All You Can Eat
With tenderloin whale steak in season, all true smorgasborders should visit Ola's Norweigian restaurant at 16 Carver Street. Those who don't like whale meat, or can't remember how they roasted reindeer or potted ptarmigan in the old country might still enjoy some varied tastes. Just pass through the wrought-iron gates into the restaurant.
Inside, a portrait of the blond, blue-eyed proprietress smiles down from above the hearth at the waiters rushing between nine tables and an array of smorgasbord in the middle of the room. When the aroma and the candlelight have created the proper mood, grab a plate and sample the display of food. "Take all you can eat, but eat all you take," is the menu's advice. Ignore it.
Following my own advice, I heaped my plate with at least a dozen concoctions. One was a colorful combination of cranberries and bananas, another was reminiscent of hash. The waiter informed me that it was, "Peppers, apples, meat, pickles, fish, carrots, potatoes, and perhaps more." It was probably the "perhaps" I didn't like. When I'd finished the cheeses, cold cuts, fishes, meats, and salads I returned to the smorgasbord table. I was scraping the bottom of the banana and cranberry bowl as a plump, seventyish woman in chet's attire bustled in to fill the dish. "Ya?" she asked. Ya, I smiled in reply.
My cranberry cook, like most of the help, is Norweigian, while the customers are almost all native Bostonians. Each guest was greeted by a hostess, who was also my adviser on what's good that's Norwegian. Among her suggestions was whale steak. I replied that pickled herring would suffice. As I gulped water she apologized for the herrings' appearance; "The goats' choose sauce is all gone." Relieved, I asked her if there were my more special Norwegian recipes. Her answer was a copy of Ola's Norwegian Cook Book describing cucumber sandwiches, with the bread dipped in sherry, the vaguely familiar labskrans, "made from any leftover cold meat," and the cabbagry kaalroter. Brandy spices the sprister.
Finished with the book and too ashamed for another round of smorgasbord. I concluded the meal with three desserts, apple crunch cake, Norwegian rosettes, and rum pudding. After lapping up the last of the rum, I forgave my Scandinavian friends for serving French pastry and said goodbye to the waiter, the dishwasher, the cold chef, the hot chef, and the just plain chefs. I paid my check, $1.50, with one dessert, and told my hostess I'd be back on May 17 when the patio would be open. The seventeenth is of course, Norwegian Independence Day.