Thursday, July 13, 2006

9 ½ Fingers

- urgh heapr po fiiilt

- miiina polit ääää

This what was we heard when we met the Swedish west coast fisherman that our friend Gunnar had brought us to. We were there to buy dungeness crabs straight from the fishing boat. This fisherman had such an incredible thick local accent that it was impossible for me to understand what he said.

-grroo tri fsakk, he said and invited us onto the boat. We went onto the boat where he started hauling big net cases, that were hanging on the side of the boat, out of the water. Those net cases were full of crabs.

-hmpphh aaaaa put, he said and opened the cases.

I was trying to avoid letting on that I couldn’t understand a word of what this man said by looking out to the sea, presumably intensively admiring the view.

- hmmm aaaaa eau AARRRGH!, Gunnar said. Great! I thought, he speaks the dialect, and I turned around to partake now that it was safe that we actually could communicate.

There was Gunnar with a gigantic Dungeness crab attached to his finger.

- AAAHHHHHAARGHHH! he said, and the fisherman probably believed he said that this year’s national elections had gone particularly well from his perspective.

After a while, though, he caught on and helped Gunnar from his predicament. After doing this he said,
- heartefs bolla PILON! And showed us that one of his fingers was only half of what it used to be. Gunnar, who still had his whole finger, translated that a crab had taken the fishermans finger (you see, Gunnar could understand what this guy said).

We bought about 20 Crabs from the guy and paid about 30 USD.

We went home to the house that we borrow from Gunnar every now and then for summer vacations, and cooked them.

Now there is really only one thing to remember when you cook crabs: Salt. Almost every person I know undersalts the water. The water must be like sea water, i.e. very salty. Check the salinity of your local sea and match your boiling water to it. Oh, one more thing, I boil big crabs for 20 minutes, and small ones for 10.

For you readers on the US West Coast: What you call Dungeness crab is something completely different, and not at all as good as the Atlantic Dungeness. If you travel to Europe, order one, and then feel sorry for yourself forever that you can’t get the real thing at home.

There is a smaller crab on the Swedish west coast which we call the “seaweed crab”. You catch it by tying a semi-crushed mussel to a string, then throwing the mussel in the water. After a minute you lift the mussel out of the water, and voila, there is a crab attached to it. Rather stupidly, it won’t let go, so you just grab it and throw it in a bucket. Now, these guys are small, but if you get a lot of them you can boil them in saltwater and Dill. It is very good.

You can also do as my then 3 year old son. Iwas going outside to get the bucket of crabs in order to cook them. What I saw when i came outside was my son chasing crabs all over the lawn and smashing them with a spade. When I asked what the hell he was doing he said, -they pinched me! ALL OF THEM! Yep, they are aggressive little suckers. Especially when you insist on sticking your fingers down into a whole bucket of them. Since they are also fast runners, we didn’t get to eat any crabs that night. I just didn’t feel for running around the garden for the survivors. But hey, the seagulls got a good dinner.

A couple of days later we had Gunnar, his wife Gunilla, and her mother Gunnel over for dinner (in their house). You see, they have two houses on the same island—we borrow one of them. We had bought a whole Seawolf (about 5 feet long). Now, the house has a good kitchen but it doesn’t have a five foot long oven, or frying surface (few houses have, I’ve sadly noticed). I really wanted to do the thing whole because it is sort of cool to serve a five foot long fish. Just lay it on the middle of the table and tell people to dig in.

So, I was walking around trying to figure out how to achieve this when I saw a rather largish pile of gravel on the end of the driveway near to the garage. Aha! I thought and got some help to dig a six feet hole in the pile. Subsequently, we gathered some firewood and made a fire in the hole. I must say the whole thing took on a sort of pagan burial rite feeling.

Whilst the fire was burning, we salted and peppered the fish, scored it with diagonal cuts on both sides and stuffed and surrounded it with a lot of herbs (basically all the dill we had plus everything in the garden). We then wrapped it with aluminum foil. So think foil, a big layer of herbs, and then the fish surrounded by the herbs.

When the fire had burnt out, we put the fish down in the hole and covered it with the gravel. The cover was about a foot and a half in thickness.

We let the thing sit there for an hour and then we dug it out, found a plank which we sawed off to suitable length, put the fish on it and carried the whole thing in to the waiting guests and friends.

12 bottles of wine later, it was all agreed that the dinner was a big success.

We are going back this summer, so we will see what culinary delights await us this time

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