16 February 2011

a vacation to remember

In my life before children, before marriage, before Nick , I did a lot of traveling. I guess you could say I had the travel bug, itchy feet, wanderlust. I would get home from one trip, and couldn't wait to plan the next. It started with a semester in Ecuador, living just outside the jungle. Next came Australia, Africa, Europe... Each adventure left me thirsting for more - a new country, new culture, new people.  

One summer I took a three week trip to Norway to visit one of my dearest friends, Ellen, who I had lived with during my time in Washington, DC. She was (and is) my kindred spirit and I so looked forward to being with her in her native land and experiencing her typical daily life. That was one of my travel criteria - the less touristy the better. I took my anthropology major seriously - I wanted to be as much engulfed in the culture as I could.

During that particular trip, we went camping in Sweden, hiking in the mountains in central Norway, on a road trip cross country to Bergen, and I took a couple of solo side trips to Stockholm and Copenhagen. But mostly I spent my days exploring Oslo while Ellen worked. I sat in cafes sipping coffee and reading, shopped at H&M far too frequently, walked in gorgeous parks and tried to generally blend in.

One morning Ellen told me we'd be going to a birthday party that evening for one of her friends.

"It's a shrimp party," she told me.
"A what?" I asked.
"A shrimp party. Fishing boats come into the harbor and sell their freshest catch. They boil the shrimp right on the boat - they're amazing." 
I had been a vegetarian for ten years, but ate seafood on occasion. This sounded perfect, and a true cultural experience to boot. 

We arrived at the party and I immediately felt fashionably inferior to all of the beautiful Europeans I was surrounded by. We each grabbed a glass of wine and I stood by Ellen's side as she mingled. As I looked around the room, I noticed that the bar was set for dinner. Platters lined with fresh bread, plates filled with butter and herbs, and extremely large bowls filled with shrimp. 

Full bodied, heads on, antennas sticking up, black beady eyeballs staring at you shrimp.
It was a shrimp party and I was kind of starting to freak out. The line for dinner started to form and the party goers began to ooh and ahh over the shrimpy spread. People loaded their plates with bread and mounds and mounds of the little suckers.

"Take a lot," said tiny Ellen, "because once you peel them, they are fairly small."

Oy. I followed her lead and silently rallied myself to act as though this was totally normal for me. Cracking apart shrimp bodies and all.

We sat down and Ellen happily coached me through the process: "Just slip your finger under its legs to peel the outer layer off. As you come up to the neck, snap it back and its head will pop right off! It takes about seven or eight to fill a slice of bread."
Oh. my. goodness. I queasily began the process and silently apologized to the black shiny eyes staring at me. It's already dead, it's already dead, it's already dead, I repeated over and over. 

And you know, after I made it through the first ten, I was over it. I happily joined the Norwegian masses in the neck snapping of many little shrimp, laying them deliciously atop bread and butter between sips of crisp white wine.

But I gotta tell you, here I am eight years later and I haven't done it since. I'll take that frozen bag of pre-cleaned, deveined shrimp any day. 

Thanks for the memories, Norway.

Mama's Losin' It


  1. What an interesting story. It reminds me of the first time I had fresh crabs on the beach in Brazil. Someone had to teach me how to eat them.

    You certainly have traveled the world. I was in South America over 40 years ago & plan on going back later this year. Now that we're retired, we're writing our bucket list.

    Find my Writer’s Workshop entry HERE

  2. Ew! I've been vegetarian for about 5 years now and since I never really liked shellfish I KNOW I wouldn't have been eating much except bread at that party!!

    Visiting from Mama Kat's

  3. Yeah, I don't like having to work that hard for my food.

  4. I don't think I would have been able to eat the shrimp after all the work. I would have just gone hungry.

  5. Blechh! There is no way, no possible way I could have ever done that. Props to you and cultural anthropology.

    P.S. the part that really got me was slipping off the skin..

  6. I think popping the heads off would have gotten me...I love seafood, but prefer not to see its eyes.

  7. Working hard for my food?
    No please. I too prefer the pre-cleaned shrimps.

    What an amazing trip!

    Have a great weekend and thanks so much for your wonderful comment.

  8. Oh how funny! You brought me back to the memory of my first shrimp boil in Louisiana! I was so shocked to see those heads and eyes - which caused a lot of laughter at my expense. I got over it, too - but also love the frozen kind sans heads, antenas and shell! Glad I stopped by from SITS today!

  9. Ha ha!! Thanks for reminding me! Kind of funny - or was it fun... Think I'm gonna have shrimps for dinner today!

    Miss you!

    Love, Ellen

  10. I recently moved to Denmark, and am falling in love with Scandinavian culture. I can totally relate to feel inadequate compared to all the European fashionistas, shopping at H&M way too much, and sipping coffe in the abundance of cafes. I am planning a hiking trip in Norway soon, and can not wait to visit!