The beady black eyes watched me as I fought a futile internal battle, unwelcome shudders racing their way up my spine. I was hungry – ravenous in fact – but the overflowing plates of seafood before me (including my audience of crayfish) made my stomach sink. It looked like Poseidon had puked on a platter. I was drowning.
‘I’m on a seafood diet!’ chuckled one of my co-diners. ‘I see food, I eat it!’
I smiled weakly.
Not wanting to offend my Swedish hosts, I took a bit of everything; pink shrimps, crayfish, half a crab (one limp claw hanging from its sturdy shell), and some rather more delectable smoked salmon, then proceeded to stare at it for a few minutes.
Crustaceans creep me out.
Eventually, I had to begin the process of getting to the edible part of the creatures. Gently picking up a crayfish by the least repulsive parts of its shell, I closed my eyes, yanked hard and discarded the head sharpish (I believe it is tradition in Sweden to suck out the brain-mush. Needless to say this was never going to happen). Holding my breath, I cringingly attempted to peel the body, with a skill that would probably make any self-respecting Swede cry.
Out popped a curve of white meat, a measly size compared to its terrifying casing; would the taste be worth the trauma of retrieving it?
Shell-shockingly, it was!
I made it through my first night of seafood, but I had four days left in Bohuslän, Sweden, and I knew I wasn’t getting away with it that easily. The next day I found myself on a wooden fishing boat out at sea, on a ‘lobster safari’. I’m not sure I was much help, allowing the men of the group to haul the traps up from the depths as I recoiled from the spindly ‘treasures’ within, but the experience certainly gave me a new found respect for fishermen and their prey.
I soon got into the swing of things and was eating my way around the west coast of Sweden. Baked salmon drizzled in a tangy mustard sauce followed by a lemon mousse topped with rasberries on Valö Island; haddock and horseradish sauce in Tjörn, with chocolate truffle and lingonberries for dessert; and in Grebbestad I was presented with a huge cod loin drenched in the creamiest wine and butter sauce imaginable. This was my idea of seafood.
But I wasn’t getting away with it that easily. One night, as I waited eagerly for the next serving of fish, I heard a loud crack, followed by another. Then another.
I turned slowly to see a young waitress stabbing a knife into oyster after oyster, prising their shells apart with a well-practiced technique, placing them delicately onto white porcelain. Apparently she’d won awards in Sweden for her oyster-opening skills. It’s always baffled me how something so grotesque-looking is considered such a delicacy…
There was only one way to find out why. Bottoms up!
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Category: Food & Drink