I have a skewed idea of what Sweden is like. I haven’t been there yet, but between IKEA display floors, Volvo, and a little coffee shop/bakery in Edinburgh called Peter’s Yard, it seems like a country-sized amusement park*. In fact, I don’t know if I’ll ever go, because I’m terrified of the possibility of me being disappointed, which is inevitable since right now, I consider the place Eden. It’s the same sentiment that I hold towards anything that seems 100% awesome on introductory glance. Another good example of this is Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. As of right now, I haven’t watched Shark Week, but based on what people tell me about the television phenomenon and what I’ve seen advertised, it sounds like the coolest, most captivating week ever. My brain says that I could be sitting on my couch flicking through stations when all of a sudden, I find myself on the Discovery Channel and I hear a knock at the door. I go to answer it and it is the mailman, with a package for me. I go to sign for the poorly mangled looking box and I realize that MY HAND HAS BEEN VIOLENTLY BITTEN OFF and I am wearing swimming trunks. I start to panic, but the mailman insists that he’s got a job to do, and that I need to just relax and sign off on the package so that he can go home and watch the Cubs game. I scribble a signature with my left hand, open the package, and wouldn’t you know it, IT’S MY HAND, with a small posted-note taped to my finger that says, “welcome to shark week”. Anything less than this would be a disappointment.
This is vaguely similar to how Peter’s Yard makes me feel about Sweden.
Peter’s Yard is an infinitely lovely bakery/coffee shop on the Quartermile in Edinburgh. It’s owned by a Swedish entrepreneur, and with its 30 foot, warehouse-like ceilings, permanent display of freshly baked breads and cakes, and simply delicious coffee and ice cream, it makes me judge its entire country of origin impossibly well.
Peter’s Yard first attracted my attention when I realized that I was taking on a bit of a Vitamin D deficiency from lurking in the corners of many of the other, windowless, cafes. Had it not been for necessary structural supports, Peter’s Yard would be a giant translucent box. Instead of pictures of African landscapes, coffee bean farmers, and avant-garde artwork controlling the walls (which seems to be the protocol for local coffee shops), Peter’s Yard has a display of pastel teapots, gourmet conserves and cordials, and cookbooks and manuals on how to make leaf patterns in the froth of your java; something I’ve been desperately needing to learn to do. Between the constant sunlight exposure, and the transparency of the wall separating the kitchen and the dining room, P-Yard seems like the greatest Swedish country breakfast nook you’ve ever seen.
Last night I came into Peter’s Yard for a wee cup’ java and a quick read before work. I was greeted by my friendly Barista friend, Maria, who was sitting down having a bit of wine. She promptly invited me for wine with her. Here’s a snippet from our conversation:
M – Hey Ben, do you want some wine?
B – Sure, do I have to pay? I’m pretty poor.
M – Hehe. No. Do you like white?
B – I like free.
M – Are you going to stick around for a little while? There is a three-piece Jazz band here tonight, and they are really good.
B – What? Seriously? There is a three-piece Jazz Band here tonight? Is that common?
M – Yes.
B – Is it free?
M – Yes.
B – What are your thoughts on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone?
M – What?
I’ll just let your brain take the rest of that conversation wherever you’d like.
Maybe it was the wine, or maybe it was the jazz, but I like the fact that I can talk to a stranger in Peter’s Yard about how Hockey is the closest sport to quiddich. I like the fact that the children are always smiling as widely as the mothers, I like the fact that there’s often a professor filing through literature on a topic for his next book, and I like that there seems to always be a group of people having a seemingly important conversation in another language. Two days ago, I had a long conversation with a stranger about the evolution of children’s books from our childhood and the difference between American and British education systems. This isn’t by pure incidence that these conversations happen. The communal table in Peter’s Yard and the communal aura that the setting creates facilitates it.
Maybe I did Peter’s Yard an injustice by writing about it the way I did. Peter’s Yard is a gourmet coffee shop, which I failed to elaborate on. The fact of the matter though, is that the gourmet delicacies aren’t the reason I go to Peter’s Yard every morning. In fact, ordinarily gourmet is a strike I my book. I love the taste of gourmet food as much as the next guy, and Peter’s Yard certainly has some tasty product, but in my experience, with gourmet, comes The Financial Times and impenetrable egoism. Maybe these people come to Peter’s Yard too, but I haven’t really seen. The coffee is really good, and the Valrhona Chocolate Sorbet is certainly worth having again, but the strangers that I’ve talked to about books, and the fact that I feel like I’m sitting in Peter’s family dining room are why I go there. I simply feel more comfortable there than I do in other cafes.
Since having started writing this, I watched about an hour of Shark Week. It was pretty cool, aka, it wasn’t as awesome as I thought it would be. I knew it wouldn’t be. Why even bother with expectations when I know that my imagination is just going to turn it into an event that supersedes perfection? Places like Peter’s Yard and the kitchen display floor at IKEA really build my hopes up about Sweden. As of right now, it is a country of unmarred tranquility where everything is made of stainless steel, and in every café, a three-piece jazz band is about to play**. That sounds about perfect in my book. Maybe I should listen to Abba more often. I’m sure that will pull me back to reality.
*If your idea of amusement is to eat fresh bead and drink coffee in while sitting in modern, pear colored furniture, which mine is.
**The exact opposite of Shark Week.
By: Ben Majoy