Reminiscing of Pickled Herring

Things that appear normal to you, things that you grew up with, are sometimes strange to others.  My grandparents were Finnish so having pickled herring and rollmops (pickled herring, but with the skin on) around was just normal.  They were a nice quick snack.  Everyone who would visit Grandma’s always helped themselves (through her encouragement) to whatever baked goods there were, what soup was on the stove, and of course the pickled fish in the fridge.

I was never a big fan of the rollmops, something about the skin turned me off from eating them myself, but that others did was never strange to me.  Actually, I’m not sure I was entirely shocked at what other people would eat, I just might not eat it (smoked oysters for example).  So, when I grew a bit older I was surprised to find that not only do some people not loved pickled herring, in fact, not everyone could stand the sight/smell of it.

One memorable story I heard was from my cousin.  She was having a wine and appy night, or along those lines, and as a treat had put out some pickled herring.  She then overheard the kids daring each other to eat it.  She was so offended she never put it out again.

For my family, pickled herring is a treat.  For me, it reminds me of my grandma’s house, and I am sure this goes for the rest of my family as well.  I appreciate the variety of foods that I was introduced to.  I was always encouraged to try, but never pushed, to eat different foods.  So, while I might not like the look of something like smoked oysters, I don’t cringe while someone else eats them.

It is funny how something like pickled herring can make me feel closer to my grandparents, great-grandparents, and where they came from.  Oddly, when I get strong reactions to it, it makes that connection stronger.  After my grandma passed I didn’t have pickled herring for a long time, it was something I always had there.  Until one day I saw some in my mom’s fridge.  Moms always has a way of having just what you need when you need it when you don’t even realize what it is.

So, for Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday, why not get something for her that is unique? Something that connects her to her family in a way that other things don’t? In light of “Eat What You Want Day” which falls on the 11th, why not get her something that may have fallen off the radar.  Maybe it is a dessert her mother used to make, or maybe it is something more like pickled herring.  The food that if someone outside the family came in they would be shocked, the food that children dare each other to eat—something that says you remember and are grateful.

Sorry for the spoiler, mom.  But thanks for giving me the gift of loving pickled herring, a snack I never have to share with my husband.