Strange Foods in a Strange Land

My toddler comes to Europe. First snack: smoked eel.
hamburg isemarkt

I’d been in Hamburg for four days, working hard, by the time my wife showed up with the toddler for the summer. I’d been mostly eating with friends so the morning they came I walked the few blocks to the Isemarkt to provision the house. My friend Bjorn had described it to me in March when I came to visit. “It’s not a farmer’s market, it’s a market, the kind that have been making Hamburg wealthy since the time of the Hansa.” These days the market stretches most of a kilometer under the train tracks between two stations in a very nice neighborhood. There are a few farmers, and at this time of year lots of the produce seems to be local, but there are also specialty butchers, biodynamic bakers, Middle Eastern caterers, cafés, and a cheese shop that unfolds out of the back of a semi. By the time I was done shopping I noticed that I was carrying about twice the normal load.

Tara and Squishy arrived in mid-afternoon, excited to see our temporary home and basking in the beautiful weather. Then they simultaneously realized they were ravenous, and out came the snacks. We went out on our deck and the two of them burned through the strawberries in about ten minutes. Then Tara found the tiny shrimp from the North Sea. She buttered some dense brown bread, scattered the shrimp over the top, took a bite, and started dancing with her eyes closed. The toddler, meanwhile, had found the smoked eel. “Want it,” she told me. “Are you sure, sweetie?” I gave us each little pieces. “Wow,” I thought, as the richness and smoke bounced around in my mouth. “Amazing.” Squishy touched my hand. “More eel, daddy. More eel, please.” Well, ok, then. More eel coming up. And welcome to Europe.

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