I guess I can’t be a Viking

04 Nov


“herring for breakfast”

Herring for breakfast

Herring for breakfast

While I was in holiday in Finland, the main songwriter and singer (Mathias Nygård) for one of my favorite metal bands (Turisas) tweeted:

“Meat, beer, herring, vodka, cabbage, cleavage, more meat, more beer… Polish dinner 10/10”

I presume that some of his followers weren’t keen on the herring, because he then replied:

“Hey! All of you downplaying the herring. If you want to be a Viking, better get used to it. You’re gonna be eating a lot of it. #herring”

Well, I guess I won’t be another Canadian Viking… I tried the herring, and….no.

When I was younger, my (German) father would occasionally get ‘rollmups’ from the deli; pickled herring wrapped around a wedge of pickled cucumber, stabbed through and secure with a toothpick. With the skin on, and bits of onion floating in the brine, they still looked better than they smelled. I’d always be brave, on each newly opened jar, and accept “just one” when he would offer. I kept hoping that I’d acquire a taste for them, and cement my cultural heritage. My mum, who was clearly a quicker study than I was, turned down the offer, usually with a wrinkled nose.

Onions, brine, fish skin… They looked better than they smelled… And they smelt better than they tasted. There wasn’t even any relief in the pickle itself; the flavours of herring permeated the pickle too. The skin side of the fish was vaguely slimy, while the fish itself was just chewy enough that I had to really ‘savour’ it; I couldn’t just swallow it down and forget the taste until the next time a precious jar was unscrewed.

But then I went to Finland…

My first try was at the hotel buffet in Savonlinna. The dining room was lovely, the cereal selection vast, and the herring sitting amongst many other breakfast offerings.

Herring for breakfast

Herring for breakfast

I took one piece. One tiny slice of herring from the large bowl it sat in. I picked out a wide assortment of other things too. Just like those days taking the offered herring from my dad, I’d give it a try….

While it didn’t tease me with a little pickle wedge, I regretfully conceded I was not a fan. I took a second serving of tea that morning, but the bowl of herring was safe from my morning appetite.

Herring for breakfast

Herring for breakfast

Herring. For Breakfast. Six different ways.

Now in Turku, there were six different varieties….

Selecting hotels with a buffet breakfast was a great idea. We had a few choices in Turku, but the Centro offered the central location we were looking for along with free wifi (although it was slow) and an included breakfast buffet. Part of that buffet included herring.

For breakfast.

Six different ways.

A selection of herring in Turku

A selection of herring in Turku

While I skipped the pickled variety that I had experienced earlier on my trip, and the flaked variety (which looked like, and may have actually been cooked flaked tuna) I once again piled my plate with other things, fixed my imaginary turtle broaches, straightened my mjölnir pendant and selected one little piece of herring from each of the four remaining flavours.

A selection of herring in Turku

A selection of herring in Turku – Juniper

One variety was plain with what I think was an enormous peppercorn (though later on I saw something similar with a label that said it was a juniper berry). This one was really fishy, and again, not to my taste.

A selection of herring in Turku

A selection of herring in Turku – creamy

Likewise, one in a white sauce that was very much like bland yogurt was too fishy for me, although the texture (masked by the sauce I suspect) was much better.

A selection of herring in Turku

A selection of herring in Turku – Mustard

I had a mild feeling of dread before popping the herring in a mustard sauce in my mouth, but it was actually a lot better. The fishy taste was masked significantly by the sauce. I wouldn’t run out to get more, but this one and the next were a lot better for me.

A selection of herring in Turku

A selection of herring in Turku – tomato

The final flavour I tried was in a tomato sauce that honestly tasted a lot like ketchup. This was approaching “ok” although I think I’ll leave the herring to the Vikings. I guess it’s an acquired taste, and while hunted down some other Finnish treats once I returned home to Canada, I’ll leave the rollmups alone.

Would you be a good Viking?

If you’re curious if you’d make a good Viking or not, take this short quiz: Would you make a good Viking?  – it’s herring free, I promise 🙂


Posted by on November 4, 2013 in Out of town - Europe


Tags: , , , ,

4 responses to “I guess I can’t be a Viking

  1. reijosfood

    November 4, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    Herrings are mostly delicious, if prepared well.

    • Dawn

      November 28, 2013 at 10:55 pm

      I’m sure what was offered was well done… but it must be an acquired taste! (and I just have not acquired it yet!)

  2. inte fan gör det det

    November 5, 2013 at 2:08 am

    HAHAHA-Great post!
    I live in Stockholm, Sweden and just LOVE herrings in all forms!
    For the holidays I do my own “sill” with my grandmothers old recepie!
    Have a great tuesday!

    • Dawn

      November 28, 2013 at 10:57 pm

      Thanks Anna! I think I’ll stick with your country’s gravlax instead of the herring. ;o


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