Weekend Choir Workshop

This past weekend, the Gøta-Leirvík choir had a vocal workshop with Súsanna Brattaberg. We met in small groups on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to work on vocal technique with Súsanna. We rehearsed our choir music with our director on Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday morning. Sunday we sang three of our pieces for the service at the Leirvík church – one in Faroese, one in English, and one in Italian.

I last heard Súsanna sing a little over a year ago when she and her husband Runi gave a concert of opera music in the natural gorge in Elduvík. Súsanna said she sometimes goes there by herself to rehearse, and on occasion a seal will come to listen. She has been learning Faroese, and gave the workshop inFaroese. I can understand her better than the native speakers, because she speaks more slowly and clearly. I found it very encouraging, and I even tried out my halting Faroese this weekend. She is originally from Germany, and she often performs with opera companies on the continent.

Moonlight and Rain

When people at home ask me about the Faroe Islands, I often mention that it rains a lot, maybe 300 days a year, but that it doesn’t rain all day, every day. After this past week of rain, I may change my story. It rained all day, every day, for most of the week. It seems that the only break in the rain has been at night, and with the full moon the past couple of nights, we have had some beautiful nighttime views. This explains why my complaints about the rain are illustrated with pictures of moonlight.

Actually, there have been a few times this week when the rain stopped, and the blowing wind even dried the pavement. However, if I dared to go outside for a walk, a fresh downpour of rain would start. I need to get in the habit of wearing the ugly gray rain pants with the blue rain jacket that I bought in Berkeley. It won’t stop the rain, but it might keep me dry. Tonight the weather is dry and calm, and there are stars in the sky. I bet if I went for a walk, the rain would start. Last night I got home from choir rehearsal at midnight. The moon was shining and there was no wind, so I went for a walk. Guess what happened! Rain. I wish there was a way to share some of the rain with the people at home in California, where they need it to put out the forest fires.

A View of the Weather

The weather is constangly changing here in the Faroe Islands, and the view from my windows is different nearly every day. Most of these pictures are taken from the windows of the little house I am renting here by the Fuglafjørður bay. A few of them are taken from the road near my house, maybe half a kilometer to the north or to the south. Even stormy, windy days are beautiful – in a heated house behind double-paned windows. Some day I hope to get a photo of one of the whirling waterspouts that rush across the bay and then disappear. Enjoy the view from my window.

International Cooking

Let me start by saying that at home in America, I am quite an adequate cook, maybe even a good cook. People eat the food I prepare and say nice things about it. However, I find international cooking to be a challenge. There are countless ways that something may go wrong, and I keep finding new ways.

Potatoes are a staple in the Faroese diet – not mashed potatoes and gravy, not baked potatoes with butter and sour cream, but boiled new potatoes. When I was here in the Faroe Islands for a year in 2005-06, I decided that I really wanted some good American mashed potatoes with gravy. I boiled some small new potatoes from Denmark, and then tried to figure out how to mash them. I didn’t have a potato masher, using a fork would take too long, but I did have a very small hand mixer with a single beater attachment. I discovered that you can make very good wallpaper glue by beating small new potatoes from Denmark with an electric mixer. Apparently new potatoes have a lot more gluten than the large russet potatoes I use in America, and beating them turns the gluten into glue. That day I ate potato flavored glue with gravy.

One day on a visit to my local FK (Føroyar Keypsamtøkan) grocery store, I saw a box on the shelf with a picture of a bowl of mashed potatoes topped with chopped chives and a basil leaf. So this is how you are supposed to make mashed potatoes! I bought the box. Note that I have been studying very hard to learn Faroese, and I know the name of many foods in Faroese. However, like most packaged foods here, the mashed potatoes were packaged in Denmark and had instructions in Danish. I don’t have a Danish dictionary, so my method for reading something in Danish is to stare at the words for a long time while I try to think of a word in some other language that is similar. Sometimes it works. The name on the box with the picture of a bowl of mashed potatoes said KARTOFFELMOS. It has been a few years, but I remembered that the German word for potato is something like “kartoffel,” and I could imagine that MOS might mean “mash.” Kogende vand must be “cooked water,” so I cooked some water. One brev must be an envelope (and the French for “letter” is something like “breve”, which goes into an envelope) of kartoffelmospulver, or potato mash powder (which comes from pulverizing potatoes). Hurrah! By adding hot water to the package I did get mashed potatoes that were quite tasty. I have a few other phrases in my Danish-English cooking dictionary for Faroese food. These are from a box of Tomatsuppe, another pulverized vegetable.

Kog op under omrøring: My literal translation is “cook up under roaring,” which is clearly the equivalent of “heat to boiling.” I think of a roaring river, which looks like boiling water.

Småkoge i 5 minutter: Literally this is “small cook in 5 minutes,” but since all prepositions are interchangeable, it must mean “simmer for 5 minutes.”

Rør rundt af og til: Rundt looks like “round” or “around,” and if rør is related to roaring, it must be to “stir vigorously now and again.”

Now here is one that you can translate without any help: Tips til servering.

Recently, I tried to roast a leg of lamb with roasted vegetables (potatoes, carrots, and onions). It was a little more complicated than adding boiling water, but actually it did seem quite simple. I put rosemary (rosmarin) and garlic (hvidløg) on the lamb and put it in the oven to start cooking. Then I got the vegetables ready, and added them about an hour later. When I opened the oven door, the oven wasn’t warm! I am fortunate enough to have two ovens in my little house, but I had turned on the wrong oven. I wanted to turn the oven to about 350 degrees F, but I couldn’t find my conversion chart. I set the temperature to 200 degrees C, and hoped for the best. Oh, the poor vegetables. I cooked them at 400 degrees F for an extra hour (thanks to the oven mix-up), and they all had a nice rich dark crust on the bottom.

With international cooking, maybe I should stick to adding cooked water to packages of pulverized vegetables.

The Fall Harvest

The schools in the Faroe Islands have had their fall holiday this past week. This is the week when the six month old lambs are brought down from the high fields, and end up as meat for the coming year in drying sheds all around the country. If you are a vegetarian, feel free to skip these photos.

Just about all of the animal is used. The legs are usually dried for four months in the cold salt air that blows through the storage sheds. Then it is served in thin slices with salt on bread, and this seems to be the favorite Faroese food. Some people also freeze some of the legs for fresh lamb meat. The head is partly dried, and is boiled with vegetables for soup at Christmas time. The intestines and giblets are used for sausage. The blood is used to make blood sausage. The thin layer of meat from over the ribs and back are made into rolled sausage. The stomach contents fertilize the rhubarb plants.

After a week of blood and guts, the last step in the process is a thorough house cleaning.

The First Snow

This morning I woke up to find snow on all of the mountain peaks on all sides of Fuglafjørður. I drove around the town to get pictures of my favorite mountains from many different perspectives. If there are too many photos, just look at them quickly. I have my good map with me this time, so I looked up the names of most of the mountains. The snow lasted all day, and it is rather chilly out. Next time I go out to take pictures of snow, I will try to remember to wear at least one glove, so my hand with the camera doesn’t freeze. The San Francisco bay area almost never has snow, except on the highest mountain peaks, so learning to live with snow is a challenge. It is beautiful to look at, but not so much fun to walk and drive in.

Fuglafjørður Harbor

I can almost always see ships docked across the bay, but a large red-orange ship turning around in the middle of the bay outside my window really caught my attention. A small tugboat was pushing it into its place along the dock. A day later, a second ship was pushed into place right next to the first one, so I went over to the wharf to get a closer look. Only four ships were along the docks, but it looked like two of them were trying to fit into one parking place. Here is my view of the Fuglafjørður harbor on a Saturday afternoon.

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