Something Smells Fishy…

Posted by Sam Anderson

On the 14 of July, we had a farewell lunch for a fellow researcher. Lina, who we befriended at the station, was born and raised in Sweden wanted us Americans to try a traditional Swedish dish before she left. Surströmming is a Swedish dish meaning fermented herring. For those of you who don’t know what it is, it tastes exactly how it sounds. Needless to say it was probably the most interesting thing I have ever tasted. Some of the NERU students (or should I say brave comrades) joined me on this adventure.

Laid out on the table was an array of toppings (flat bread, boiled potatoes, red and white onions, sour cream, butter, and cheese) that you complied to create this flatbread masterpiece. As we gathered and the tables began to fill, Chris (another fellow researcher) opened the fermented herring in a bucket full of water so that the fish juice would not get on everyone. The smell that proceeded was more than foul–it even made my eyes water. We later learned that this dish is traditionally eaten outside, purely because the odor is so horrible. You would think that after smelling the fish we wouldn’t dare touch it– never mind eat it– but my mindset, like most of the students’, was why not? It’s not going to kill us right? We should be trying to experience as much as we possibly can in Sweden…

Lina gave a nice demonstration on how to cut and gut the fish and layer the flatbread with butter, onions and so on. While Lance and Joel were the first to dive right in, others (like me) were not so forward. I casually went around the table gathering the ingredients needed to make this so-called “edible” dish. I finally took a bite after staring at it for about 10 minutes and it actually was not that bad until I bit into the herring. A wave of salt and slime hit me and I had to hold back from gagging. Laughs and cautious stares followed as I finished the bite. It wasn’t as bad as I thought; I believe that it was the anticipation that got to me more than the actual herring. I wish I could say I finished the whole flatbread dish but I only finished half. I (along with the others) am very thankful for Niklas who saved the day and finished my other half.

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And finally…the reaction.

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It was a fun experience, but needless to say, I think that’ll be the last time I try Surströmming.

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