Saturday, 12 May 2012

Travel: West Sweden: murder,crayfish and oysters

'Fika' of chocolate cake with blueberry whipped cream
The Kings Cleft
Breakfast at Fjallbacka
Like Midsomer in England, the problem with Fjallbacka, a dozy fishing village in West Sweden, is the sky-high murder rate. Camilla Lackberg, who lives there with her hunky detective husband, chronicles this in her series of crime novels. On this visit to Sweden, in which I venture outside the city and discover the seaside, I was given a Fjallbacka tour by one of ABBA's relatives, Inga. The trouble was she kept revealing the plots of Camilla's books. "And here is where the two bodies were discovered by the cliffs" "Over there is the graveyard of all the sailors in the third book" she'd point and finally"and there is where Erika and Patrik get married".
"What??" I spluttered "They are married? I'm on the first novel and they haven't even kissed yet". Inga looked abashed.
Fjallbacka was also where film star Ingrid Bergman had her summer home; there is a square named after her. Reading Lackberg's books, you get the impression it's quite a large town. Untrue, it's tiny, although jumbled with pastel wooden huts, classic red summer houses and almost every inhabitant owns a boat.

I took two boat trips; one on a local fishing boat, learning to catch crayfish, the other, on a  vintage sailing boat, all lovingly varnished oak and pine, where I was taught the correct method of opening an oyster. With your palm, you wedge your oyster knife in the 'hinge', applying pressure from your fingers around the other edge of the shell. Wriggle the knife. The European oyster, found in the cold waters of West Sweden, less slimy than others, will resist with tons of pressure. Keep jamming in the knife edge. Suddenly, the shell will relent. You use the other end of the knife to hook beneath the oyster mussel, slicing it closely against the shell. The oyster shells are kept and sold to cosmetic companies. The mother of pearl will be finely ground and used as the opalescence in lipsticks, blushers and eye shadows.
I witnessed the Nordic oyster opening championships where, despite the rock star posturings of the long-haired Swedish chef, oyster knives in his holster, and a scarlet-lipped blonde girlfriend cheering him on, a Finn wearing a crimson pixie hat won. These things are serious.
Female and male crayfish

One of the judges, checking for grit, drips, shell, blood, lack of severing, a cut or sliced oyster.

Weather Islands with sprig of scurvy curing flower

I asked for the recipe but they wouldn't give it.

My favourite location was the 'Weather Islands', notionally a mosaic of barren rocks in the archipelago of Western Sweden, but home to a wooden guesthouse with the best fish chowder - thick, yellow, rich - that I have ever eaten. This is where Sweden's weather station is located along with a lighthouse to guide lost ships through the pebble dash of islets to the mainland. A tiny white flower, sprigs among the boulders, the name I could not discover, saved parched sailors from scurvy. I arrived on a calm sunny day and felt that I'd like to spend a week there, reading, painting, watching seals, taking saunas and dips in the clear depths of the clean green sea. But they say the weather islands are "A heaven in the sea or a hell on earth". During bad weather, they watch the sea rise 'til it must lap the skirting boards. Having no fresh water, there is a desalination plant, but at first "it was too clean, people got sick, we had to introduce some bacteria"
I love this link: 'Buying your own private island- things to consider', a handy guide for every millionaire.
You know I love a hat!


  1. Just looking over the last few posts quickly before I head to London - some AMAZING photos - love the one of you above! Looks like you have been having a ton of adventures!! Can't wait to read more. Hope you are well! xxx

  2. Shame you couldn't manage to get that chowder recipe.

  3. I agree, some really great photos recently!!


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