I decided to break this post up into 2 parts, 6-10 and 1-5. The things I enjoyed eating (and drinking) this summer were not necessarily culinary masterpieces or totally unique dishes. They were things I had missed, foods that defined the places we visited, and things that reminded me of my childhood. Having been away from the United States for almost a year and knowing that I only had three weeks there made those little nibbles all the more resonant. So, here are the first five of my top ten things I ate on vacation (which included a weekend in Helsinki, before flying to the States):
5. My mother’s crispy roasted chicken with rutabaga mashed potatoes—when my brother, sister and I were children, we would always vie for the biggest piece of crispy skin, which my mother had sprinkled liberally with Season-All. I know this dish is not exceptional, but it was nostalgic, eating it in my childhood home with my parents. J and I sat with my mother and father on the deck, drinking Maryland wine with the meal and talking until it was dark. I’ve always loved nights like that. And by the way, rutabaga in the mashed potatoes was awesome.
4. Muikku from the harbor marketplace in Helsinki—these are little fishes (vendace in English) that were lightly coated with breading and fried whole. Like, completely whole. With the first one, I braced myself for something unpleasant, a pointy little bone somewhere or a tough-to-chew tail. But I didn’t find anything of that—it was just soft, fried white fish. They had a little garlic sauce on them too. It was my favorite part of the waterside brunch we threw together from things we found in the market.
3. Thrasher’s fries on the boardwalk at Ocean City—another nostalgia trip. I was, as my sister’s boyfriend said, totally “jonesing for some Thrasher’s.” When I was kid we generally ate them on the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach. This time we were in Ocean City, MD. I insisted we get the big bucket, long, greasy skin-on fries sprinkled generously with salt and apple cider vinegar. So. Damn. Good.
2. Steamed crabs at home with fresh white corn—hehe, crabs are in the top two positions on this list, but what can I say. I’m from Maryland. Both these things scream summer to me and, once again, you can’t really get them in Estonia. We bought the ears of corn so cheap from the local farmer’s shop, and I taught J how to shuck corn. He’d never really seen white corn before, just yellow. He also learned how to pick a crab that night, and we all sat around, getting our hands dirty, making Old Bay-crusted fingerprints on our beer glasses.
Learning to shuck
The table is set
1. Soft-shell crab sandwich at Bahama Mama’s in Ocean City—this was kind of my birthday dinner, even though it was the night before my birthday. Through some connections, we got a seat outside at the restaurant, right on the bay. The sun had just set so the sky turned all kinds of beautiful colors before settling on darkness.
Our sweet waitress was a friend of my sister’s boyfriend, and she brought us pitchers of Blue Moon on the house (with plenty of orange slices). I couldn’t say no to the soft-shell crab sandwich. The two slices of bread could barely contain the two whole crabs, so most bites were more meat than anything else. Since eating this sandwich, I have craved it a lot. The next day, a week later… I’ll probably still be craving it at Christmas. It’ll be quite a while before I can get it again… but hey, at least I have the memories.