The project explores the processes determining the setup of a hiker’s meals in the mountains. These meals must often have a high energy density. Meals do not exist in a social void, but are instead a huge contributing factor of achieving a positive overall experience. Understanding these meals and learning more about its underlying processes could promote a more sustainable Arctic gastronomy and lead to more positive and extraordinary mountain experiences.
A hiker’s meals are relevant to the local tourist industry. By learning more about hikers’ approaches to their meals, local entrepreneurs can be given the opportunity to reach out with authentic meal offers that can contribute to strengthening the mountain experience and in thus way promote the Swedish mountains as a destination.
With an underlying intention to contribute to sustainable entrepreneurship for the Arctic tourist industry, the overall objective of this project is to follow how notions of food and meals in the Swedish mountains are produced, reproduced and communicated online. The project also aims to investigate how food and meals contribute to the overall experience of visiting the Swedish mountains.
During spring and summer 2013, 1.1 million Swedes were estimated to have visited the Swedish mountains, and on average these visitors spent six days at their destination. Close to half a million of these people state that they spent their time “roaming forest and mountains”. Based on an estimation of each of these roaming visitors having eating three meals per day, this results in a total of nearly ten million meals eaten. The Swedish Tourist Association reports that visits to their mountain stations increased. And at the same time as the number of Swedes choosing to spend their vacation domestically, and hence find their way to the mountainous regions, the Swedish mountains also attract visitors from abroad. In fact, the Mountain Safety Council of Sweden estimated that 150,000 international tourists visited the Swedish mountains in 2018. There is hence reason to believe that the number of meals during the season prior to COVID-19 exceeded 10 million.
When people travel in their spare time, and hence become tourists at their new destination, their meal practices change from their everyday ones. Eating becomes a way of discovering the culture of the destination, and also a way to explore the authentic location. From an Arctic context, this could be that visitors try to experience a place, take the Sami culture for instance, by consuming what is regarded as local cuisine.
Nearly half of everyone visiting the mountains in 2013 used various internet pages as the primary source for planning their trip to the mountains. And although only four per cent stated that they used social media as their primary source, the Mountain Safety Council of Sweden still suggests that visitors to a great extent let themselves be influenced by what they refer to as “fair-weather posts” on social media, and hence are unprepared for the rapid change of weather in the mountains.
The project highlights contextually defined meals linked to a huge and ever-growing phenomenon – mountain hiking – from a cultural and social perspective. The project contributes to gastronomic research as a whole by aiming at social contexts that have not yet been explored.