Fish! Norway’s fish is so tasty it must be talked about. On the Norwegian Coastal Voyage we had fresh salmon, gravlax, arctic char, cod backs, halibut, pollock, trout…but the flavors of these various fish are not like ordinary fish flavors with those names. Each fish was subtly prepared to bring out its unique but unmistakably FRESH essence.
In Kristiansand there is a fish market that is so alive and tempting and authentic someone should do a documentary on it…and I used to shop at Citarella in NYC, which has choice fresh seafood.
So one of us on the family property in Kristiansand would drive to the fish market in Kristiansand every day for fresh catch. One of my favorites is mackerel, which my mother told me at its best should be small and taut–in the shape of a half moon. You then take the fish, douse it in flour with salt and pepper and fry it in butter. Afterwards, you make a gravy with the fried bits left in the pan by adding sour cream and stirring it around. Perhaps add a little fresh parsley at the last minute. The salmon is to die for, but also exceptional is the shrimp caught and immediately boiled on the fishing boats to seal the freshness.
Shrimp parties in Norway are fun. You simply have a huge pile of shrimp on a platter, a bowl of homemade mayonnaise that has some whipped cream added, and good freshly made Norwegian bread. To accompany the meal there is beer, or wine, or orange soda called Solo. Such a meal often has a festive atmosphere because everyone is gabbing and peeling his shrimp and laying them on top of the slice of bread in a row like sardines in a can and sipping something delightful.
Also worthy of mention is the farmer’s market in Kristiansand. In the words of the Norwegian Coastal Favours Brochure:
Norwegian potatoes, vegetables, salads and herbs are said to have much more taste and aroma. Cooler growing conditions, more gradual development and lots of light calls forth the best in farm products.
We would bring home bags of the fresh vegetables from the farmers market to accompany the fish and felt each night when we dined we were eating “like kings and queens.” Something as simple as boiled potatoes with butter and a little parsley had us oohing and ahing. Also, of unbelievable flavor are the local summer strawberries. With a little heavy cream on top…Oh my God!
The amazing thing is neither Paul, nor I, gained any weight eating like this. You would have to look pretty hard at Norwegians, whether in the towns along the west coast, the capital city Oslo, or Norway’s southern most tip, Kristiansand, to see a fat person. If you will allow me to generalize, Norwegians as a group are healthy looking and fit. Certainly that has a lot to do with diet, but also exercise. LOTS OF EXERCISE…I think its part of the national identity. Have you ever heard of a Norwegian couch potato?