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Sour roach

In the 60s, we had a postman, Post-Arvid, who delivered letters and newspapers to us on the Little Side in Järvsö, a fairly large district from the southern end of Nor, Nordsjö, Klacken, Backen, Kåsjo and Stene. His round probably measured about 50 kolometres - cycling every day, summer and winter in scorching sun, rain, biting frost and deep snow. As Arvid was also a talkative man, his day's work took many hours to complete.

Post Arvid was born "in the woods" in Stavsätra, beyond Rossen, about 22 miles from central Järvsö.
From his father he had learned to take advantage of what God and nature gave - a rascal to pick berries, make fist boxes, and, above all, to fish. He was born with a right fist where the fingers consisted of 4 balls about the size of a hazelnut. Despite this handicap, Arvid managed alone in an oak, to lay out nets and to pick up and handle the boat at the same time. It was a joy to see him do things with ease that us normals found rather fiddly.

He fished for roach in the springs, preferably in Sidskogssjön, which according to Arvid had the cleanest water. Large roach, upwards of a kilo, were taken up in quantities, scaled, scrubbed white inside and laid down, interspersed with coarse salt, in an open wooden vat. The tin had to be left open in the woodshed until late autumn - much like the sour stroming - when the roaches had soured to the point that all those cursed little legs that normally made the roach inedible had been eaten away.

When, on one occasion, in late autumn, I put out nets for whitefish up in Storsjön beyond Stavsätra, and Arvid also put out his nets, and we each drank a cup of coffee on the beach, we got to talking about this sorrel that I had heard about, how it smelled bad, how one should be used to it from childhood, etc. "Well", thought Arvid, "we would have died tomorrow night, so you are very welcome to try". I cycled up to his house, a two-story villa that he largely built himself. It was dark in the evening and it was like a strange being in the air. A perfume, a strangeness that couldn't really be explained, but I knew it must be the myrtle that was the cause.
I was invited and welcome to sit at the table. Crooked potatoes, flat bread and butter and then a plate of pickled sorrel. I had read in one of Hans Lidman's books about how he had been invited to a picnic up in the Finnish forest towards Dalarna and completely forgot about potatoes and brod and ate only fish. The same thing happened to me - in the end it was just fish and amazingly, it didn't taste sour or salty like sour strömming, it was mild in taste and had a consistency somewhere between salted fish and smoked eel and I ate it to shame.
"Naaaa", thought Arvid, "how did he taste?" I could only huff and puff and say that it was probably the best fish I've ever eaten - apart from freshly caught grayling cooked on the beach. "Agreed," thought Arvid, "but agree that it's damned good." Be careful about breathing on people Tomorrow morning, one burps rather naughty, especially if one eats like you". Arvid was quite right, mother walked around me for a few days.

When I asked Arvid a few years later what size net he used for his roach fishing, he sighed deeply and said that "the white fish have had worms in every damned lake in the whole of Järvsö, so now that joy is over".

Kåra Lars-Erik