Monday, August 20, 2007

Me and My Little Surstromming

I have a rule that I tend to live by - I'll try anything ONCE. Even if it involves my greatest fear - heights - I'll give it a shot. I might not be the most comfortable (just ask my dad to reenact my first and only hot air balloon trip with him), but at least I can say "I've done that, thankyouverymuch". So this weekend was no exception.

Early in the summer my mother-in-law had told me of this very VERY typical Swedish 'dish' called surstromming. Now, most swedes who are reading this right now are probably curling their toes as they know exactly what I am talking about. Basically, surstromming is rotten fish. Literally, can bulging, bad smelling, rotten fish. I had just recently learned that the word 'sur' is sour in Swedish and knowing this certainly did not add any additional interest into me trying it. Now, my husband is not a fish eater so when he said he had never tried it, I didn't take much notice. But then, when he insist that he NOT be around when I do try it, I started to wonder. A few others had described it to me as well, but the one that really caught my ear was the description from Jan, my mother-in-laws' boyfriend. I won't tell you what he said about it, but what I will tell you is that Jan is the ultimate Swede (and a true American lover too) and the fact that he doesn't even really like this dish began to make me nervous.

But, alas, I had promised her that I would at least TRY it. So Saturday afternoon, I loaded Reagan into the car and drove to the summer home, alone. Knowing that I might not have much else to eat that day, I stopped at McDonald's for their Quarter Pounder Meal. Once we arrived at the home, I set Reagan up on her leash and began reading my book. Around 7pm Gunilla and Jan arrived. She immediately began to prepare the ingredients for our dinner and I slammed a campari and OJ (along with two glasses of red wine prior to their arrival). Once the additional ingredients were ready we were summoned into the little house for the opening of the surstromming. Now, Gunilla claims that she has a secret weapon - she opens the ROTTEN fish under water so the smell doesn't overwhelm you, the house, the neighbors, etc.. At first, it worked. I didn't smell anything. Then suddenly - WHAM!!! Not only did the smell cause a slight gag but it literally over took all of my nasal passages, leading into my throat. You know that lingering, burning sensation you get when you smell ammonia? Well, that's kind of how this fish lingered in my head. But, I was determined not to be deterred. I've watched enough Fear Factor to know there is a lot worse out there that can be eaten. So we sat down to begin the assembly of the surstromming sandwich. It basically consists of crisp thin bread, sauteed onions, almond potatoes (similar to fingerling potatoes, but are found in the Nordic region), tons of butter and the surstromming. Now, the stromming fish alone is a smelly one. This is not a fish for the faint of heart, but to make it rotten - you gotta be kidding me. But, I was persistent. I wasn't going to let my name go down in shame. I wanted to represent all of America!!! (cue "Proud to be an American" by Lee Greenwood). So, I took a bite. I mean really, how bad could it be. I had loaded the sandwich down with so much potatoes, onion and butter you could barely even see the stromming. But my oh my - you could taste it. At first, I pushed through - helped with a couple of shots of aquavit - but then, I came to a bigger stromming bite. And with that, I was done. I had managed to eat 1/2 of the sandwich - more than most Swedes could probably claim doing - but, in Jan's own words, I was a true Viking now!!!! HA!!

If you curious about surstromming at all, here's the link.

Now I can say I tried it and I don't like it! :-)


StarChild said...

OH MY GOD you are a REAL trooper! How the HELL could you manage that?! I don't go any of the fish stuff here (because I just don't do fish). And would you believe that after 4 years I have never even seen it let alone smell it? I guess no one in the hubby's family eats it. *gag* Well, good for you! I could never have done it! In fact.. I'm recovering from a bit a food poisoning tonight, and thinking about it is starting to make me gag... So... I'm going to go now...

HeatherJ said...

I'll let you represent me in that one. I try some things, but not that!

The Öbergs said...

Yeah, my mom called and said she felt pretty sick too. It's not as bad as you think, but it is pretty darn close!

Anonymous said...


You are woman! In my mind, some life experiences are not necessary...I believe surtromming is one of those for me.

Hope you've recovered.