny.cc/byaoux and find a couple really good pea soup recipes here.