Like Sweden in general Surstromming

Something is wrong there

to open

There are two things that bring a grown man to his knees on the spot: a) Kick him in the balls. b) A freshly opened can of Surstromming is held under his nose. The smell is infernal. I imagine the air in pathology to be so curiously putrid and sweet. I open the can, a moment of clarity, I suddenly understand the whole truth of human nutrition: For God's sake, we eat dead animals. Decay. Beyond. End. Many vomit when they open a can of surstromming. Dealers advise putting it in a bucket of water because the gas pressure can make the whole thing explode when you open it. Some airlines forbid you to take it with you, canned gas plus negative pressure = disaster, you understand.

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The first bite is - luckily - less terrible than the smell. Let's say: like a nasty angina compared to a serious car accident. The fish disintegrates on the tongue, it tastes mainly of salt. No wonder, in spring the herring is marinated in brine, in which it rots until summer (yes, it rots, even if experts talk about "fermenting"). It comes into the can on the third Thursday in August, only then is it sold (in Germany for example via You can hardly taste that the pulpy mass is fish. It's more like eating something someone found in the attic of an abandoned house. And the house was abandoned before the beginning of modern times.

to survive

Because no other people in the world think of putting something like this in their mouth, Swedes are proud of their carrion fish. Connoisseurs eat it with almond potatoes and butter. The aftertaste haunts you for a long time, far too long, not even heavy Swedish schnapps can do anything. Still - you should have tried surstromming once in a lifetime. Why? Because it will make you proud. Because it will give you the feeling that you have dared something - without having to jump down somewhere or put your life in danger in any other way. When you open a can of Surstromming you don't look death in the eye. But you realize how it smells.

Illustrations: Rutu Modan

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