A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC
A weekend in the country
Would be charming
And the air would be fresh ..…..
Several years ago, when we still lived in the Land of La La, David had a short hiatus from work. He decided to drive up to Northern California to see our friend, Misha … a Dutch sailor who had moved to Hawaii, and whom we met at the coffee plantation he owned and operated … while Misha was panning for gold in the XYZ River (location withheld to preserve the claim). That’s where David met Lena, a Swedish woman, also a friend of Misha, also intrigued at the idea of finding gold in them there hills. Confused yet …?
Over the years David and Lena have stayed in touch, and she has offered us a place to stay should we find ourselves in Sweden. When we planned a trip to Northern Germany in late June, we contacted Lena to see if her invitation was still open. Happily, it was. We agreed on four nights … including midsummer.
As our departure neared, Lena warned us that “autumn has arrived early” in Gothenburg, and to pack accordingly. That involved some extra flexibility, extra layering since the weather forecast in the other three cities on our itinerary called for temps noticeably hotter. 63 to 79 F … 14 to 27 C. Both Petra and Leslie thought my wardrobe should be two pairs of pants and five tops … and when I said “and one dress,” Leslie concurred, “say yes to the dress.” Two pairs of shoes … that I knew without asking. I bought a new extra lightweight suitcase. In pink. Everything fit nicely into my new carry-on. And for a girl who used to schlep three 70-pound bags … plus a cat and a carry-on … to fly between Los Angeles and Florence, this was a brave new world. I loved it by the time I got to the top of our stairs, and could easily carry it down to the car.
Lena had also asked about food. I liked her already … I do that, too. I said that my first choice was to eat gravlax at the source. Local cheeses … artisan breads … any fish that she and her husband recommend. Anything local and anything they loved. I explained that David is allergic to shrimp … and added, sottovoce, I’d rather like to try them, too. We brought homemade almond-walnut-hazelnut cantucci (based on my question to Lena about their preferences) and a chunk of parmigiano, the undisputed king of Italian cheeses, .
We landed at GOT, and TIM welcomed us … phones have free roaming throughout the E.U. Now we’d have the navigation to get to the museum Lena had suggested. It’s on the coast, she said, and would be a good place to begin seeing Western Sweden. On the map, the scenic route was an hour-and-a-half-ish from the airport, then the same distance to her home south of the city.
As we walked through the airport and toward the rental car agency, we called Lena to let her know the eagle has landed. We said we were excited to be here … excited to get on the road. Lena mentioned that the next day was a holiday … midsummer … if we wanted any wine or beer, we should stop and buy some on our way to the museum. She gave us the name and address of a store en route … and, she added, if you are tempted to buy fisk, give in to that temptation.
As we drove around, I kept saying fisk.
The store was a veritable smorgasbord of adult beverages. We couldn’t resist buying a few bottles of wine, but we stocked up on local lagers and artisanal ales. Next door was a shop with lots and lots of fisk … but without Krone, we could only look, longingly, lower lip quivering, as gravlax was sliced.
No sooner had we gotten back onto the highway, we realized that we had not thought about buying … water. It was easy to solve … at the next town, we stopped at a supermarket (where we could use a credit card) and bought a few bottles.
We made our pit stop. Fisk.
No sooner had we gotten back onto the highway, we realized that we bought sparkling water. I cannot drink frizzante for gastrointestinal reasons … and we began looking for the next town. We didn’t really mind … the countryside was beautiful, lush with pine trees, rocks protruding boldly yet gently, spacious meadows dotted with red barns. The roads were virtually empty, despite the holiday, and the drivers we encountered were courteous and patient. It rained a little bit here, a little bit there, but we were relaxing. Vacationing.
The next market was larger than the first … and there was even a woman in an apron offering samples of sausage. She was happy to welcome us to her country, and encouraged us to have a couple extra samples. We found the water aisle … I was determined to ask for help … but, alas, there was nobody around. When I found a couple a few rows away, they abandoned their basket and came with me to see what we could find. Both the husband and wife were as perplexed … and went to find a store employee to help. There, on the top shelf … the young man finally found the one brand of still/flat/natural water they had. We bought a couple of bottles.
As we headed to the cash register, we gave in to temptation … and we bought was salmon. A nice, big, red filet of salmon. Fisk.
As we re-started the navigation, David said that he was getting tired. No surprise there … our flight had left at 6.25 a.m. … airport at 5.00 a.m. … shuttle at 4.45 a.m. … wake-up call at 4.00 a.m. … hotel (after our two bottles of Franciacorta at our fisk dinner with Liliana) at 11.45 pm. …
We can just loop around and head toward Lena’s or continue on to the museum .. and see how we feel when we get there. David’s the driver … I let him decide.
As our destination grew closer and closer, it became clearer and clearer that the museum we were approaching was not on the coast … but on a bay. Where are we? I switched screens, looked back through notes. Ok, the street address is correct. Where are we? We had driven the designated distance. So … where are we? It seemed we were in a nearby town … a nearby town the same distance from the airport … a nearby town that has also has a museum at the exact same address as the museum in a town on the coast.
It was a Griswold-style visit. And we back on the road toward Lena’s.
It wasn’t long before we were sitting on Lena’s deck, glass of Prosecco in hand, enjoying the view to the meadow beyond … becoming better friends with Lena and her husband, Per … discussing dinner … getting to know Abby, the friendly and beautiful absyssian kitty and master mouser.
The fisk we bought was the star. Lena salt-baked the salmon to perfection … flavorful and flaky, still juicy. Alongside were new potatoes, served with sour cream dill sauce and/or butter. A flavor from my childhood, it’s the way I still cook our first (and second … and third) batch of potatoes every year. We continued drinking Prosecco … along with a bottle of 2016 Cashmere Black Magic … a California wine from Lena’s cellar. Dessert was some of my cantucci.
We were loving the lingering light that makes this latitude so special.
(To be continued …)
GREEN BEANS WITH ANCHOVIES
Anchovies in salt seem to have a bolder flavor. If you are reading this recipe, I presume you like them as much as we do.
8 oz. green beans
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 salt-packed anchovy or 2 brine-cured anchovies
Salt and pepper, to taste
- In a medium or large frying pan (with lid), heat a little water and the beans. Steam for a few minutes, and when the beans are bright green, remove the lid to let the water evaporate.
- Add the olive oil, garlic, anchovy/ies, and salt and pepper. Saute, stirring occasionally to mash up the anchovy/ies, until the beans are tender and nicely browned.
LEEK AND CREAM CHEESE SPREAD
2 large leeks, chopped
Salt and white pepper
6 to 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
- In a medium frying pan, saute the leeks in olive … season with salt and pepper to taste … until lightly browned. Cool slightly.
- Stir in cream cheese, using the amount to get a good balance between the two ingredients.