Friday, August 22, 2003

I don't care how traditional it is, I'm not eating it!

Yesterday at Giornale Nuovo, I was introduced to the concept of surströmming, a strange fermented herring dish from Sweden. I can't see how fish that ferments while sealed in a can doesn't kill you or at least make you violently ill. I found an article which goes into a little detail about the differences between fermented food and putrefied food, but I still don't get it.

In the comments of the same Giornale Nuovo entry above, Languagehat brought up lutefisk, which I'd heard of but knew nothing about. After a little research I couldn't fathom why this dish, like the aforementioned surströmming, didn't kill those who dared eat it. One of the things I dug up was an old Usenet post, which must be the classic take on lutefisk by an outsider because I saw it on several different web sites. It's hysterical. I also found a guy who sells the stuff online.

All this fermented fish business reminded me of something I'd heard about Icelandic people eating fermented shark meat. After a little poking around, I dug up a fascinating archive of Usenet posts about historical/traditional Icelandic cuisine. If you skim a little of it, you'll wonder why there's any Icelandic people left at all. I also found a site that has lots of Icelandic recipes, including the fermented shark.

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