Faroe (Part II): Cauliflower Cheese
from Saturday, July21st of the year2007.
Whenever I cook, I always cook too much food; I feel like there is something to be said for creating the illusion of abundance (or, better put, the actuality of abundance). Part of me feels like it’s waste, but as long as everything is suitable for lefts-over, I feel like nothing is really going to waste to make, you know, two pounds of pasta for three people, or a giant roast for four. I had lunch yesterday in Faroe with the most extraordinary woman, who managed to create simultaneously the feelings of intense coziness, the stark “end-of-the-world”-ness of Scandinavia, abundance, extravagance; only in my own mother’s house have I felt such a combination of things, although with family there’s always the expectation of warmth due to blood ““ here, I suppose, the generosity of spirit with which this food was made created another layer to the affair. The vibe in her house reminded me immediately of the description of the kindly Norwegian grandmother’s house in Roald Dahl’s The Witches, which I need to re-read the minute I can to confirm my suspicions.
Dorete is a Danish-born Faroese marine biologist, author, whaling expert, and cigar enthusiast; she is probably in her mid sixties although I was not about to anything close to ask. Her house, I learned over the course of the lunch, was an old house whose interior was composed of salvaged lumber and furniture from abandoned houses in downtown Tórshavn. Her earthenware dishes each weighed about twenty pounds, and when we arrived, they were filled with various delights. I took down a list of the nine or ten things she made, and I will say that I am 200% stealing the recipes for the pÃ¢té made from wild goose livers, hearts, and gizzards and the cauliflower cheese-cum-soufflé (with herbed butter up-on).
Dorete has written a book on the Pilot Whale Drive tradition on the Faroe Islands which I will link to here the minute it becomes available in the states. The book details, among many other things, the traditional methods by which villagers alerted each other to a whale sighting: lighting bales of hay and then immediately extinguishing them (because hay was a precious commodity). In my recollection, a similar sequence was the visual highlight of the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Miss D”” is also involved in various biology projects on the islands; when we were eating lunch, she instructed anybody who saw a fat enough fly to capture it with a pre-frozen mustard jar. I did it (in about 60 seconds, compared to her 1.25 seconds) and handed her the jar; she then showed us the Fly Board where she mounts her kills. Surreal, hyper-real.
What I did notice, however, was that Dorete had a bunch of Naxos CD’s of Mozart operas and symphonies; I’m going to put together a bunch of alternate recordings for her and send them along. I love those Naxos discs; it’s sort of like Ikea recordings, where if you just have to have a footstool, you can have one for $4.99; eventually you can replace it with a big-girl footstool but the $4.99 one always has a place in your heart. Also, Naxos has been amazing in releasing contemporary American composers, including my schoolmates Huang Ruo and Jefferson Friedman, whose second string quartet is a really amazing thing worth listening to. Does anybody else besides me wish that Naxos had a slightly different template for their design department, though? The simple formula of a large picture with text on it seems like it would be easier on the eyes and the designers than the semaphore flag on top of red white & blue-themed text in various sizes. But I’m not complaining; anybody who is willing to put out music by living composers gets a “get out of kerning-related jail free” card in my book.
Other things I want to talk about in future posts: differences between Faroese and Icelandic vowels as a function of audio waveforms, singing in one’s native tongue (definitely more on this tomorrow), Island nations and right-wing politics. Also I took about sixteen thousand pictures of drunk people at the festival:
Boy in cart with duct-tape guitar
Click here or scroll down to read Installment I of the FÃ¦reyjablogg.
July 22nd, 2007 at 11:35 am
correlating naxos with ikea is genius.
July 24th, 2007 at 9:49 am
Looking at the exquisite ceiling in Dorete’s kitchen reminded me of ceilings I’ve seen in old Greek houses. They use hewn cross beams just like those but instead of wood, they use bundled reeds which makes a wonderful contrast. They cover all of that with a pile of dried seaweed and then concrete and then whitewash. The whole thing is gorgeous (but sometimes leaky). I’d love to know the history of her ceiling.
August 11th, 2007 at 1:30 pm
Dear Nico, many thanks for your kind remarks to the lunch. You are welcome back another time.
Many kind regards