The Meal I’ll Never Have Again
There’s one meal I’ll never repeat.
It was a couple of days before Midsummer, and I was visiting my dad in Finland with my ex-boyfriend. We’d been living in Argentina for two and a half years then.
Dad was a fantastic cook, and he always prepared whatever food we wanted as kids. As adults, whenever I’d visit with my boyfriend, he’d pull out all the stops, preparing us five-course meals with every possible Finnish delicacy. Reindeer with lingonberry jam and garlic potatoes au gratin. Four different types of different fish in five different ways. And my favorite, cold-smoked salmon.
There are two traditional ways of making smoked salmon in Finland, with cold or warm smoke. Warm is easy and cheap to prepare, but cold-smoked is tricky. Getting in that deep flavor without cooking the fish takes time and a lot of detail and checking temperatures. But the reward is worth it: it’s nothing like the smoked salmon you can buy in a store, which is mostly just artificial flavoring.
My dad’s smoked salmon used to take 12 hours to prepare, but that didn’t stop him. The night we spent at his place by the sea, he offered us fish in every possible way. Herring, eel, perch, but the best was the salmon.
This was truly intense. A feast worthy of kings and queens. Because my dad, while sometimes a difficult person, also always wanted us to have only the best.
Later that night, my dad confessed to me he had cancer. He’d just found out about it two days prior, and hadn’t told anyone except his girlfriend.
“Don’t tell anyone yet,” he asked me, which only made it worse. Knowing I’d have to see my mom and sisters and keep this secret, knowing the only person I could talk about it to was my boyfriend.
And knowing that the next day, my boyfriend and I had a trip planned for the Midsummer weekend. We were taking the car and driving to visit my best friend in Rovaniemi in Lapland, about 450 miles north of my hometown. We were supposed to party, experience the famous midnight sun and visit the Santa Claus Village on the Arctic Circle.