So what have I been doing, huh? Not on the blog, that’s for sure. And it will be awhile before I get back to regular blogging. A trans Atlantic move tends to change one’s habits.
I’ve been enjoying Victoria, most especially walking in Beacon Hill Park and the seafront along Dallas Road. Long early morning walks to work out the kinks, in body, mind and spirit. One of my language students asked me the other day what I think about when I walk. I told her I think about the beauty around me: what I see, hear, smell and feel. That I walk until I stop thinking and just ‘am’. Yes, walking to achieve Zen state.
…and I’ve been reading, Swedish detective novelist Åke Edwardson. I’m on his fourth(?) book, Sun and Shadow, and this evening read a passage I just have to share with you. Though mostly vegetarian, I do eat fish, and this passage describing detective Winter’s Millennial New Year’s Eve dinner preparations is mouth-watering.
I read this passage after supper: a lovely Pacific salmon steak, seared in a hot pan with sea salt and cracked black pepper, and served with a salad of diced tomato, avocado and garlic, garnished with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of chopped wild fennel leaves (picked on my morning walk along the seafront where it grows in huge clumps), brown rice mixed with green peas and a drizzle of sesame oil. A delicious, easy meal.
Enough of my food – feast your eyes on this passage from Sun and Shadow. This is such a good novel. Not your typical crime novel. Oh yes, there’s been a murder – but rather than a sharp focus on the investigation, Edvardson treats us to pages of vivid, sensory description of the minutia of the lives of those surrounding his protagonist Erik Winter. From December, chapter 41 (translated from the Swedish by Laurie Thompson)*:
“…He decided to concentrate on the first course. The fish stock was ready and strained. It had been simmering for four hours the previous night, and had been made with fish bones, a leek, shallots, fresh ginger, white pepper corns and water.
He mixed the dressing and put it to one side: the stock, fresh lime juice, grated horseradish, sea salt, and a little freshly ground black pepper.
He carefully stirred a teaspoon of freshly ground, unrefined sugar and half a teaspoon of sesame oil into three eggs, then fried thin omelets in a little rapeseed oil before letting them cool on top of one another. Then he rolled each of the omelets and cut the rolls and put them on one side.
He had just finished opening the oysters, two and a half dozen. He checked them again, then cut twenty-five rinsed sugar snap pea pods diagonally and blanched them in boiling water for thirty seconds before cooling them with cold water. Having drained them, he mixed them in a large bowl with finely chopped red onion, a little watercress, and some leaves of a lettuce known as upland cress that had a delicate, slightly hot, peppery taste. Finally he added the thin slices of omelet.
He heated up some more oil in a deep frying pan and sautéed the oysters very quickly on both sides at a high heat. He repeated this several times, then placed them on top of the salad one by one. When he had finished, he drizzled over the dressing. He carefully tossed the oyster salad, divided it onto three plates, endeavoring to be as fair as possible in distributing the oysters.
He thought that should keep them going until the main course, which was a rack of veal with mashed garlic potato and pesto. The meat had started to brown and interesting smells were coming from the oven. It was spiced with coarsely chopped cloves of garlic, newly ground black pepper, and olive oil – he’d put the ingredients into the mixer and turned them into a paste, then rubbed it into the veal and allowed it to marinate for five hours. “ (page 277-78, Sun and Shadow, copyright Ake Edwardson, 1999; translation copyright Laurie Thompson, 2005. published by Penguin Books.)
As a descriptive passage in a work of fiction, this is superb. The attention to detail – “..twenty-five rinsed sugar snap pea pods”; the writing as if a recipe, yet not quite. For example: I’m left wondering just how much fish stock did he use to make the dressing, and what did he do with the remainder? And at the same time, I’m both delighted by the idea of simmering a fish stock for four hours to make a salad dressing, and fascinated by the character that would do such a thing, and perhaps even more so by an author who would create such a character!
Then there’s the salad itself: rolled omelet cut into thin slices and sautéed oysters. And what omelets! “…a little sesame oil mixed with three eggs…” and “freshly ground, unrefined sugar…” . What’s that? I’ve never heard of grinding your own sugar. How do you buy it? How do you grind it? And a teaspoon of that mixed with the eggs to make the omelets!
I once knew a French chef who told me to add a little water to my eggs when making an omelet, but sesame oil!? Wow! And cooking them in rapeseed oil. Oh my!
The main course also sounds amazing, though I’d never eat it…but still…what a marinade!
I’m going to try this oyster salad one day…will let you know when I do. Meanwhile, have you read Ake Edwardson? Are you a fan of Scandinavian crime fiction? And how about this salad? Ever come across a salad like that? Do tell…