I grew up in Sandefjord. A small town by the south coast of Norway, with my parents and little brother, Morten. We had a garden and grew all the vegetables and fruits that was possible to grow in our climate. We picked wild berries and mushrooms in the forest.
The autumn was always very busy because of the food preparations for the winter. My mother made pickles, jam, jelly and juices of fruits and berries, enough for our family to eat for a year. I remember coming home from school and she had turned the kitchen into a jam factory, with wasps flying around, dipping down in the leftover jam, feeling the heat of the boiling glasses and tasting the exclusive, newest jam.
My father was a chef and a chef teacher. He always told me how to cook and how to treat the ingredients with respect. Every weekend all year round he went fishing. I loved to help him with setting out the net late evening and rowing out in the fjord early next morning, taking up the net. Cleaning the fish, cleaning the net, taking all the fish back home and preparing it. We made fish cakes and something we norwegians call “fish loaf”. I promise to give you a recipe on our family’s fish cakes and fish loaf, later! My father was an expert in finding edible ingredients in the nature. He picked mussels, crabs, oysters, snails, seaweed and wild onion. He mixed it in delicate ways into our meals. We had fish five days a week, and on Sundays we had meat. I liked meat, but I always preferred the seafood. Out of all the fruits and berries, my mother made desserts almost every day. She made cakes or baked goods on the weekends. I remember how I loved the warm plum pie, with vanilla custard and, not to forget, my grandmother’s baked apples with cinnamon-crumble and whipped cream!
The children’s jobs were to pick berries in the forest, pick the apples, pears and plums that had falled down to the ground and weed the vegetable garden. Morten and I learned how to clean the fish and make fish filets without bones, before we could do any math at school.
For christmas my father and his brother Ivar, also a chef, made beer (with a hint of too much sugar), wine (with a slight tendency to drink it before it was ready), sweet wine and spirits (96% of alcohol). It is not legal in Norway to make spirits, so please don’t tell anyone. The only defend I can say is that my father and uncle Ivar was from Trønderlag, a part of Norway where they have a tradition of making spirits at home and mixing it with coffee. They call it “Karsk”.