Happy Roald Dahl Day! Roald Dahl Day is September 13, and happily, I share a birthday month with him! This is the time of year I can ask Jenne to make any dish of my choice. (Best present ever, I know.) Last year, I requested the meat pie from Danny the Champion of the World. This year, I wanted Bestemama and Bestepapa’s dinner from Boy: Tales of Childhood. Perhaps this will be a tradition: a ridiculously involved Roald Dahl recipe to celebrate our birthday season.
Book: Boy: Tales of Childhood
My senior year at Oberlin College, I took an entire course on authors’ autobiographies, and oh my Lord, were they mind-numbingly boring. (Never will I ever finish Vivir para contarla.) Why couldn’t they all, I asked myself, be as fascinating as Boy? Such scenes that have left indelible prints on my mind: the rat in the sweet shop, the adenoid procedure, candy bar testing…but above all, the grandparents’ feast in Norway:
This was a Norwegian household, and for the Norwegians the best food in the world is fish. And when they say fish, they don’t mean the sort of thing you and I get from the fishmonger. They mean fresh fish, fish that has been caught no more than twenty-four hours before and has never been frozen or chilled on a block of ice. I agree with them that the proper way to prepare fish like this is to poach it, and that is what they do with the finest specimens. And Norwegians, by the way, always eat the skin of the boiled fish, which they say has the best taste of all.
So naturally this great celebration feast started with fish. A massive fish, a flounder as big as a tea-tray and as thick as your arm was brought to the table. It had nearly black skin on top which was covered in brilliant orange spots, and it had, of course, been perfectly poached. Large white hunks of this fish were carved out and put on to our plates, and with it we had hollandaise sauce and boiled new potatoes. Nothing else. And by gosh, it was delicious. As soon as the remains of the fish had been cleared away, a tremendous craggy mountain of home-made ice-cream would be carried in. Apart from being the creamiest ice cream in the world, the flavour was unforgettable. There were thousands of little chips of crisp burnt toffee mixed into it (the Norwegians call it krokan), and as a result it didn’t simply melt in your mouth like ordinary ice-cream. You chewed it and it went crunch and the taste was something you dreamed about for days afterwards. (Dahl 57)
I have to say, it was GLORIOUS. Yes, it was the kind of meal you have once in a lifetime. Unless you’re Roald Dahl — then you have it yearly with your grandparents.
Dahl, Roald. Boy: Tales of Childhood. New York: Puffin Books, 1984.