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The Box

I received a message from a kind friend this morning. (Said friend shall remain anonymous unless he chooses otherwise.) But I will quote him:

I’m beginning to get a little worried that your package of authentic Scandinaviana blew up in the mail. Did you get it, or am I going to get a little visit from the Bioterrorism authorities?

Oh dear.

I keep a post office box for business and internet correspondence, and I hadn’t been there yet this week. Was the post office still there? Would it be encased in a giant biohazard bubble when I arrived to pick up my package? Would stern men encased in Class 4 biosafety suits haul me away for questioning?

biosafety suit

I did not stop in on the way to work; taking the explosive biohazardous package into a federal facility seemed… unwise. The delay gave me time to plan, and to research reports of suspicious items at my local post office.

I found no such reports, and the post office looked normal when I arrived, no lurking government agents. I took the precaution of going after business hours to avoid suspicious clerks. The key to the package locker rested in my box, without even a nasty note.

Relieved, I collected the package. It did not smell odd, nor was it oozing. I carried it home, and the dog did not start howling when I entered the room.

I carefully slit it open, and removed a narrow flat box.


Chocolates! With gooey alcoholic centers! WIN!!!

But I was not lulled into complacency. There was still a heavy round item that had been carefully sealed in layers of bright pink bubble wrap.

Hands trembling slightly, I slit the tape.


My worst fears fulfilled! Swedish fermented herring!

Okay, not my worst fears – I’m much more imaginative than that. Not even the worst fish product: I won’t eat this. Smelling it was entirely sufficient*. But surstromming is disturbing enough.

The internet tells me that I need to lay in supplies of boiled potatoes, and sliced onions, and lots and lots of alcohol. Two kinds, beer and aquavit, though vodka may be substituted if necessary.

What? Of course I’m going to try it.

As long as the can doesn’t explode first**.

* More on hakarl: “So what does hakarl taste like then? It tastes like crying. It tastes like broken promises. It tastes like the Lord God Almighty ripping the Bible out of your hands and saying, “Sorry, this doesn’t apply for you. I think you want “Who Moved My Cheese?” It tastes like the Predator wading into a Care Bears movie and opening fire.”

** Does anyone know if the can should be stored refrigerated? Or in an explosives locker***? Or both?

*** It’s illegal to fly with surstromming because the cans are prone to exploding. Seems the herring keeps fermenting even after it’s been sealed.