Wednesday, October 25, 2017
...it rained and rained but then a miracle occurred !
Back in the early days of television, Saturday night's were ruled by a program called "Your Hit Parade." The show featured perky Dorothy Collins, Russell Arms, Snooky Lanson and Gisèle MacKenzie who sang their hearts out in production numbers that showcased the week's top rated songs. Most songs were transient and moved quickly on and off the program, but some, such as "Far Away Places with Strange Sounding Names", had especially long runs. Wage increases and expanded opportunity fueled the country's sense of wanderlust and folks who had never traveled took to the road and began to explore places they had once only dreamt of visiting. Even the imagination of children was fueled by the promise of adventure in world's unlike their own.
My wanderlust was fueled by natural phenomena as well as geography. Geysers, volcanoes, tornadoes and tidal waves played a prominent role in my daydreams. I got to see them all, though I must admit my tidal wave was more a seiche on Lake Michigan than the real thing. What I hadn't been able to see, however, were the Northern Lights, and so it happens that in this 78th year of my existence I am on another adventure, this time on a ferry traveling through the fjords on the way to the Arctic Circle and the waters of the choppy Barents Sea.
The trip has been more difficult than some. The group we are traveling with is large - too large - and the logistics of getting 59 people on and off buses and the ferry do not always go smoothly. Day one of the tour was especially difficult. It rained in sheets, and as the day wore on, fog completely enveloped the city of Bergen. The weather was a temperate 52 degrees, so our group, dressed for the Arctic was damp within and without and tempers began to fray even before we boarded the ferry for the first leg of our journey.
It was time for an attitude readjustment and the seasoned travelers within the group managed to pull themselves together and surrender to the limitations of the day. Yoga breathing and meditation helped a lot, but we knew better days were to come.
The next evening our patience was rewarded. The skies opened and under a blanket of stars the Northern Lights began their ballet and danced across the sky. It was breathtaking. The Aurora lacked the color we had expected to see but its eerie glow was a wonder as it streaked across the sky. Strangely, our cameras picked up the colors our eyes could not see. The lights have made encore appearances every night since then and while under their corona, we've seen their curtain explode and curl as it streaks and melts away. Last night conditions were especially good so we were finally able to see green bands with the naked eye. Our cameras "saw" the pink and violet shades our eyes cannot yet see. I'll keep you posted.
The food on our tour has been quite good. Fish, potatoes and other roots vegetables are the mainstay of the Norwegian diet, but they are supplemented with dairy products, lamb and reindeer. I have yet to try whale, but will when the opportunity presents itself. The chef here was kind enough to take me through his kitchen to see how he and his staff of 10 are able to turn out 600 fabulous meals every single day.
Salmon has appeared on the table every day of this voyage. While I'll never lose my love for Nova, I've come to have a much greater appreciation for gravlax or the salt cured salmon that is served throughout Scandinavia. I wanted to share this recipe with you.
1 (3 to 4 lb) cleaned salmon without the head, skin on
1 cup salt
2 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup spirits, like brandy, gin, aquavit or lemon vodka
2 good-size bunches of fresh dill, roughly chopped, stems and all
Honey Mustard or Lemon wedges for serving
1) Fillet the salmon or have the fishmonger do it; the fish need not be scaled. Lay both halves, skin side down, on a plate.
2) Toss together the salt, brown sugar and pepper and rub this mixture all over the salmon (the skin too); splash on the spirits. Put most of the dill on the flesh side of one of the fillets, sandwich them together, tail to tail, and rub any remaining salt-sugar mixture on the outside; cover with any remaining dill, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Cover the sandwich with another plate and top with something that weighs a couple of pounds -- some unopened cans, for example. Refrigerate.
3) Open the package every 12 to 24 hours and baste, inside and out, with the accumulated juices. When the flesh is opaque, on the second or third day (you will see it changing when you baste it), slice thinly as you would smoked salmon -- on the bias and without the skin -- and serve with rye bread or pumpernickel and lemon wedges. Yield: 12 servings