Ella – September 25, 2017
I am fascinated by any news of Denmark. It isn’t often that the country of my ancestors makes it into headlines in the U.S. I devoured the news this spring when an overabundance of Pacific oysters on the shores of Denmark created a bit of a stir in China, where people were full of suggestions on how to solve the “problem” they considered a tasty opportunity.
I am trying to learn more about Scandinavian cuisine and the foods that have been passed down through the generations. But in my family, seafood was never the most popular option. After giving it more thought, it’s likely because seafood isn’t as plentiful in Chicago and, therefore, more costly.
In Scandinavia, however, there’s no shortage of fresh seafood. Apparently, Denmark’s location along the cold, clean waters of the North Sea makes it a treasure for oysters and mussels, which aren’t just plentiful in the spring, but also in the fall.
The Royal Danish Embassy in Beijing posted pictures of the oyster infestation to Chinese social media in April, calling it an ecological threat. The Danes were clearly not happy about the bevy of mollusks, but the post inspired the recipes and comments of more than 15,000 people, who offered solutions such as opening up oyster-eater visas so Chinese visitors can come and gobble them up. While there hasn’t been a resolution to the oyster issue yet, in May Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen added three additional visa application centers in China.
In my reading, I also learned that autumn is prime lobster season in west Sweden. To protect over-fishing, it is illegal to catch lobster between May 1 and Sept. 20, so now is a very popular time of year for lobster hunts. Tourist companies offer lobster safaris on which participants help haul up and reset the lobster pots, followed by preparing, cooking and eating the lobster in villages such as Fjallbacka, Reso, Smogen and Grebbestad.
In my house, salmon has always been a quick and easy go-to fish that everyone enjoys. It is also served at The Danish Home, which my great-great grandmother, Anna Mikkelsen, founded along with 11 other pioneering women from the homeland. I find myself wondering if she ever cooked with oysters, or if she ever peeked into the shelled creatures at the beach in hopes of finding a pearl.
Now that I have learned so much about Scandinavian seafood, I am trying some new recipes, from the more traditional broiled or grilled recipes I found in The Swedish-American Cookbook to more modern options, such as oysters with a chili and dill sauce, which takes a mere 15 minutes to prepare and serve. The Danish Home serves a delicious sauteed salmon dish with dill sauce and parsley boiled potatoes.
It remains to be seen if the pattern of the pesky Danish oysters will continue through the fall, but I know the media splash they made this spring opened my eyes to yet another interesting aspect of the country of my heritage.