Central Skåne is a beautiful place, with its mix of rewilded fields, agricultural land, pockets of forest and the occasional lake. However, if you find yourself tiptoeing through the lupines and the unmistakable scent of grilled meats fills your nose, it’s best to turn on your heel and walk the other way, as you may be about to stumble into one of Sweden’s infamous grill speak-easies…
It all began with the introduction of the high-carbon foods tax in the early 2030s, which caused meat prices to skyrocket. In order to keep general food prices at the same level as before the tax, a low-carbon food subsidy program was initiated. However, though many adapted to this new climate-friendly style of eating right away, a small group of fervent meat-lovers vehemently opposed it. Before long, a black market for illegally and/or untaxed meat had sprung up, with sellers and buyers meeting up in shadowy alleys, abandoned warehouses and forest clearings to trade coin and crypto for carnivorous delights. However, this is only part of the story.
When the EU banned coal and wood-based grills in 2036 in an effort to reduce the carbon impact of grilling, Barbecue Dads all over Sweden finally found a protest movement they approved of. They were unsuccessful in their attempts to overthrow the legislation, however, and instead went underground, striking up arrangements with those meat smugglers who had already formed stable networks of distribution. Soon thereafter, the black-market speak-easy grill culture started making waves in Sweden. Nowadays, word about these events travel over encrypted communication, with people meeting up all over the country to buy fuel, barbecue meat and trade grill components.
Skåne’s mildly law-flaunting Heartlands have been a hotspot for illegal grilling for the last ten years or more, particularly during the summer months, and so it is best to keep your eyes and ears open if you’re travelling here: you don’t want to be caught in one of the joint raids of the Swedish National Food Agency and the local Police Authority, both of whom tend to take an approach which could be summarised as “arrest first, ask questions later”. The fines for participation are high, and higher still during the summer, when vegetation is dry and forest fires start easily. If the criminality isn’t enough to deter you, you might want to consider that the meat is often smuggled or of otherwise dubious provenance, so there’s no knowing what you’ll get. Some sellers are less focussed on quality than others, let’s say… and if you turn up at the hospital with a case of roundworm, the staff are obliged to report it, which means two invasive procedures that you really won’t enjoy.
So, if you’ll take our advice: make like Odysseus, and avoid that smoky siren’s song!