The prospect of having the opportunity to taste Swedish Surströmming, what Japanese scientists have found to be the most putrid foodstuff on earth, appeared to be just too much for almost 30 brave souls to resist.
The crowd, a diverse mixture of Chefs, Sommeliers, Journalists, Restaurateurs, and curious civilians, were fully pumped up with anticipation by the time it came to open the two cans of the smelly stuff that had been smuggled back from Sweden the previous year.
The larger of the two cans had swollen to such grotesque proportions that the Food Scientist in the audience was a little concerned as to the condition of what lay within… upon closer inspection we noticed that said can had actually passed its sell-by date by over a year. The can in question here was actually gifted to me by the Chefs at Stockholm’s acclaimed (and recently Michelin starred) Gastrologik restaurant. Perhaps they were trying to play a little trick on their Scottish/Canadian visitor? Nevertheless, we soldiered on…
I thought that I was being smart opening the two cans underwater, but in hindsight I realise that I should really have worn latex gloves as the stench did not come off my hands, wrists, and watch for almost three days. I had to sleep in the basement. I kid you not.
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As the cans were opened the stink was truly unbearable. Those present who were exclaiming that it “was not that bad” were either lying through their teeth or have an extremely insensitive olfactory setup. After the dirty work of opening the cans and examining the contents (the swollen black can was quietly placed behind us), we then had to serve up the fermented fish for the hyped up audience.
When I sampled Surströmming at Stockhom’s Sture Hof the previous year I cannot remember the smell being quite so dense and penetrative. After this year’s experience I do not think that I will be able to touch it again for the rest of my living days. After the dirty work of opening the cans and examining the contents (the swollen black can was quietly placed behind us), we then had to serve up the fermented fish for the hungry hordes.
The Surströmming was served on a delicious caraway flatbread provided by Lesley Georgiee of OMG Baked Goodness, alongside a delicious aged Borenkaas cheese from the Netherlands that was kindly donated by Afrim from The Cheese Boutique, as well as the requisite fingerling potatoes and chopped red onion.
Chef Chris McDonald (in his King of Denmark guise) kindly donated a sizeable amount of home made Snaps to wash everything down, in both Sea Buckthorn and Hay varieties. Let me tell you, if it were not for The King Of Denmark’s Snaps I think that my portion of Surströmming may have made a magical reappearance on the Midfield patio that afternoon.
All the budding gastronauts present sampled a little piece of the Swedish delicacy apart from four scaredy cats.
Name and shame: Andres Marquez of Fonda Lola, Jen McNeely of She Does The City, Jessica Olivier, and Sommelier Extraordinaire Peter Boyd, who came up with the line of the afternoon, “People don’t get to live to 123 years old by eating that stuff”.
All in all it was a fun and interesting way to spend a Thursday afternoon, and to top it all off we raised $400 for The Stop Community Food Centre!
Our thanks go out to all who participated, and Mike Mystery from Hong Kong who designed the wonderful invitation below.
And a special thank you has to go to the ever-patient Christopher Sealy and Giuseppe Anile of Midfield for allowing us to use their space.
All of the good photographs were taken by the talented Colleen Nicholson who can be found at dropthefish.com
And I would be remiss if I were not to mention the lovely Michelle Rabin who assisted throughout the afternoon.