Going Bananas Over Curried Pizza

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After a train ride through Norway and into Sweden, I got off the train in a small town called Arvika to meet Kim, who I hadn’t seen since I visited him and his family in Trondheim (Norway) when I was eight. I was a bit nervous, as I didn’t know what to expect. And when Kim walked up to me, I didn’t recognize him; the child remembered someone six feet tall with a sharp wit and an ever-present enigmatic cigarette – thankfully, he knew who I was. I began to see his personality as time went on, though, until my memories of Kim fit with who he is now. It’s a weird experience to be able to revisit a person from your childhood memory and see how he’s changed, and yet recognize those things that you remember.

Kim has changed, though; when I arrived I was informed that he’d quit smoking (bravo!) and that there was no longer a need to buy mass amounts of ketchup every week – back in the day, Kim ate ketchup on everything. I remember going to the grocery store with my mother and having her ponder by the ketchup, wondering if two huge bottles was going to be enough that week.

One of my favorite memories is of the Thanksgiving Kim spent with us; everyone loaded up their plates with all the traditional foods: turkey, gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, creamed onions (et cetera). Kim got this look on his face like something vital was missing and got up from the table. He came back with a king-sized bottle of ketchup and drizzled it on everything – even the gravy and the cranberry sauce. The best part was the scandalized look on my grandmother’s face.

Kim is married now, to a wonderful woman called Jessica, who is an absolutely fantastic cook and who uses the word ‘lovely’ a lot – which is a reflection of her character. It’s thanks to Jessica that I now willingly cook and eat beets and avocadoes.

And while we’re on the subject of food, my time spent in Arvika was a bit like a detox program: I ate good food and got plenty of rest, which gave me the opportunity of getting the twelve snickers bars and one mars bar I’d eaten in Scotland out of my system. Let me repeat that: in the seven days I spent in Scotland, I ate thirteen full-size candy bars. Wow is right. If you’re thinking about doing something similar, you are 1. mental and 2. going to regret it later, because your body will punish you.

Here’s where they live:

The first evening we didn’t do too much; I got settled in and we had a great dinner. The next day we went to Karlstad, which is a place known for being sunny. Guess what the weather was like. (I’ll give you a clue: it wasn’t raining.)

We went to two flea markets and a record store. It was really interesting because there was a really long line for the first one, of people waiting for it to open up, as well as the fact that these places seemed to have everything. At the second one there was a huge warehouse of every kind of furniture that you could imagine, stuffed in this huge space. It was mind-boggling and highly enjoyable. The record store was also cool, as while Kim and Jesse were looking at reggae, I found one about a singing nun. I was really quite close to buying my first record, then and there.

Of course, it’s worth noting that Kim has gotten me into reggae, so that’s going to be a bit of an investment on my part, once I get home. (Prepare thineselves!)

After that, we had a fantastic lunch at a pizza place, where they had a kind of pizza known only in Sweden:

The toppings are: pineapple, banana, and curry. Turn up your nose if you like, but that just means that there would be more for me. It’s served with cole-slaw on the side which is made without mayonnaise, which made it an instant hit with me.

The last landmark we visited in Karlstad was the art museum; apparently, this area of Sweden has been known for being the host of a lot of artistic talent over the years – as a matter of fact, Kim and Jesse’s house used to be the home of a large family of artists. Since Kim is a photographer and Jesse is an artist, they’re keeping that part of the house’s history alive.

When we were done, we walked around a bit more…

A tidbit: did you know that when someone wants to say ‘that’s crazy’ in Norwegian, they say ‘that’s so Texas’? True story.

We drove back, had dinner, and watched The Misfits (the 1961 star-studded cast included Clark Gable and Marylin Monroe). It was much better than I thought it would be, as I thought that Marylin would be playing her usual role of the breathless stupid girl. However, she pulled off a character with a backbone quite well.

The next day we had a lazy morning followed by lunch at the art museum in Arvika. There was one painting there that really stunned me, by a guy called Gustav Fjaestad: it was the first time that I saw snow really done right – that kind of glittery kaleidoscope effect when the sun hits it that’s basically impossible to catch.

Later, we drove around the lake near the house; it’s a popular place to go swimming in the summer, but it was still a bit too chilly for any of us to go in. It’s absolutely gorgeous, though:

The next morning was spent picking lichen off of the apple trees in the backyard. It was one of those things that you start to do absent-mindedly and which just sort of takes off. After a while, all three of us were working on them – and Kim had busted out a ladder. (I know, it’s hardcore.)

That afternoon Kim and I returned to Oslo, as my flight was the next morning and Kim had a job to do in the city. We stayed over in the apartment of another of his friends and spent the evening talking with some of Kim’s friends, including the people whose apartment I stayed in while I was in Oslo, Martin and Signe.

Kim was also nice enough to get me some truly stellar chocolate; granted, it’s the normal brand of chocolate in Norway (Freia, which is made in Trondheim, I think), but the last time I’d had it I was eight and I was massively nostalgic (still am). It’s also delicious. So the next morning I woke at 6:45 to get to the airport with four king-size bars in my backpack. Then while I was in the airport, I decided to get more, as that would mean not only more chocolate, but also an extra bag I could take onto the plane.

I boarded the plane with eight massive bars of chocolate.

None remain.

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