Saturday, August 6, 2011

Here fishie.....

OK. We buy that stuff in a jar...with the white sauce - tangy - with onions and we often mush it on crackers on Sunday mornings when our cholesteral level is in reasonable shape....ahhh very hot black coffee and creamed my.
We are what you could call a fish in a barrel fisherman. ... as in those damn things need to be in a barrel before we can catch one and then only with a net. So when we saw this story and having lived in Stockholm for years we were dutifully impressed.

We had been to Sweden perhaps a dozen times before moving there about 30 years ago to this day.  It was a strange set of occurances to say the least but Stockholm in early February is hard to describe as a 'treat for the senses'. The sun came up at 9 and set at 3.  The 6 hours were filled with trying to get things done and get myself arranged before we lost my sense of direction and got lost in the gloom of night. 
Our flat was on the third floor of a turn of the century building on Valhallavagen just west from Sturgarten and across from the 1912 Olympic Stadium.  There are any number of good stories from that time - most of which we are forbidden by law to recount - but we moved in after a month in the Doremus Hotel down the block and felt very cosmopolitan almost immediately.

The subway/metro was nearby but mostly we walked as the path from the flat to the Opera House took us through a wonderful park, past the Coq Roti restaurant down to the central square with giant chess pieces and a bandstand where the most god-awful community band played nightly in the summer.
Stockholm is on a series of islands near the town center (old town) and the water was clean and people fished all the time or at least on the tides. We never saw a whopper herring like in the picture but having nothing to do one day gave in and rented some poles and some bait from a vendor and gave it a whirl.  The trick was you were supposed to toss it out into the real current but that skill eluded me so I just dropped it almost at my feet over the cement walkway.  A few kind hearted Swedes wanted to help me but we had no desire to catch anything - just to sit in the then April sun and watch a harbor scene with the old town in the distance that was a view unchanged for 6-700 years.  Folks had come to that spot (Nybroviken) for 7 centuries to catch fish and to look at the old town.

We got extremely lucky (for one of us in particular - the aforementioned "can't catch fish in a barrel") and simply caught a whopper - emphasis on whopper.  The light fishing gear was no match and we were also fishing in 10 feet of water so there was little time.  Our now colleagues came running to help - Amerikanen fångat en fisk - and they landed the beast and we were suddenly Nimrods. One old fellow who we had spoken to nearly daily for a month or so was shy with envy so we asked him if "he would mind cutting me a fillet for our dinner and perhaps if he would like to take the rest home for his home to enjoy we would appreciate it".
He looked at me with amazement and we made a friend for life.  "Perhaps you should come with me to my house for dinner tonight to enjoy this wonderful fish".   Our honor.  He scratched out his address and left with the fish.  We went back toward my flat and stopped at a little pastry/bakery shop in Osterralm that we silently frequented for our morning sugar fix.  Feeling quite the fishermen and now having something to say we recounted my adventure to the counter person who had been kind enough to exchange chit-chat with Americans with horrible Swedish skills for the past months. We had to draw the "fiske" now as long as we were tall and with great gesturing she felt in the presence of Ahab and the Great White Whale.  For the next years we were known as Amerihanan yrkesfiskare.  A local honor.  This fish was so large as to only get smaller by describing it......
We went to dinner that night somewhere past the wonderful art museum with its Rembrandts and down to a little house with only 4 rooms and very low ceilings. It was very old. His wife, was completely shy and said almost nothing as we were "as she finally announced" the first Americans to ever be in their home. She never thought that the day would come and admitted that she was anxious about having an American visit because her home was so plain and we lived so well as she had seen on her TV.
The fish was poached in milk and dill with some other ingredients that she had found in the market. We had purchased the very best Aquavit at the control store that we could afford and we had some with herring that was not from a jar but some that she had put up from her husband's catch and with a recipe she said was as old as the city..for curing and keeping so not to waste.
Aquavit is, in our opinion, Scandinavian Grappa and to be consumed only by the teaspoon and never - EVER -  by the bottle. Liquid death is another name it goes by. The Swedes call it the drink that loosens all tongues. No kidding.  We - the group of us - consumed a lot of that wonderful stuff to my host and hostess's glee and anyone that thinks that the Swedes are stoic folks who sit around and go "hmmmm da ser gut" have a surprise in store. We all liked Sibelius - a Finn and thought Rembrandt was perfect for here and not in the Dutch area.  They had a deep seated dislike of the Germans per WWII and decried the neutrality of Sweden during the war....dirty swedes...was the term.
The hour grew late and we left them to find our way back. April or not,  it was snowing when we walked out and up the street to the underground to find our way home.  To this day we have not made any further contact although we have their address in my keepsake box but are certain that they are long since gone.

We write this remembrance in that a friend from the past made contact with us or us with her on facebook of all things after having gone missing for 35 years or so. Her sister appears to have lived in Stockholm for a bit and we knew her well and can remember her after all this time..both of them really...Gail and Linda..both absolute geniuses and special kids back then...the ones you look at and say "oh lucky to be that gifted".
The value of social media.

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