Joined by Harold McGee and several other Friends of Dave with assorted degrees of gameness, we cracked the can open in a well-ventilated park. It didn't squirt vile juices for meters, as I'd been told to expect; just fizzed and bubbled a little as the noxious gases vented from their confinement. The air filled with the odor of used diapers; perhaps used diapers at the seashore. The flavor molecules in surströmming include skatole -- named for the Greek word for dung -- as well as ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and a couple named putrescine and cadaverine that are also found in decaying corpses.
Dave and McGee were the first to tuck in. Dave, it is safe to say, survived the experience; but McGee -- the only one of us who'd eaten surströmming before -- thoroughly enjoyed it. "It doesn't have any of the vomit flavor that the last batch did," he mused.
I enjoyed it too, after a moment's acclimation. The eye-watering sulfurous odor -- like rotten eggs and raw onions -- and the unchanged-baby odor predominated, but the salty deliciousness of cured herring came through. Especially on a piece of dark bread with some sliced red onion, the experience was more like eating cured fish while sitting next to a dumpster than eating actually rotten fish. The anaerobic fermentation (by Haloanaerobium bacteria that can survive in a brine salty enough to kill deadly Clostridium) gives it a slippery, disintegrating texture that's somewhat alarming, but on the whole I would do it again. Here's to you, Jonas Bonnier!
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.