A cool breeze floats through the narrow crack of the window. The sound of my typing fills the room. Spiderman, frozen in mid-swing, glares down from the wall. Below me the deep thud of the pan abruptly gives way to the lighter tinkle of silverware.
The table is being set. I slip off the bed and pull on some socks.
A minute later the twelve year old girl appears at my open door. “Maten är klar,” she informs me boldly, not quite as shy as her brother, in whose room I’m sitting. The food is ready. “Tack,” I tell her, thanks, and follow her down the stairs.
We gather round the white kitchen table and populate the swiftly crowding surface with everything we might possibly need. Milk, juice, sparkling water, Fanta. Plates, napkins, glasses. Knives and forks. Just as we finish a hand appears over my shoulder.
“Pizza?” inquires my friend’s husband.
Swedish or no, pizza is pizza – I hand him my plate. After a small scene of chaos everyone ends up with a square of the homemade creation and we sit. I sink my teeth into the thin crust, cutting through pieces of ham and melted Swedish cheese. The slice is half gone before I look up again, only to realize I’m the only one not using silverware.
As soon as the last bite enters my mouth another hand appears over my shoulder. My friend: “Mer?” This time I sheepishly pick up my knife and fork.
She sits down next to me and reaches into a large container in the middle of the table. Her fingers fish for a moment in the brown liquid. Red faces and black eyes swirl to the surface then drop away again into the safety of the Tupperware’s murky depths. One does not make it. The large crayfish stares mournfully at me on its way to the plate. It’s already dead, but now it goes to its utter destruction.
I watch as she starts to cracks it open. Then I go back to my pizza.
Slowly everyone finishes the first course, and one by one hands slide into the crayfish box to find a suitable victim. Finally I’m the only one left. Ready for the hunt, I decline a third slice of pizza and reach in myself.
It’s bright red, and its small legs hug the underside of its body as large claws dangle in the fragrant air. I follow the example of my hosts and suck the liquid dripping from its underside. It tastes vaguely of fish and herbs.
But soon it’s time to get ruthless. Without warning I twist the crayfish’s tail violently. It comes off in my hand. Cracking the shell is more difficult, but slowly the scaled exoskeleton peels away, taking with it pairs of small limbs. The soft flesh beneath comes into view, and with a final tug the morsel lays on my fingers. A quick evisceration removes the unwanted black line along the back. I cast the now-empty shell onto my plate and pop the morsel into my mouth. Savor the mild taste and smooth texture. Then I pick up the body.
Another twist, another crack. The first claw comes away. But this is a little trickier; the shell is a little tougher. I push and tug, but no crack appears. I feel eyes on me, but before help comes I shrug and swiftly employ my teeth. The red shell gives way with a snap, and the meat is mine. I repeat the process with the other claw. No problem.
Time for another crayfish.
Ten minutes later we all have large piles of shells on our plates. A jumble of crumpled napkins lay scattered across the table. We have eaten our fill, and the crayfish tub is empty. A moment of silence commences.
“Tack för maten,” says my friend finally, and we echo her from our clouds of satisfaction. The spell is broken. Chairs scrape back, and plates begin to click. I take one more look at the remnants of my victims before me, roll up my sleeves, and head for the sink.
Photo at top is my own.