Monday, June 11, 2007

From Oslo, Norway: vessels

So what images best present Norway? They would have to include ships and fjords and glacial waters. And Oslo? Caf├ęs and ferries and children with very very light hair. And boats. Everywhere – boats.

My admiration for the Vikings was only half serious two days ago when I rowed my own wooden boat up and down the Hardengenfjord. Today, I gave them a more thorough consideration.

We sailed over, via ferry, to the Viking Museum, where we could stare endlessly at the boats that, more than 1000 years ago, carried the Vikings to sea.

Impressive. And beautiful.


And although my little boat had been designed to imitate the looks of a Viking dinghy, hands down, the ancient boat would have walked away with a “best of show” in a competition between the two.


Daughters are predisposed to reassure parents of their abilities and exceptional strengths and thus I was told that I probably had Viking blood in me in that I could well manage on a boat and trip requiring that degree of stamina. In truth, I’d only go out if someone promised to pull on the oars should the winds fail. And I would insist on a decent night’s sleep at a nice seaside inn, with a fresh and honest dinner to cap the day.

I’m not sure that was in the offering back in the year 900 A.D.

Zipping back on the ferry, we noted the tankers that hauled crates of goods from China…


…and the small shrimp boats that, each morning, brought in large quantities of fresh sea critters for Oslovians to devour right that day (these are parked right in front of the Nobel Peace Center)…


…and, of course, there were other things out there on the water. Things that require paddles of a different sort.


Is it oxymoronic to speak of Norway as the land of the sea?

Late in the day (or is it night? ), a different set of vessels demonstrated once and for all that Norwegians really do know how to work with food. Watermelon and tomato soup, turbot filets, crayfish, tenderloin and an array of strawberry presentations were brilliantly executed. A regional, seasonal menu done in a northern country with a short growing season. Absolutely inspired.

Here's an example (this is the crayfish and asparagus in a lobster sauce, with Jerusalem artichole chips; I like the frothy ocean look and of course, the vessel):


So, my admiration is quite genuine. For Norwegian boatmen and cooks who take on challenges that make me feel small. Okay, I may feel small for other reasons, too. The shrimp besides the lobster. The dinghy beside the ship. You get the point.