Fika, Yeah! Our Interview With ‘Fika That’ Author, Émile OdbäckSeptember 4, 2019
We’re going to go out on a limb to assume that it takes a lot of coffee to publish a book. And to publish a book about a coffee-fueled gathering like fika, well, that just solidifies our assumption.
For Émile and Åsa Odbäck, a mother-and-son duo based in California, they put their passions and expertise together to publish the book, “Fika That! The Swedish Secret to Coffee, Caring & Connection.”
Åsa, who was raised in Sweden, came to California after having an impressive career with Swedish firms like Volvo and Ericsson to raise her three boys. In her time in the States, she wrote five books – this one included – and started a company to help support female artists.
Her son, Émile, went to University of California, Santa Barbara and served as editor in chief of the university’s newspaper. He took his writing skills and networking know-how and published a book on student success, which propelled him on the speaker circuit across the country.
Together, the two brought their talents of word and art together in “Fika That!” – which is filled with images of Åsa’s paintings, alongside coffee knowledge and quips and quotes to help fuel readers.
We caught up with Émile to learn a little more about him, his mother, the book and why fika is so important.
You wrote this book with your mother, Åsa Odbäck, who grew up in Sweden. What was it like to work with her on a project like this?
Working on this project with my mother was one of the greatest experiences of my life because it was so utterly unique. Very rarely do you see a mother-son business team, and even rarer still is a mother-son business team that actually gets along! I feel very blessed to have had the chance to get to learn so much about her, her experiences growing up in Sweden and my Swedish heritage. This process gave us the opportunity to immortalize and share our cultural and familial history, philosophy and beliefs in a lasting, uplifting and engaging way. I could not have had a better writing partner, and this book would never have happened if it weren’t for Åsa.
We assume your mother taught you and your brothers the proper way to fika. What other Swedish traditions and customs did she integrate into your life in California?
My mother did a phenomenal job of bringing traditions with us wherever we moved. My family moved about 25 times before I turned 25, and one of the challenges that presented us with was how to not only fit in with the culture and people of the place we moved to, but how to keep our own family close and connected. Aside from fika, which was a very big part of our lives – she and I would have a little fika almost every day when I came home from school. She made it a priority to have family dinners, away from the TV, just about every night. Now, this isn’t explicitly a Swedish-only tradition, but the environment for connection that she was able to create stemmed largely from her fika philosophy. Everybody had the space to express themselves at the table and we all supported and genuinely engaged with one-another. Plus, there were always beautiful napkins, real candles and fresh baked desserts to frame our dinners.
Perhaps the single biggest tradition she brought with us, other than fika, was making and cooking meatballs together. Her Swedish meatballs are the best in the world, and she always used organic, fresh ground beef because that’s much closer in quality to the meat they use back in Sweden, not to mention the health benefits.
We also used to play a Swedish trivia/board game every Christmas, and I was never really good at that, but I would be on my mom’s team, and my brothers and my dad would almost always lose to us – that was nearly 100% because of my mom.
Why is fika such an important part of the day?
Fika is crucial to any and every day because it is both a much-needed context for face-to-face connection and the perfect 15-minute break from all of the stress, pressure and hustle and bustle of our ever-connected world. Fika’s success goes even deeper than that, though, because the act of sharing coffee and “breaking bread” with somebody activates something primal within that not only makes you feel great, but helps build trust, connection and understanding between people. Now, more than ever, we need to invest in and try to create opportunities and strategies to connect with people because these opportunities are getting rarer and rarer, and more and more important.
We love the section on the ABC’s of coffee – with -isms and coffee-centric knowledge. How do you prefer to drink your coffee?
Strangely enough, I almost always drink my coffee black and lukewarm — heinous, I know, but for some reason I love it. Otherwise, when I’m really looking for a treat, I’ll make it how my mom always does; beautiful, strong, oven-top espresso with frothed milk. Essentially, a homemade cappuccino!
Tell us more about Feel Good Press and how that company came about.
Feel Good Press was created as a vehicle for us to try and help this world, well, feel good! We both have spent our lives doing the best we can do leave this world better than we found it, and Feel Good Press is the embodiment of that goal. We do everything from writing and publishing, to speaking, marketing and painting! Well, only Åsa does the painting, but she’s good enough for the both of us. Essentially every one of her paintings was done during a meditation of sorts. People say her paintings really light up the rooms they’re in and the people who see them.
Feel Good Press’ goal is to energize, inspire and uplift as many people as possible, and have the most fun we can while doing it.
What’s next for the Odbäcks and Feel Good Press?
I just started at USC Law, working toward my JD in the hopes of using my higher education to learn more about myself, this world and how to continue making it better. Åsa is completing an incredibly exciting new project in Swedish and still paints all the time — she currently splits her time between Sweden and the U.S.
Feel Good Press will remain a resource for anybody who wants to feel better, and continue to expand and evolve into new areas. We have several other titles online and hope to add more in the future!
Head over to Amazon to pick up your own copy of “Fika That!”