Sunday, September 13, 2009


Patterns in harvest fields - Strib, Danmark
"...but if everybody would stay content with what is his own and let others enjoy the same rights, then no law would be needed." - Code of Jutland (1241, preamble)
To me, Denmark is the rational embodiment of the "live and let live" sensibility. Danes respect privacy and the rights of property. As long as you're not hurting anybody, pretty much anything goes. You see evidence of this in their industry, in Danish homes, and in how they play. While maintaining a strong free market capitalist economy and a large social safety net, it has few fabulously wealthy or extremely poor citizens. People are not hung up on accumulating stuff, or in sticking their noses in other people's business. An ugly debate about the sanctity of marriage couldn't happen in Denmark. They just don't speak that particular language. And so, whenever I visit, I literally feel the baggage of my divided country slipping away with each passing day. By the time our party reached the summer house, there was no tension in my shoulders. I was infinitely patient, almost serenely calm. 
Summer house cove - Strib, DanmarkSummer house sunset - Strib, Danmark
An excellent state to be in, as there was lots of work to do preparing the cottage for the birthday onslaught. The gardens needed tending, the lawn furniture hauled out of the tool shed, bunks made up, and finally, the flag pole painted and the Dannebrog flown. In between were fabulous home-cooked meals, long walks through the countryside and wicked games of cards lubricated with plenty of excellent wine.
Bøf, kartofler og salat - Strib, DanmarkGrilled pølser - Strib, Danmark
Straw baling - Strib, DanmarkStraw bale crib - Strip, Danmark
We had fine weather all through the week. It made one morning ritual an utter delight: the bakery run. Tradition has it that the first to arise each morning bikes into town for fresh breakfast rolls. Beating Whogus out of bed, however, is a challenge. I personally don't think he sleeps, or maybe he has a twin who steps in while the other dozes off somewhere unnoticed. But Whogus can be relied upon to wait for others to stir before heading off. Everyone seems to love this task most of all. One rarely makes the trip alone. So every morning we break our fast with a meal of still-warm bread, butter & jam, stinky cheese, and strong black coffee. And then we go off together or in small groups for the day's outings. On Thursday morning a large party tent had to be erected and wild berries picked for the night's dessert. Naturally the women all stayed behind to assemble the metal frame and hang the canvas while the boys donned straw hats and carried baskets out into the fields. Oh if saying it only made it so! By the time the guys - sweaty and grimy - had the shelter up, the girls were back with armloads of berries and plums. What an industrious lot!
Late in the day, all was prepared. We shared one last cozy evening together before the crowds descended the next morning. We ate out of doors, dawdling over coffee and chocolate before washing up and starting another game of røvhul. There was plenty of music (everyone seemed to have an iPod), and an almost palpable, convivial, loving atmosphere. I think everyone suspected that once the house overflowed with company, the intimacy would quietly dissipate.
Finally, the day arrived. There were dips in the Lillebælt, the narrow strait that separates the mainland of Jylland from Fyn where our little summer house sits. Many of us were reluctant to forfeit our daily constitution, but did consent to shorten it a bit. There was a light midday meal (mostly liquid on my part) as we chefs prepared the feast. A local Dane had arranged for the hindquarters of a fresh lamb and a turbocharged gas grill borrowed from his boss. In the kitchen, scores of helping hands whipped up pasta, potato and green salads. We were introduced to an herb that grew right along our stretch of beach, to brighten our side dishes. Of course there was snaps, beer and enough wine flowing through the prep work and the banquet itself to float the Danish Navy.
Fresh lamb shanksBurnt offering ascending to the nostrils of God
Kartoffelsalat - Strib, DanmarkPastasalat - Strib, Danmark
That satisfied silence that accompanies any good meal was punctuated by toasts in Whogus's honor, celebrating long friendships and familial ties. Shouts of "skål" rang out into the night and akvavit was lifted to smiling lips. And at last, wild blackberry crumble. Oats, brown sugar and butter crust atop berries so fresh and so ripe that adding sugar would have been nothing short of pure folly. As the mid-summer sun slowly set behind us, we each offered up thanks in our own personal ways for the accident of life and the blessing of friends.
Wild blackberry crumble - Strib, DanmarkWild blackberry crumble - Strib, Danmark
Happy Birthday, Whogus - Blog O. Food

1 comment:

Muffie said...

OMG - how I have to make desert! Love you!