“I am a cookery writer by trade. My memory is, as for many people, strongly linked to taste and smell. The island was the setting for some of my most cherished childhood memories: simple pleasures like a fish pulled wriggling out of the sea and fried in butter minutes later, or the welcome hit of bacon cooked with tomatoes after a cold swim, or blotkake, a cake so unctuous that when my mother sat on it, cooling under a rug in the passenger seat of the family estate, such a quantity of cream spurted out as to mark the leather upholstery forever.” – Tilly Culme-Seymour, Island Summers
I know I’m not alone in my adoration of all things Scandinavian. I wholeheartedly embraced the hygge trend last winter, I spent a glorious month in Denmark and Sweden scoffing kanelbullar by the handfuls, I binge-watched Trapped on SBS and spent the early days of this summer reading Jo Nesbo.
But grisly scandi-noir murder mysteries are not the thing for the summer, and so I switched pretty quickly to this, a light, breezy memoir called Island Summers, about the author’s family cottage on a secluded Island in the north of Norway. “The sweetest summer in the world is the northern one,” Mary Wollstonecraft writes in the book’s epigraph, and though I’ve yet to experience it, from the way that Tilly Culme-Seymour writes, she sounds just about right. Endless days spent diving into cool, sparkling water, eating what seems to be a never-ending bounty of seafood dinners supplemented sparkling elderflower drinks, afternoons lazily rowing boats up and down the shoreline foraging for wild raspberries to be sandwiched between two thick slices of sukkerkake and lashings of whipped cream.
Endless days spent diving into cool, sparkling water, eating what seems to be a never-ending bounty of seafood dinners supplemented sparkling elderflower drinks, afternoons lazily rowing boats up and down the shoreline foraging for wild raspberries to be sandwiched between two thick slices of sukkerkake and lashings of whipped cream.
It wasn’t a surprise when I learnt, at the start of the book, that Culme-Seymour is a food writer by trade. Her descriptions of the meals on the island are mouthwateringly good, and astonishingly specific. She remembers, for example, the exact baked aubergine and rhubarb tart dinner that her mother cooked on one of their last nights together on the island, or the way that her grandmother wolfed down scrambled eggs – “Like she had stolen them from the cook” – on the morning she died. Various other delicacies, from golden, oil-slick sausages to briny pickled fish (yelp!) are detailed in similar fashion. Quite frankly, it makes a slice of watermelon at the beach look rather sad in comparison.