Kräftskiva. What a great invention by the Swedes. This is supposed to be how it goes: you have a nice lawn party at your lake house, grub up some crayfish with your bare hands (you may or may not be drunk yet), boil them, drink schnapps, make silly hats, eat crayfish, drink some more schnapps, eat some more crayfish… etc, etc. An end-of-the-summer celebration that ends with everyone in falling-down drunk in their nice clothes, possibly splattered in shellfish shells. How lovely. We had to try it.
Except. We’re broke-ass students, and we certainly don’t have a lake house. Instead, Reto bought some pre-cooked crayfish from the store, and I bought some shrimp to boil up (“recipe” below the jump!), and we sat in the little kitchen on Andrés’ floor in our giant dorm building. And we didn’t have any Schnapps, just one 3.5% beer apiece. Despite those potentially buzz-killing changes, my first-ever kräftskiva (yes, I’m planning to do this every year for the rest of my life) was awesome.
I mean, Reto made me a newspaper hat. And put a crayfish on it.
Apparently the Swiss are great milliners.
The crayfish were simple: all you had to do was defrost them. Despite the fact that Reto suggested we get one box for every two people, there were about a metric fuckton of crayfish in one box and I’m really glad we only had one. While the horrified, dead, dethawing crayfish watched, I poured their giant prawn friends into a vat of salty, dill-filled boiling water (hint: that’s the recipe: a bunch of dill in some salted water, go). Mmmm! Tasty! Or, if you’re a shellfish, Ack! The horror!
This is going to sound silly, but it was actually kind of hard to cook the shrimps correctly. I read that you’re supposed to cook this kind until they turn bright orange, but they never turned bright orange. So I let them merrily boil away for a while until Min Ya said, “enough! I think they’re done now.” Thanks Min Ya!
In fact, I think she might have the most shellfish experience of all of us; Min Ya proved to be the most adept at eating crayfish and scooping out every single last bit of meat, even the ones that might not be meat (“Yeah, you can eat that part, but I’m not going to tell you what it is, it’s better if you don’t know”). We tried to learn lessons from her, but it just got sort of tiring, even if they were delicious. Thank goodness for the giant shrimp, which only require a very elementary level of peeling.
So we played with our food. Yay! We’re children! A true kräftskiva.
On a serious note, when I arrived home from Atlanta, I was emotionally and physically exhausted (I tried to sleep on the plane, but at one point I woke up to find the extremely overweight Greek man next to me staring at me creepily and intently…. it was hard to sleep after that). I had two texts and a facebook message saying that my friends were cooking dinner and making gin and tonics. I ignored them, turned off my phone, and went to bed. Cheerful drunk parties seemed so far from where my head was at; I wasn’t sure I even wanted to see my classmates.
After sleeping for twelve hours, I changed my tune. I loved these guys, and I remembered it. I knew that the best way to start feeling better, to start feeling okay about the world, was to fall back into our silly, childlike friendship, to drink coffee and eat cake and talk about poop (yes, that’s about fifty percent of our conversation; we’re adults; we’re scientists). I think that my perspective is still a little bit different than in the careless days earlier in the program, but by the time we were crushing crayfish skulls together on Thursday, I was right at home again, and I had to think how lucky I was to have friends like these who send you messages saying, “crayfish party tonight.” I mean, how many people get those messages? Crayfish party? What?
So, next summer, especially if you’re feeling a little bit down, find some crayfish and some funny hats. Or at least find some giant shrimp. You can thank the Swedes. I did.