Looking back over recent transmissions, I noticed that October came and went without my posting anything. There seemed to be no time. Then I remembered — I started reading the second book in Karl Ove Knausgaard’s sometimes riveting, sometimes tedious but always addicting six part autobiography. Like the first fat one I couldn’t put the second down. I couldn’t figure out especially with the second—which takes you through the uneventful daily grind of his life in Sweden with his second wife, their kids and their diapers; his limited cooking, and ample drinking and sitting on park bench skills—why I was so engrossed. Ionah would look at the cover and say as she passed by — still reading that self obsessed narcissist from Norway? Yep, still was.
He’s the family cook, not like me by choice, but by duty, which I wouldn’t push on anyone. In a rare mention of what he eats— cigarettes and coffee come up a lot, so does beer, wine, aquavit; but, occasionally, pickled herring and rye crackers— he wanders the aisles of the supermarket where he buys pasta, canned tomatoes, basil in a pot and factory fresh mozzarella. He brings it all back home, walking through the bleak Swedish winter, smoking. He cooks it for his wife; she doesn’t cook, and pasta is what she wants. He couldn’t care less either way. He could be cooking anything. Most of the time he heats up a pan of yesterday’s leftovers because food just doesn’t speak to him; he tolerates it along with his daily list of domestic chores.
But it sparked a question: he wonders, while waiting for the water to boil, why everyone wants to eat in this new way and what’s wrong with the old Nordic foods. As memories of out-dated tastes from his youth flood his brain, he looks back with nostalgia— and hunger for pork chops, onion sauce and mashed rutabagas. A cuisine many miles and years away from the ubiquitous Italian foods that his family and most urban Swedes eat these days.
Of course I had forgotten all of this: as soon as I finish a book I forget most of its content within days. That’s my brain now; memory’s shot. But when I wandered my local supermarket last week looking for something, anything, new to eat, I ran into a stack of rye crisps standing in the aisle waiting to be stocked. It was there that Karl Ove and his struggles returned to colonize my already overloaded mind, and I welcomed the memory, the hunger and yielded easily to the craving. I picked a pack from the top: as luck would have it they were Swedish! I walked to the end of the store to look for a jar of pickled herring, which I found among the butter and yogurt. I got home and buttered a rye crisp, piled on the fish, opened some mustard, had a pickle and called it lunch. Now where’s the aquavit?