When I was little, and through my early teens, I would spend at least a few weeks every summer in Norway with my mom, who was born there. Those weeks were spent at our family cottage an hour or so north of Oslo, and yes, it was as idyllic as it sounds. The cottage is perched up on a hill and overlooks a huge lake, where I used to swim and fish for trout with my grandpa.
I remember nights where the sun would never fully go down below the horizon, and evenings spent watching Dynasty (with Norwegian subtitles) on the small black-and-white TV with my grandpa next to me in his rocking chair, and waking up first thing in the morning to the sounds of my grandmother preparing breakfast in the tiny kitchen outside my room. Breakfast was usually a soft boiled egg (fresh from a nearby farm, of course), and whole grain bread with sweet butter. There were also any number of other strange options available at our breakfast table. Usually pickled herring, thinly sliced salted meats, lingonberry jam, and goat cheese (the hard brown kind, not the soft white kind we're used to seeing in recipes these days). While this was definitely a far cry from the cereal and milk I was used to at home, it always felt so important and significant to start the day out with my family this way. My grandpa would always make a big show of putting the herring on his buttered bread, and relishing eating it while I made faces of disgust. After his meal, he would down a full glass of buttermilk and lick his lips. To this day I don't know how he could stomach that combination of foods, but he lived to be 93 and was active and healthy until the day he died. So there's something to be said for pickled herring and buttermilk for breakfast, is all I'm saying.
Right after breakfast, we would usually head outside with blue plastic buckets in hand, and start picking fruit to make into jam or juice---plums from the plum trees, and currants and raspberries from the abundant bushes on the hillside. By lunchtime, our fingers and mouths were stained from the fruit, and the full buckets covered the table as we started prepping jars and bottles for cooking the preserves.
Another thing we grew at the cottage were sugar snap peas, and I used to grab them right off the vine and crunch crunch crunch until most of them were gone. I think the only reason my grandparents kept growing them was for my benefit, because I don't remember eating them any other way than directly from the garden. To this day, I can't eat a sugar snap pea without imagining myself standing surrounded by the vines (taller than me at the time) and knowing they were mine for the taking.
My fondest and most strong food memory by far, were the raspberries. For dessert almost every night, my grandmother would put a bunch of raspberries in a bowl, cover them with heavy cream, and sprinkle them with sugar. So simple, so fresh, and sublimely delicious. To this day,no dessert i've ever eaten can compare to the taste of the tart berries soaked in the smooth, sweet cream. The fact that I had picked them myself only made them taste better. And then there's the raspberry jam. I really have no words to explain how much that jam means to me. It's more than a food memory; it's a taste that can bring me to tears. I have never, nor will I ever, taste anything that means more to me. I rarely get to eat it now---when my aunt or cousin come to visit (which they are this summer!) they sometimes bring me a jar or two, but it's really unique to being in Norway, at the cottage. And I wouldn't even try to reproduce it here, even though it's really just raspberries and sugar, because it would NOT be the same. I can't explain why, it just wouldn't.
The last time I was at the cottage was in the early fall of 2007, when I took my husband to Norway to show him where I spent my summers as a kid. My grandfather had passed away the previous year, and it was so bittersweet to be back, but without him there. The jam tasted the same though, and the plum trees were still producing, and so there was comfort there for me through that food, which kept growing year after year, always welcoming me back.