Food for Thought

Three, two, one… I braced myself before I dug my fingers into the belly of my first shrimp. I winced as the eggs spilled over my hands, the new texture alarming me. I had just braved squeezing the head and pinching off its tail, but peeling the rest of the shrimp was a daring feat.

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A traditional hand-knit Norwegian sweater gifted to me by Unni.

My trip to Norway has included a lot of firsts, mostly food related. This evening I was invited to Henrik’s family for dinner, and a rather special menu was planned. Everyone was peeling their own shrimp to accompany a slice of bread with mayonnaise, a squeeze of lemon  and a dash of salt and pepper.

“It is nice to be actively involved with your food,” Henrik’s older brother, Axel, had said.

I felt pretty active. I was the last person to battle through the shrimp before enjoying the delicious sandwich. The dish may have Swedish origin, but it is enjoyed in the summer time all over Norway.

Next up was the main course.

Unni had mentioned several days before that she had something unique planned, and that it was a rather unfamiliar meat. She set the dishes down on the table: Sweet potato mash, cabbage and a plate fill with sliced whale fillet. I was keen to try something new and quickly dug out three ‘steaks’. I waited for everyone else to scoop up the food before I tentatively cut myself a piece to try.

It was delicious! It actually tasted surprisingly like steak. I thought whale would be white and rubbery, but then I was reminded that it was mammal and not fish. The meat was tender and rare, and I soon polished off my few pieces and had more.

Once dinner was swallowed down it was time for dessert, which also held something new for me. It was another local favourite: rhubarb cake. I had no idea what rhubarb was until I arrived in Norway, and now it seems so popular. It is essentially a rather sour tasting sort of celery stick that is used in jams and tarts. In this tart it was mixed with strawberries and a few other unknown ingredients to be served up as a delicious dish with vanilla ice cream.

I had reached an elegant sufficiency.

We took an early night after watching the Iceland – France football game. The plan was to get up early the following morning to join Henrik while he worked on a peninsula close by called Nesoddtangen.

I was glad to get out of the city again. We took an early morning bike ride to the docks and climbed abroad a ferry. This was another first for me. The boat ride took thirty minutes and I soaked up the scenery, appreciating Oslo from a new perspective.

Once we got to the destination Henrik set off to work on the house and my feet followed a track down to the sea to enjoy some sun and silence.

I found this lovely little rock outcrop near some cute boat houses where I spent the next two hours writing, drawing, tanning and gazing into the distance. The sun had successfully held its fort in the sky for some time but I could see the dark nimbus clouds gathering in the horizon over Oslo. Time to head back.

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No sooner had I when it started to drizzle. We had frozen pizza for lunch and thereafter Bendik, the boss-man whose house they were working on, joined. The afternoon became lazy and I switched between lounging outside and inside with Atonement, the book I had selected.

The weather is highly unpredictable. I know most countries like to claim a capricious weather pattern, but Norway doesn’t need to claim anything. They own it. In London they boast about experiencing four seasons in one day. In Norway you get four seasons an hour. I had changed from a bikini, to shorts and a t-shirt, to jeans and a sweater all in less than forty minutes!

As the sun edged more to the west we prepared dinner and dessert: some saucy pasta and more rhubarb cake. This time I actively took part with the food, cutting the rhubarb sticks and the strawberries. Music was setting the mood and we drank beer and laughed as the food was being prepared.

I am starting to feel Norwegian just on account of my beer consumption! At home I am a wine and gin and tonic girl, but here those things are so overpriced! It is also easy to order beer here at a bar or select at a store. And I slowly find myself enjoying the world’s third most popular liquid beverage more and more. I even got to indulge in my first Norwegian chocolate. Milk chocolate is highly popular here, and is selected about the dark chocolate variety which I  somehow found strange.

Dinner was enjoyed in the late afternoon light, as the sun got tangled in the tree tops near the house. Beer obviously accompanied the meal. Then after dinner we helped ourself to generous portions of rhubarb cake and ice cream.

It as absolutely delicious! I am not sure if I enjoyed it so much because it had been a long day, or because I assisted with it, or because I had grown partial to the taste. But this helping was magnificent. We were all eager to grab a second slice, and suddenly half the cake was gone!

Travelling is also about farewells. After dinner we set off back to the mainland to join Adrian and Yasemin at the Kulturhuset before they were off to Turkey. It made me wonder about my own trip and a sense of finality settled deep in my stomach. I wasn’t ready to go home.

“It’s always as soon as you get into the rhythm of a place, you need to leave,” Henrik had said wistfully.

I had gotten into full swing with life in Norway. I felt like I belonged. I had friends,  I had a routine, I could finally navigate Oslo and I had an affinity for the food and beer. I can’t believe that I only had one day left in this country! I looked around at all the familiar faces and realised I would miss them, that I would miss this, just sitting at a bar enjoying a chat and a laugh, and of course, a beer.

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