Homemade Dinner in Oslo
There is a good reason that I haven’t finished writing about my trip to Norway and Sweden with my friend Zan (which was already a good two years ago).
I usually leave out details of the story surrounding a meal or dish, not because they aren’t interesting, but because they’re frankly too long and difficult to recount. But there was something magical about my arrival in Oslo, Norway, from New York City two years ago, that I feel I need to somehow convey when I show you the first meal I had there.
This is an exact line from my journal from that day, August 30, 2013: “Fell asleep on the train from the airport but made it to Wenche’s!” Wenche is a family friend of Zan’s; she’s our mothers’ age and has a daughter our age. I’d never met them, never even been in contact with them, and Zan had sent me her address with directions. I must have been in a post-plane stupor if I fell asleep on the train, and I honestly have no idea how I made it all the way to Wenche’s house on my own from the airport. Zan wasn’t scheduled to arrive for a few more hours, so I knocked on the door that I assumed was the right one from the given directions, hoping the strangers that opened the door were the right ones. Luckily, they were.
They were welcoming and their house was lovely, perched high on a hill, warm and welcoming on a chilly, wet afternoon. Wenche’s daughter, Marlena, kindly offered to show me around the property. It was surreal, being alone in a new place with strangers who were as kind as old friends, and a fluffy, friendly puppy named Luna. I followed Marlena, wearing borrowed rain-boots, admiring the old structure and the lively foliage.
Maybe it was just my post-plane, sleep-deprived brain overreacting, but it felt like being in a fairytale. Marlena brought bowls outside and we began picking currants. Marlena’s friend arrived, and helped us gather fruit (there was also an abundance of apples).
Suddenly, Wenche was perched on the porch above us, camera in hand. She told us to smile, and we did. I love how in this picture, you can tell how friendly our hosts were; they instantly made me feel like a welcomed friend.
We finally dried off, brought the fruit inside, and three of us began to cook. (I just followed Marlena’s instructions… luckily they both spoke pretty good English!) The gorgeous red currants were mashed… and turned into jam.
Suddenly the most amazing, herbaceous smells came from the oven. Somehow, they’d already made foccacia. It was chopped up and set out to dip into lentil vegetable soup (which I think had been made before). Everything was vegetarian, since Marlena’s friend worked for a charity that helped animals. Amidst all the cooking, Zan arrived! She was also a bit delirious, but she joined right in. The freshly picked apples had been thrown into a pot and turned into apple butter.
Zan and I helped scoop it into reused jars (they gave us weary travelers the easy jobs) while the real chefs turned their attention to dessert: apple cake! Zan and I set the beautiful table in the cozy dining room. We enjoyed a lovely, unhurried, home-cooked dinner. We were able to talk more and get to know each other. I had no preconceived notions of Norway, but somehow, this room, meal and company seemed to embody its very essence. Cold outside (even in August), cozy inside, practical but not sterile.
Dinner was followed by tea and the scrumptious apple cake. Dinner was so simple, yet healthy, hearty and richly satisfying. The conversation was relaxed yet interesting. It was the best kind of dinner. That afternoon and evening was one of those travel experiences where everything magically works out, and is even better than you had hoped for. Later you realize that maybe it was so wonderful because you arrived with no expectations, and left with a heart full of gratitude.