Saturday, September 1, 2012

I think I should list "eating" as a skill on my resume

You'd think from reading these posts that all we do in Sweden is eat. You're probably right. I mean, that's what you do when you visit. You invade unsuspecting friends' and family's homes and eat everything in sight. That's how it works. I'm just pretty good at making eating other people out of house and home sound fun and interesting.

It shouldn't be any surprise to you then that I'm going to tell you about another day of eating. Which was also another party. Leif's sister's fiancee's parents (what an awkward way to introduce someone into a story!) were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary while we were in Sweden and they invited us to join the family party. We all jumped in our respective cars and drove southeast to Västervik, or West Bay for us English speakers. This also happens to be the town that Leif's father lived near for much of his youth.

This was supposed to be a lunch celebration so we arrived around noon and as soon as we all seated ourselves Ingegerd and Ebbe started bringing dishes out to the patio table. Roasted potatoes and pork tenderloin with three different sauces, roasted root vegetables and salad. That woman can cook! I think we ate everything she put on the table. I know we did, actually. She kept telling us to eat more and wouldn't take a dish away  till it was empty.

After an hour or so of after dinner conversation they brought out the cheese basket that they got as a gift and we tried almost ten different cheeses. I wish I could remember them for you. Some were the stinky kind, some were the runny kind, some soft and creamy and some hard and brittle.There were spicy ones and smokey ones and holey ones. All of them were amazing and we ate them with bread and crackers and flat breads until we couldn't eat anymore.

We sat and talked some more around the cheese board and suddenly it was time for the afternoon coffee. Ingegerd had baked all the goodies herself and they were delicious. We did some more talking, some more eating and more drinking of coffee and finally cleared away the dishes. I thought we were preparing to leave. I was wrong.

Ebbe gave us a tour of the house, showing us all the improvements he's made over the years. They seem to have so much space in a house that from the outside looks pretty small. I think the basement is actually as big as the lot, not the house. It's the only way I can figure that they can fit all those rooms down there.

After inspecting the house from basement to attic I thought we would leave. It seemed like it to me. But then, you must remember that most of the conversations happen in Swedish and unless there's a strong visual hint for me I have no idea what's going on. People milling about in the foyer to me indicates an imminent departure. I failed to take into account the proximity of the kitchen to the foyer. I also failed to notice the smell of something baking in the oven.

Suddenly we were all seated at the table on the patio again and Ingegerd was bringing out some fritatas. We couldn't leave without dinner! I couldn't believe it, I was actually a little hungry. Or maybe I just talked myself into being hungry because I knew there was no way I was getting out of there without eating. I even had a second piece.

We rolled out of their house after dinner, hours after I thought we'd leave. It was wonderful to celebrate with them and to feel like part of the family. If I had the words in Swedish I'd tell them just how much it meant to me to be included in such an intimate celebration. Of course they're still pretty young....they could still be alive when I finally master Swedish enough to cobble a sentence or two together.

Normally I wouldn't bore you with an account of the drive home, but this was another part of the day where I become family. Leif's dad asked if we could take a little detour and he would show us one of the houses he grew up in and the first place he worked.

First he drove us to a large estate and as we wound through the buildings he showed us where he had played soccer with the owners kid when they were young and where they ran their sleds and the house where they lived. On the way into town he showed us the shortcut trail they used to take to get to school (it's still there) and then, as it started to get dark, he took us to the waterside.

There, under a tall chimney, stands a long brick oven next to an even longer drying barn. Tord's first job was in a brickyard, making bricks by hand. He started when he was fourteen years old and worked so hard that he was given the same wages as the men. He told us stories about his work. Things that only a fourteen year old would consider doing, and only a fourteen year old could survive. By bringing me along and telling us the stories he invited me into his life and into the family. Doing what every family does. Passing our stories along to the next generation so that they know anything is possible. And if they can do it over a meal, or maybe a little coffee and cake it's even better.

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