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‘I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me…

She showed me her room, isn’t it good, Norwegian wood?…

…And when I awoke I was alone, this bird had flown,

So I lit a fire, isn’t it good, Norwegian wood?’

As the catchy tune of this beautiful little Beatles’ song faded out, I wondered like many other curious fans, whether the fire he lit up was a joint, the fireplace or the whole house as revenge! Amazing how the simplest, everyday songs sometimes hide the deepest meanings…

Much like the Salmon, perhaps the most admired and enigmatic fish of them all. Imagine being born in the cold waters of a highland stream, spending your youth floating through sweet waters of green valleys, past little hamlets, and arriving at the grown ups party at the vast, salty ocean, only to swim right back, this time AGAINST strong currents, leaping high over rapids and even waterfalls, into that same mountain stream of birth, to start the cycle of life again!

And as if the Salmon’s real-life story was not fascinating enough, there are some very interesting mythological stories and folklores around it that will surely make you smile down at your next Salmon meal! Here’s one story I love… Psssst! Keeping in mind the glorious image of a golden-locks flying, hammer-wielding Chris Hemsworth will help you enjoy the story more 🙂

Thor and Loki and the story of the Salmon fish

Loki, the mischievous God in Norse mythology, who’s usually up to no good, really goes and does the unforgivable – he tricks the blind God Hod into killing Baldur, the God of Peace and Forgiveness, a much-loved, nice guy. Knowing very well that the other Gods would not spare him this time, Loki transforms himself into a spotted, pink Salmon and dives into the river to escape. But Thor (enter Chris!) spots the silver and pink fish flashing in the sunlight, and catches it mid-leap, gripping it firmly by the tail, not letting go despite the violent thrashing about. And so it happens that the Salmon is cursed forever with a slender, dented and tapering tail!

True, that’s not much of a curse, as is the fact that many Salmon fishing companies are named after the villain of the piece, Loki! But hey, who doesn’t love folklores? Mom’s patient storytelling got me through my meals when I was a stubborn, trouble-making toddler, and food stories still fascinate and inspire me.

So with all these wonderful stories of Loki and Thor and Salmon of Knowledge (another lovely Salmon folklore, read here) in my head, I landed up at the very formal, very grand re-opening of the Norwegian Consulate in Mumbai. The ballroom was filled with the sound of clinking wine glasses, swishing silks and hushed voices of foreign dignitaries, their Indian counterparts and business associates – a strikingly elegant room, with some very tall and very blonde people! Not my regular haunt, I smiled to myself, as the lyrics of Norwegian Wood came back to me…

“She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere,

So I looked around and I noticed there wasn’t a chair”…

But the lights dimmed, I spotted a couple of familiar faces – Rhea Mitra Dalal and Prachi Joshi – and quickly joined them at the large, white table as the graceful dancers of Attakalari Dance Academy, Bangalore glided onto the stage to enthrall the audience. At the end of the piece, the Norwegian dignitaries – Foreign Minister, India Ambassador and Consul General, Mumbai – came up to do the launch honours and revealed some interesting facts, of which one, in particular, intrigued me. Norway, reportedly, was the first to set up a Consulate in Mumbai in the historic year of 1857, (yes, the year of the First War of Independence in India, better known as the Revolt of 1857). But in 1973, for reasons not many are privy to, it closed down. So, this launch in Mumbai makes it both the ‘youngest’ and the ‘oldest’ consulate in the city, and perhaps the one generating most interest, owing largely to the frenzied popularity of… yep, you guessed it right, the Norwegian Salmon!

The Whole-Smoked Salmon served in chunks at the live station

The Whole-Smoked Salmon served in chunks at the live station

That characteristic pink-coloured slice of fish on your dinner plate can make you slobber in delight, instantly appreciate the chef’s prowess and also gauge the finesse of the place you are dining at. For, the Norwegian Salmon has become synonymous with class, distinctiveness, and refined taste the world over. After all, 14 million platefuls of smoked, pan-seared, butter-poached, butterflied, baked, ceviche-d, carpaccio-ed, sashimi-ed or just plain lettuce-tossed Salmon meals are consumed in one single day, around the globe.

A pretty, gem-like portion of lightly smoked Salmon with Egg Yolk and Rye Crisp

A pretty, gem-like portion of lightly smoked Salmon with Egg Yolk and Rye Crisp

As I marveled at the spectacular display of the Norwegian Seafood Dinner laid out for us, I felt somehow connected to those 14 million Salmon-lovers, and the millions who were at that very moment digging into their trout, mackerel, halibut, herring, scallops, and the curious Klippfish… There were petite gem-like portions of seafood on the smorgasbord, with whole-roasted Halibuts and Salmons being intricately at live stations. It was a fitting showcase of the best offerings from the Northern seas, prepared by the charming and popular celebrity Chef Sebastian Myhre from Norway.

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At a quiet exclusive chat with the charismatic Chef, he confessed that this dinner for 250 guests needed every ounce of his creativity and attention, and some very nimble knife work and presentation skills from the team at the luxury Trident Hotels, spearheaded by Executive Chef Joy Bhattacharya. As a champion of local produce, the chef wanted to create interesting pairings with the top-quality seafood and fish that had all been flown in from Norway. Thus was born the delicately seared Scallops with the light crunch of local poppy seeds paired with Sea Urchin Mayonnaise, and the beautifully cured Trout bejeweled with Löjrom Caviar (a regular at royal dinners, and at the Nobel Prize Banquets!) with a dash of kicky local mustard dressing. The pretty desserts, intriguingly displayed in a large grandma’s cupboard, had one very interesting trifle-like dessert called Veiled Farm Girls served in large goblets. The chef explained that this was the traditional dessert of Norway, a favourite carried down through generations, made with layers of apple compote, whipped cream, cinnamon and breadcrumbs. ‘And lots of butter’, he added, with a characteristic flash of his dazzling smile.

The dessert display in a wood-n-glass cupboard reminded me of Old Mother Hubbard, and made me all fuzzy and warm inside!

The interestingly named dessert, Veiled Farm Girls – A traditional Norwegian favourite

Feeling like happy and well-fed farm girls ourselves, Rhea and I reluctantly left the grand dinner and the chef behind, the taste of Norwegian Sea still lingering in our mouths and the unshakable sitar tune of Norwegian Wood playing out in loop in my head…

The charming celebrity Chef Sebastian Myhre from Norway

The charming celebrity Chef Sebastian Myhre from Norway

 

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