Growing up I never liked seafood. A disgrace to my family, with both grandfathers in love with fishing and several uncles and aunts who all loved being at sea, pulling in a net or two or throwing in a line.
I do not know how many times I have witnessed and helped filleting the fish that was caught, I always loved watching the men doing it. Although I was never an accomplished fisher girl myself, I loved throwing in a line at my grandmothers jetty or going out in a little rowboat and try my luck together with my cousins. The ocean has always been a very soothing place for me – somewhere I can feel at peace.
As children, we could always be found at the rock beach, moving rocks around to look for small crabs to collect. We’d love to see the big ones fight and chase the small ones, and whoever found the biggest or smallest walked just a bit taller that day. We filled our buckets up with seawater and seaweed and smashed shells up with rocks so we could feed the crabs the meat inside. And finding the tiny, squiggling shrimp was always a bonus. Watching the big ones grab the shell meat and eat it was oddly satisfying for a kid. Grotesque, we were, come to think of it.
But when I ended up at the dinner table, forced to eat the massive cod my grandfather had proudly caught that very morning, lovingly prepared by his wife – I just couldn’t. Well, that’s a lie. I did. I ate it, because I grew up learning to respect my elders, and food that was prepared for me, unless I gagged, must be eaten. So I sat there, the fish rolling around in my mouth, washing it down with lovely, fresh mountain water.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t just cod we had to eat. Oh no, my family loves seafood so much, and every summer we were basically swimming in crab meat. And saithe and herring and salmon and mackerel and some lesser known fish types. Some were served with mountains of bacon on top, some with buckets of sour cream. Some were fried in heaps of butter with crispy skin. Some were broiled and some were grilled. And potatoes. Lovely, gorgeous, Norwegian potatoes.
I slowly learned to like some of it. I think I started out with the mackerel. Still love it, although it has been years. Then the salmon – which I now love, love, love! I would eat the meat out of the crab claws, and that’s about where the tolerance for seafood stopped.
But I did eat it. If we had fish for dinner, I would eat. I learned to like fish cakes, I learned to like fish pudding and fish fingers and whale meat. But that cod…
Today, I can eat most fish. Although I am still not a massive seafood fan, and have reservations against many of the squiggly, gill-breathing sea creatures Simon proudly pulls in, I do taste it all!
I had to become a fully grown adult to appreciate what we ate today, though. Obviously, there are very few times I get to eat any kind of seafood that reminds me of home, so when an opportunity arises, I grab it. Early on, I introduced Simon to what most Norwegians eat in summer. In fact, if you ask a Norwegian what kind of food they think of when they have a nice, warm summer day, you will most likely get this answer.
Open prawn sandwich. Or shrimp, depending on size. Yum – o. Best eaten on a hot summers day by the shore, on a jetty somewhere. On crusty bread with butter, lemon thoroughly squeezed over the crescent crustacean – and then, to top it off, a generous squiggly line of Norway style mayonnaise over it. It is just sensational.
We are so lucky to have family that supply us with the magic sauce that finishes off this dish, so we will make sure we make good use out of it!
My only regret in life will be that I didn’t enjoy this delicious treat sooner in my life!