Saturday, May 30, 2009

just another surreal evening with the brainiacs

husband's aunt is about to publish a dictionary. it's a swedish-danish dictionary. and thus far has 25,000+ entries. she's been working on it for ten years. and it's being released online. and she's in her late 70s. i think that's all pretty cool. she had a dinner party last evening to celebrate its impending release.

to say this aunt is eccentric is a major understatement, but it is in the most charming, wonderful way. the family stories of strange meals they've been served by her are the stuff of legend. odd sauces made with eggs, pasta fried in a pan (without boiling first), so i didn't really know what to expect.  what we got were landgangsbrød sandwiches.

it's a slice of bread cut the long way of the loaf. there were lots of different toppings to put on it...shrimp and avocado, swedish leverpostej (much more flavorful than danish--sorry danes), a mix involving salmon caviar and something creamy and i think onions, some kind of sardine mixture (you can tell i really went for that one) and cheese. you then are supposed to pick it up and eat it from one end to the other. apparently down at husband's end of the table, the creamy caviar dish was mixed with a black caviar, which colored off rather purple on the creamy bit. i didn't try, nor even see that one.

she lives in a strangely laid-out apartment in a really fabulous neighborhood in copenhagen--really in the center, right between nyhavn and the royal theatre. the location couldn't be better. it appeared, however, that she needed to cross the common hallway which leads to the other apartments in order to get to her bedroom, but i didn't explore THAT closely.

the woman i sat next to at dinner was quite amusing. she'd been a language teacher for years and we were speaking danish for the first hour or so of the party. then she turned to me and said, "like many foreign speakers of danish, you have trouble with the vowels." well, duh. we don't have ø æ å in english and we generally like our vowels not to sound like we have a hairball or major amounts of phlegm caught in our throats. tell me something i don't know.

soon after that, because the swedish guy on the other side of me joined our conversation, we switched to english. i'm sorry, i just can't understand swedish (or norwegian). i know it disappoints swedes and norwegians and probably danes, but i can't just understand because i know danish. that's how it is. at least for me.

the woman beside me was even more precise in her pronunciation and english vocabulary and rather haughtily told me at one point that the english taught in danish schools is british english, not american. i pointed out that that was all well and good, but the majority of english everyone in denmark is exposed to via t.v. and movies is american english. so there.

but it was actually a really nice evening. to sit around a table in a room lined from floor to ceiling with books on the two major walls is never a bad thing. the people were interesting and i had tons of interesting conversations on topics as diverse as:

  • hull coatings (there's been a lot of that this week)
  • the historical nature of fame vs. the nature of fame today
  • danish sculptor torvaldsen
  • elaborate funerals in the 19th century
  • how much enjoyment one can get from tattoos
  • cold ironing (it's not forgetting to turn on the iron, it's plugging a ship into shore-based power while it's in port in order to reduce emissions while moored in populated urban areas)
  • my late father-in-law (several of the older ladies there had apparently been quite smitten with him over the years)
  • the danish television series sommer
  • babies and the proper spelling of thomas
  • upcoming productions at various theatres
  • the gang from the old days in nivå (i wasn't there, but now i feel like i was)
  • norwegians who sail into the swedish archipelago and drink too much and make noise all summer long 
husband was down at the other end of the table and had a long conversation with a woman who was apparently associated with a mental hospital. it was only towards the end of the conversation that it began to dawn on him that she didn't work there, but was apparently a patient there, who had been released for the party. 

and we only went home after sabin had played so hard with this little boy that he fell asleep on the floor.

in all a lovely way to spend a friday evening. 

now if i could just find my rock. it seems to have gone missing. it's got to be here somewhere, i just don't quite know where.


Char said...

I could never have an evening like that in a million years - sounds very interesting.

iasa said...

that sounds like a wunderbar. I spent my friday evening discussing the finer points of Spongebob Squarepants. Not quite the same level as your evening.

Don't fret your rock will be found.

Liz Fulcher, The Fragrant Muse said...

Well dammit. Now I'm hungry and have total Denmark envy. No. Culture envy. I used to love evenings like that with my friends from the UN.

I love that first photograph..what is it? Also, what camera/lens did you use?

The language teacher sounds rude. Ask her about her own pronounciation skills on the languages she learned after the age of 30. harumpf.

And you might want husband closer to your end of the table next time.

Dave King said...

To me that sounds like a superb evening with a superb lady, superb food and superb conversation. To sum up, then: superb!

McGillicutty said...

So what is the correct spelling of Thomas? My sister lives in Wales and has a son named Tomos which is apparently the Welsh way. I am sure if I had a son here in GA he'd be Tommy!! hahaha.

Lorac said...

Sounds like a good evening.My best friend is Dutch. I understand what you mean by the throat sounds.I have tried to emulate them and sadly, cannot. I will never speak Dutch, at least not recognizable Dutch. The food though, sounds a bit fishy...

Laura Doyle said...

Sounds like your dinner party would make quite an interesting little short story. : )

Mary Ellen said...

I've been at a few gatherings that had some of this kind of wit and verve - the last was the perfect spring wedding dinner of two anthropologists, leisurely and long. Two lively bits I recall involved how to learn about jazz music and what it was like in Iran before the Islamic revolution.

Lynne said...

sounds like great fun... I agree you needed husband closer though... if only to pass meaningful glances when people came up with particularly snotty comments.
I love the idea of the bread cut lengthways...must try that for summer entertaining.

I would have been too curious not to peek into the bedroom....

Dutchbaby said...

You described my kind of evening! I love the range of topics in the conversation. I'm amazed how similar Danish is to Dutch. It sounds like the Danes have the same candor as the Dutch too :-)

My father wrote a dictionary after he retired, it sold quite well, even posthumously. Your aunt is to be commended; it's a huge accomplishment. I wish her luck with the marketing of the book.

Optimistic Pessimist said...

Sounds like a fascinating evening. How interesting that a woman had been released from a mental hospital to attend the party. I'm assuming she wasn't a dangerous mental patient, rather a fun-loving high functioning mental patient.I often wonder if people think that about me when I attend parties!?

Sarah said...

Think I had convo with same lady your husband did. But mine was while I was waiting in doctor's office. While obviously reading book (Mma Ramotswe) AND simultaneously texting. Obviously she was incapable of getting a clue.

julochka said...

the first picture is of a chandelier that's in the entry way/room (this is a really weird apartment) it held candles in it and was really cool. i have another shot of it that i'll use in another post.

i had two cameras with me--top 2 pix were taken with the D300 and a 60mm macro lens

bottom one with the D60 and my fave 18-200mm nikkor lens.

Just Jules said...

but was apparently a patient there, who had been released for the party = Really? that alone would have topped my evening off! ha! (although I am thinking of it being my husband- even funnier for he is far less patient)

I think I would have been very tired since my brain has been wrapped around a world far apart from any of those topics. I am afraid I would have had to do a lot of listening...

Janet said...

oh my goodness! oh my goodness! i'm so glad you shared all that. people are really remarkable doncha think? some good remarkable, some bad remarkable.

oddly, or maybe by design, the only person i spoke to last night was myself. and i had several of those very same conversations. ;)

julochka said...

it was a superb evening that would indeed make a great short story. the mental patient was high functioning (there may have been more than one, we're not sure). but we had quite a laugh when we got home. the language lady was really quite lovely, tho' she did make those sharp comments. I very much enjoyed her.

marathon-like you, i too wonder if people think that of me at the end of an evening. at least i have the fact of being foreign. i get away with lots on that account.

rxBambi said...

Would have loved to be there to see how you kept your cool. I'm not sure I would have liked the food. I eat sea food, but it looks kinda scary. I agree with you though, you should make it into a short story! It sounds like a fabulous evening and I'm a little jealous...

Mari Mansourian said...

sounds like a very interesting evening, i have an aunt with a similar character, she's 80 and is still writing poetry, painting, and makes costumes for theater productions... wow huh,
Sabin looks too cute all curled up on the floor, and i would be very interested in knowing what a mental patient out for one day would have to say ??:)
as far as not knowing what menu you'll be picking at when you go to a party, i love that, having gone to culinary school, i love seeing what strange and wonderful things people can do with food, yum.

Unknown said...

What a great evening. I love those random evening dinners with people you don't know.
I get comments like that all the time. I hate it when people realize I'm Spanish and TELL ME after 5 minutes of talking to me. But then, they try to speak to me in Spanish and it's me who laughs at them! Politely, of course!

jane said...

this was so much fun to read. very interesting. have a happy sunday!

Magpie said...

She sounds terrific - so does the whole evening.