Last night, the entire Bjerkan clan gathered for a potluck, our first here in Norway. The day was cool with a hint of snow in the air, but once the sun set, lit candles cast a lovely glow over the mix-and-match buffet magically conjured up by our joint efforts.
My contribution was relatively uninspired - a salsa/bean/cheese concoction toasted in the oven on the new 'tub' style taco shells that are a huge hit with my family. I also sliced some smoked salmon (a staple in our home), and wrapped puff pastry around a brie topped with mushrooms sauteed in red wine.
Among more exciting offerings, the Italian kitchen was represented by cheesy lasagnas of both the meat and veggie kind, as well as a delicious green salad. We were also treated to French cuisine courtesy of a red wine based casserole with whole onions, peppers and juicy chunks of fillet. All dishes were scrumptiously satisfying.
And yes, I did gain 5 pounds last night. Thanks for asking.
The night's pièce de résistance was definitely my sister's homemade mousse au chocolat. It was divine in its fluffy lightness, and the chunks of chocolate hidden within layers of decadence were little bites of heaven.
In my reverie, I was transported back to a similarly cool November weekend some 13 years ago. On paper, that looks like a long time ago, but last night, it felt like the blink of an eye. Each spoonful of pure bliss brought back memories of another evening where chocolate mousse had played a starring role.
In November of 1994, I had settled in Oslo after completing my degree at UBC in Vancouver, Canada. I'd landed a decent-paying job, found a great little apartment in the up-and-coming artistic section of town, and, in my domestic fervour, even acquired a cat. I was enjoying my life, dipping my toes into the post-education waters called 'adulthood'.
My place of work employed several other gals and guys at a similar stage of life, and our interaction often expanded into the off-work hours, with dinners, workouts, clubbing and shopping. One Friday afternoon, after work, a few of us went out to dinner followed by drinks at a club. When I finally made it home, it was past midnight, but it had been a fun evening, and I was looking forward to the weekend off.
The very next morning, I met up with another work colleague for some quality shopping time. This was my first time shopping with this particular girl, and I was thrilled to find that we hit it off right away. After scouring the stores at Aker Brygge for good deals, we had one of those looong lunches, where we cemented our new found friendship with talk about not just work and colleagues, but also our hopes and dreams for the future. We were both in that sweet spot in life where our only responsibility was to ourselves, having completed the scheduled life of university projects and papers, but not yet hit true domestication, partnering and child-rearing. Life was good!
Following the marathon shopping and chatting session, I didn't make it back to my little apartment until late that afternoon. The sun was already setting on the blustery day, and I remember walking from the bus stop towards my building at a brisk pace, feeling happy that my shopping date had gone so well, but chilled to be outside after spending the better part of the afternoon inside a warm cafe. I wondered if I was coming down with a cold.
As I opened the door to my apartment, my little kitty ran out to meet me, relieved to have company after several hours alone. She is the only cat I've ever known who enjoyed a good game of 'fetch', and we had a quick session of throwing a rolled up ball of paper down the hall for her to bring back to me.
I'd just crashed on the couch with a cup of steaming hot tea and a book when the phone rang. It was my friend Helene calling to remind me of her dinner party that evening. A dinner party I had forgotten all about. As we were talking, I looked outside and saw snowflakes in the air, the wind busy throwing them this way and that. The last thing I wanted to do was leave my toasty warm apartment again. I told Helene I was feeling a bit under the weather after the busy week, and that I'd rather not have to venture out into the cold again. "Thank you, but I hope you have a great party."
Helene was never one to take no for an answer, and she persisted, begging me to come. She'd invited a Canadian guy to her party and needed someone to help entertain him. He didn't speak much Norwegian, but since her other guests were Norwegian, she couldn't very well speak English all night. "Can't you please come and help me?"
I had no desire to waste a Saturday night trying to make conversation with some guy I'd never met, and frankly, had no interest in meeting. I looked longingly at my book and the hot tea on my table. As I hesitated, trying to come up with an unassailable reason to stay at home, Helene grabbed the chance to clinch the deal: "Heidi, Eivind is making his famous chocolate mousse especially for you tonight. You have to come and have some, or he'll be upset."
I made it to Helene's party that night. And I dutifully sat down next to Mike, who was working as a consultant in Norway for a few months. I also made an effort to converse in English, as requested by my hostess. It didn't take long for me to realize I wasn't wasting my time. And when Mike moved to Costa Rica 9 months later, I packed my bags and followed. The rest, as they say, is history.
Oh, and the chocolate mousse? Life-altering!