Visiting Sweden? Hope to impress a Swede? Just want to appear worldly and stylish? The French Culinary Institute's Cooking Issues blog has been posting an ongoing series of photos it calls the Skål!/Skoal! Project that can school you in one small social custom.
The series includes such food-world luminaries as Jeffrey Steingarten, Harold McGee, Wylie Dufresne, and Alan Richman (above), who has perhaps the most extreme skål to date. More pix after the jump.
FCI's project got its start when someone there found these photos of actor Max von Sydow in the Time-Life book The Cooking of Scandinavia and had the idea to goad guests of the school into re-creations of Von Sydow's poses.
The skål is a Scandinavian toast, practiced in its most formal version by the Swedes:
The proposer of the toast engages the eye of the person being toasted, and "skoal" is said. A slight bow of the head, and a twinkle of the eye—and the aquavit is drained in one gulp (if the drink is wine, a sip is taken). Just before the glass is put back on the table, the eyes meet again and there is another friendly nod.
I'm eagerly awaiting my own induction into the series; I skåled last night after getting grilled by a class of students learning how to food-blog.