Traveling with Sarah Becan in Stockholm is Sauceome

Stockholm is Sauceome
Written and Drawn by Sarah Becan

Cartoonist Sarah Becan’s Stockholm is Sauceome is a comic journal of her and her boyfriend Niles’ trip to Sweden earlier this year. But instead of chronicling the sights and sounds of Stockholm, she concentrates her memories on the food and drinks that they found in that Norwegian city. But her comic is much more than just a catalog of what they ate and what they drank. Honestly, that’s about as exciting as flipping through the photos of someone’s vacation; it may be exciting for them but for you, it’s an exercise in trying to act interested in someone else’s fantastic vacation. Through the food and drinks of her and Niles, Becan explores the people of Stockholm and it’s fascinating to see this Chicagoans’ experiences and impressions of this foreign land.

Actually, the food and drink in Becan’s comics is only part of the tale. Instead of being the end of her story, she uses them to look at her encounters with Swedish barkeeps. As she discovers, bartenders aren’t the same all over the world so Stockholm is Sauceome becomes a quest to find a bartender that reminds her a slight bit of home. Instead of a talkative barkeep, someone who may want to know what a couple of Americans are doing in Sweden, most in Sweden are content to offer a drink and go about their job. Small talk isn’t part of that. It’s a small part of their encounter with Swedish culture (and who knows how accurate it really is?) but Becan’s examination of another country through not just its food and drink but through the people who also serve that food and drink gives this travelogue its personality.

The best thing a comic like this can do is make you hungry and thirsty. Becan’s easy art and loving description of the food and beverages on her trip is just tempting enough to get a stomach rumbling. Her coloring is really quite delicious at not just capturing the textures of the food but at capturing the light of Stockholm. In the short days of their winters (the sun rises in January just before 9am and sets before 3pm,) the lighting is very different. The atmospheric blues and sunny golds that fill Becan’s daytime skies are quite magical as she evokes an otherness quality of their skies. It’s not extremely different from skies around the world but the different colors and chilled temperatures that Becan conjures just adds to the feeling of adventure in a strange land that is what you should be feeling whenever you’re on a trip.

Stockholm is Sauceome, an outgrowth of Becan’s webcomic called Sauceome, isn’t just about food and drink. Using those as an entry into the people and sights, Becan shares her memories of Stockholm as she explores her own reactions to the similarities and the differences of what she expects at home. In almost any travelogue, there’s a bit of a stranger-in-a-strange-land mentality behind the telling of the story as Becan tries to reconcile her experiences in Sweden with her expectations in Chicago. Through this, she paints an inviting image of a land that’s just different enough to be slightly exotic in its own ways.