The smell was an indescribable stench unlike any I had known before. “Ugh, is that a sewage backup,” said Robert as we were eating dinner last night when the stench first came drifting into our apartment. No, I replied, I think someone died. Quickly, the smell permeated our place and just as quickly, we began opening doors and windows. Good God, I said to Robert, it’s surströmming.
Earlier that day, I had noticed the sign posted in our lobby announcing a surströmming party in our building. No wonder Ingrid was apologizing for the party, I continued. This is just beyond disgusting.
Surströmming is fermented Baltic herring that is sold in cans. As the cans age, they often bulge thanks to the ongoing fermentation. Then when the surströmming is opened, the noxious gas is released. The surströmming is an acquired taste even among the Swedes, but it is a traditional food and often served at parties with tunnbröd (thin, crispy bread), potatoes, onions and sour cream. And to wash it all down, snaps is the drink of choice. Funnily enough, many airlines ban surströmming on planes as they say it is potentially explosive. Explosive or not, you certainly would not want one of those cans popping open in the confined space of a plane.
Being a more adventurous food explorer than I, Robert was offended that we had not been invited to the party. As for me, I did not want to be any closer to the stench than what I already was. We left the building for a while later and when we came back, you could smell it at the building next door. It was truly amazing. This is one Swedish delicacy I don’t intend to ever sample.