Saturday, November 6, 2010

All Spruced Up.

Happy November to all. Here's my latest entry to the UNISG student blog......

This summer I needed to get out of Parma. Desperately. A girl can only sweat so much before she sits down, books a trip to she can’t afford, and flies off to Norway.

I landed in Bergen, mercifully cold enough to warrant a sweater, and walked through its medieval wooden quarters on the harbour. Further south in Preikestolen, I hiked to the imposing Pulpit Rock and peered over its edge to the Lysefjord below. At the tip of this fjord I chased BASE-jumpers up to the famous Kjerag Boulder, which I climbed upon for a picture (but didn’t jump off). Norway’s landscapes were wild, unpredictable, and already I long to return.

Norway tasted wild, too; one night we had dinner at Hanne på Høyden, a restaurant in Bergen owned by chef Hanne Frosta. They source or forage nearly every ingredient from Norway, and even make their own wines from a variety of local fruits.

I ordered the beef filet, butchered from a peculiarly small breed of Norwegian cow and served with spruce-tip butter. This topping was simple, just butter smashed up with the supple ends of spruce branches, and like lavender, the spruce tasted just as it smells: woodsy, earthy and green. It complimented the beef beautifully, and oddly enough, tasted familiar.

When we had the chance to meet Hanne, I told her a story: every summer when I was a child, my father took us camping on an island in the middle of a lake. When we weren’t upsetting nature’s equilibrium by digging wells or damning creeks, one of our many projects was to harvest spruce tips. We’d stick them in a can of water and leave it on the campfire to boil. With enough sugar stirred in, this tea-of-the-forest was drunk without qualms, though my mother, happy to abstain from these trips, would have had a heart-attack if she knew what we were cooking up in rusty metal.

I couldn’t have guessed that seventeen years later I’d be eating spruce-tips again, this time melted over beef and served on a plate rather than in a can. It is a rare and curious moment when taste elicits such a memory, and I love Norway all the more because of it.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like Norway was amazing! I especially love the stories about the spruce-tips and have grand plans of making spruce-tip butter when I arrive back home.