Surströmming tasting session in Berlin
Saturday 8 September, 2001
Part 1

Jouni Maho has kindly sent me a can of Surströmming - sour (ie. fermented) herring - a Northern Swedish speciality, for me & my friends in Berlin to taste. He has also given us instructions on how to eat the fish - ie. with boiled potatoes, chopped onions and sour cream, with or without bread, and vodka plus beer or water, and he has provided us with some very useful (and amusing) URLs for further tips about what to do with the fish:

Furthermore, we tried to invite a few Swedish friends along for the evening, just to make sure we did it "right". Max Andersson and his wife, Helena Ahonen, said they were busy at the weekend because of the Comic Festival (where Max was giving a lecture), but they confirmed the recipe over the phone and told me they were looking forward to seeing our report; Bettina tried to bring another Swedish artist, but she was busy, too, and could not make it. Whether these people were in fact relieved that they had other things to do on this evening, there is no way of knowing... ;-)

So anyway, eight of us (plus one dog, one cat and two bunnies) got together at Natsumi & Helge's for the evening - although Couscous, the cat, immediately disappeared and hid in the bedroom throughout the ceremony (nothing to do with the fish, she was avoiding a confrontation with the dog, I think...)

Having each read the printouts of the instructions, we proceeded to open the can...

Oooh, it stinks!
Look, it's alive!!
I have to admit that I didn't get to read Jouni's instruction, that I should keep the can in the fridge, until several days later (nor did I read what it said on the can itself - "to be kept between 4-6C" - because the can itself stank of fish, and I immediately put it back into 4 or 5 layers of wrappings it had arrived in, and left it on my kitchen worktop.) So the fish must have fermented even further in the mean time. The can had expanded a little, we could all see...

OK, it did smell very strongly as soon as Natsumi opened the can (while everyone else stayed as far away as possible), but it wasn't as bad as I had feared after reading all those warnings... In any case we didn't need to use the bucket filled with water, which was standing right next to the table in case. (One friend in Norway had told me "you have to open the stuff underwater!!")

Go on to read how it tasted...