Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The thing up here in the far north about the winter darkness is that it's like a drug, making me feel all bleary and numbed with sleep, as if my eyes are permanently gummed nearly shut. Oh, it took years for the darkness to do this to me, but now it's done. When the light finally reappears in full force, it's like the antidote. Suddenly, when those morning rays sneak their way into our bedroom before 6 a.m., it's like I've got the sun running through my veins, and I just can't sleep. It's kind of an all or nothing thing. Life is just lopsided here in Sweden, and you can see it on everyone's face as you pass them in the street. And to make it all the more intense, March is acting like May. No wonder we're all so squirrelly.

In other news, the chorale and orchestra of my alma mater, Highland Park High School, is playing one show only tomorrow night at St. Katherine's church here in Stockholm. Who would've imagined it? The daughter of one of my longest-standing friends is singing, but I can't go on account of tomorrow is my birthday and the husband is acting mightly peculiar as if he has something up his sleeve, saying he doesn't want to go to the concert, and "Why can't we have a nice romantic evening at home?"

I am most suspicious. More squirrelly behavior, if you ask me.

The Swedish word for the day is ekorre, natch. It means squirrel.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

It's nice to see that the Episcopal Church in the U.S. is sticking to its guns and not letting the Anglican Communion bully it into capitulating to conservative churches that think great big homos like me are evil sinners who will burn in hell and have no place in the church.

Instead of having to apologize in future centuries for being on the side of hate, it will be able to say it did the right thing.

The Swedish word for the day is vårdagjämning. It means vernal equinox.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I, too, was reading a book, while I ate delicious rum-babas and little tarts filled with worm-castles of chestnut purée topped with caps of whipped cream. I have called the meal tea, but what I was drinking was not tea but chocolate. When I poured out, I held the pot high in the air, so that my cup, when filled, should be covered in a rich froth of bubbles.

The book I was reading was Tolstoy's Resurrection. Although I did not quite understand some parts of it, it gave me intense pleasure to read it while I ate the rich cakes and drank the frothy chocolate. I thought it a noble and terrible story, but I was worried and mystified by the words "illegitimate child" which had occurred several times lately. What sort of child could this be? Clearly a child that brought trouble and difficulty. Could it have some terrible disease, or was it a special sort of imbecile?

from Denton Welch's short story "When I was Thirteen"

Ever since I first read the story from which this is excerpted, nearly 20 years ago, Denton Welch's description of a stay at a hotel in the Swiss alps in the 1930s has been my idea of what a ski trip to Switzerland should be. Full of rum-babas, tarts with chestnut purée and hot chocolate. And maybe a little skiing.

Tomorrow I'll find out.

I'm not a very good at it, but I love to ski.

I hope I don't break any bones.

The Swedish verb of the day is att åka skidor. It means to ski.

- by Francis S.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

What happens when you take something humble and prosaic, like, say, pea soup, and then add a heaping glass or two of something flashy and crowd-pleasing, like champagne?

It becomes something the Swedes call crème ninon, introduced to them by Tore Wretman, a legendary Swedish chef and restaurant owner who died a few years ago and who supposedly brought crème ninon to Sweden from France, although a little cursory googling finds 100,000 or so links in Swedish and only four links in French - wait, make that three, because one of those links is obviously in Finnish, not French. So perhaps crème ninon is only a Swede's idea of French food: take a Swedish classic (traditionally served on Thursdays, don't ask me why), add a French cliché and voilà, you have haute cuisine. But you know what? Who cares about authenticity, because when you add champagne to pureed pea soup, it goes all foamy and rich, and it becomes something sublime with startling depth, something greater than the sum of the parts (well, it's perhaps a bit disingenuous to claim that something with champagne in it is greater than champagne itself).

As for me, I was introduced to crème ninon by A. the TV producer's mother, who stuffed us last night full of what seemed to be endless courses all based in one way or another on champagne, managing to work into the meal oysters on the half shell, caviar, and strawberries.

I think I'm still full.

The Swedish word for the day is ärtsoppa, which is pea soup.

- by Francis S.