Tuesday, August 5, 2008

12th Saaremaa Sea Days

The bumblebees are drunk
today, flitting, impotent, from leaf to leaf.
What strange nectar have they been drinking?

This is an annual event on the first weekend of August; it closes the official summer season. We still get visitors after this – especially on weekends - but the Finns have gone back to work and their schools are starting. Approximately 70% of our tourism business comes from Finland, so the departure of our Northern cousins is noticeable.

My participation in the event this year was minimal. I didn’t plan it that way. Usually it’s good fun with concerts, a sprawling market, competitions and food tents and a chance to catch up with friends who have been away during the summer. I missed all of that.

This year I helped out at Mahe Köök on Friday night. The town orchestra from Pärnu, a sea-side town on the mainland had been invited to participate in the opening ceremonies. Fifty-strong, they would come to us afterward for dinner.

I was very keen to get involved in this as we would be having another go at spit-roasting a whole lamb. Aivar had involved an old friend Urmas in this project and when I arrived at 08.00 the beastie was almost done and some lovely white Cabernet Franc was on offer.

The side vegetables (lisand in Estonian) still had to be prepped so I got straight onto that. As well as fresh salad with local tomatoes – so sweet they should have been dessert, in my opinion – I took roasted beets, cut them into cubes of about two centimetres and tossed them with olive oil, pepper, sea salt and thyme.

There were also new turnips cut onto thick julienne, blanched and mixed with olive oil, pepper, sea salt and rosemary.

After every one was seated, each table sent a delegate to Urmas and me in the courtyard with a plate which we piled high with chunks from the lamb.
They were delighted with the crispy ribs but often sent back the very pink meat from the legs. Most Estonians don’t like their meat rare and this was more than bloody.

Urmas had wired the creature with the legs outspread – a double crucifixion if you will. In my opinion this doesn’t bring the thicker leg into enough contact with the heat source – thus – undercooked leg meat.On the other hand, this meant more of my favourite parts to take home, so I guess I should be happy. However, the perfectionist in me………….

After the eating there was singing and much excellent conversation – don’t ask me to remember what we talked about. I was fine until about 1:30 when Aivar took a bottle of vodka out of the freezer. (next bit censored)

Estonia has very strict drinking and driving limits and they are enforced with vigour and passion – especially on major party weekends. We were fortunate that Aivar’s wife Monika had agreed to be the designated driver for the night and she drove me home about 2:00 in the morning.

Any questions as to why I didn’t make it to the rest of the Merepäevad events?

NB: Photos by Urmas Mägi


spacedlaw said...

It is all clear I think.
Sounds like you had a lovely time though...

martha said...

It was pretty OK - We're going to do it again this Friday.