I have my friend Speedy Icer to thank for this bounty. “S.I.” is a combination of brilliantly talented illustrator, fast-as-the-wind runner (and cookie decorator) and gardener extraordinaire. The gem-like raspberries in her garden exemplify fresh. Add to that the fact she’s a damn fine baker in her own right and one of the nicest people I’ve met (and worked with) in this little pocket of the Garden State.
I daren’t mention the raspberry windfall at work because the next thing you know, folks will be ordering raspberry pies. As long as the raspberries are gluten free. So I will keep this little secret and bake up a bunch of pies for a select few family members that just happen to be coming to town this weekend.
As a result of this onslaught of company, it is necessary to take a field trip to a retail emporium I both love and loathe in equal measure. It has been well over a year since setting my sneaker-clad feet inside the iconic blue and yellow Swedish Superstore adjacent to Liberty Airport. Suffice it to say that last year’s exhaustive search for run-of-the-mill curtain hardware ended in a linguistic debacle. Team Leader Curtain Hanger and yours truly wanted to hang several pairs of black out drapes in a blazingly sunny room. (I am about to stray off course here with a little bit of theatrical trivia. Without name dropping, let me assure you I am extremely well versed in black out drapes. From east coast to west, I was responsible for the installation of black out drapes in the luxury hotel suites of a certain celebrity. The hardware, however, was not my department.)
As I do not consider Swedish my native tongue, last year there was a problem identifying the necessary brackets and finials needed for our humble sunroom. In a voice vaguely reminiscent of the Muppets’ Swedish Chef, I insisted to Team Leader, “No, no, no! We need the Betyldig” when in fact, we really needed the Skulptur. In all of the commotion, I never had the chance to visit the kitchenware department.
Now we’re back and this visit, the search seems simple enough. A few wine glasses to replace those that a certain baker knocked over with a runaway rolling pin, and if we’re lucky, one or two lightweight FULLY ASSEMBLED chairs for outside. If we don’t find the chairs, I suppose we can certainly drink the wine standing up. Anything that requires hardware intervention does not make the cut. I also feel rather hopeful that this time I will have the opportunity to visit kitchenware and if nothing else, come back with a few 6” pie plates that are sorely missing from my repertoire.
A curious encounter occurs as we near the entrance. An older couple arrives at the door at the very same moment we do. I come very close to bumping into them because I’m preoccupied, reliving last year’s visit, already blinded by the neon yellow and electric blue signage. I do notice that the older gentleman is attired in a complete leg cast and brace. It is curious to me that he would opt to fight the crowds and shop at a vast multi-level complex, especially in a leg cast. To each his own Swedish fish.
Rule breakers that we are, we opt for entering through the exit, around the corner, so as to avoid weaving our way through the entire store. Cautiously optimistic about the chairs, we grab a cart directly adjacent to the Hej då! (good-bye) sign. Each of the four wheels is skirting the ground in opposite directions making the navigation of the cart challenging. I should exchange it for another, but it’s too late, and besides, they were probably assembled by folks with my hardware skills. We are swept up in the sea of shoppers but I feel fairly confident that I can steer this ship. Much to our surprise, we stumble upon lightweight pre-assembled chairs that fit the bill. Loading them into the cart, the next stop is glassware and bakeware.
A smorgasbord of seasonal items tempt me along the way; I’m quite taken with the jars of Lingonberry preserves (Sylt Lingon), and look at this! a huge display dedicated to bottles of Saft Rabarber, Rhubarb drink. I’m so excited about the possibilities in that bottle of rhubarb that I let the cart get the better of me and run directly into the heels of my Team Leader. “Sorry- sooo sorry! Look at this- Rhubarb! And did you see the raspberry/blueberry jam?” He limps away in the direction of glasses as I commandeer the rolling vehicle. Not wishing to relinquish the cart, “No problem, I’ve got this…” is my reply, simultaneously pushing and pulling the cart. We run into a little trouble in glassware, once again a bit of a language barrier. “I think we want the Svalka” Team Leader indicates, leaving a good bit of distance between himself and the cart. There’s some back and forth as we pore over the boxes, trying to distinguish the red wine from white, not to be confused with the 6 pack of Snaps (Schnaps) glasses, all precariously stacked under the title of Svalka. We decide combining the glassware with the chairs is probably not in our best interest, and we take a quick detour to secure another wagon. In the distance I spot a wall of white- dishes and serving ware. My 6” Smarta pie plates await my arrival and I delicately place them in my cart, tucked in between the chairs the Saft Rabarber, and the Sylt Lingon.
There is quite a line at the checkout counter, and it is unclear which is the most expedient. I’m weaving in and out, just close enough to once again, nip the heels of the man at the helm of the wineglass shopping wagon. I abandon my cart with him, and take a quick whirl around the food aisles. Spotting the one item I’ve wanted all along, I grab it and rejoin the line. I’m not really paying attention, thinking about the fresh raspberries that are going to fill my new pie plates when an arm reaches out and grabs my shoulder. It is my trusty companion admonishing me to hold on to my cart. I am a mere whisper away from crashing into the leg of the cast-sporting gentleman we met upon arrival. This is all too much for me. The man hobbles away, we check out and call it a Swedish day.
Back on the road, I’m foraging through the goods in the back seat, desperately hunting for a small bag. Ripping it open, I offer a Swedish delicacy to the man driving, as a bit of a peace offering for the multiple cart run-ins. The fish are as advertised on the package, both soft and chewy. There’s a pronounced fruit flavor; not quite strawberry, not quite lingonberry. Sort of a cross between raspberry and snozzberry. Now I’m terribly thirsty and thinking that when we get home I’m going to christen the new glasses with some ice cold Saft Rabarber. Then I’m going to sit in one of my new pre-assembled chairs and leaf through some cookbooks until I find just the right raspberry pie recipe. Hej då.