We got to experience a real cultural event this past Friday. We were invited to a “shrimp party” at the summer cottage (hytte) of Trygve and Bente, friends of ours from church. Asbjorn and Astrid were also in attendance. Like a Cajun shrimp boil, the Norwegian shrimp party has a fairly simple menu – shrimp smørbrød (an open-faced sandwich), potato salad, an antipasto-like tray (without cheese but with melon), and an assortment of drink choices.
The Norwegian smørbrød is a traditional dish that comes in several standard styles. The shrimp version is a single slice of white bread (that is the brød), spread with butter (that is the smør), covered with perhaps 15 small shrimp, a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice, with a medium-heavy drizzle of mayonnaise and/or an avocado spread. It is eaten with a knife and fork.
The Norwegian twist is that the shrimp are whole, unshelled shrimp in two very large bowls in the center of the table (4 kilograms – 8.8 pounds of shrimp). The shrimp are individually taken from the bowl and given the 1-2-3 treatment. 1 – twist off the head, 2 – unwrap the shell and eggs from the central body, and 3 – pull off the tail. Each person has a plastic bag for the refuse, and a bowl of warm water for finger-cleaning. Norwegians are very serious about their shrimp (reker). Trygve and Asbjorn could do about four 1-2-3 treatments for each one that Debbie and I managed to complete. They also knew more about shrimp anatomy than I ever thought was possible to know.
The entire evening, from dinner, to desert, and then coffee, took about four hours. Very European. When was the last time you spent four hours eating and speaking with friends over a meal? For us it was 2002, when we were last in Norway.