Crayfish party at Joseph Pearce’s – reminding me I’m Swedish

When I was a child, the crayfish premier – the start of the crayfish fishing season – was a hugely important date. On that date, or the weekend immediately after, parties would be organised: people invited, long tables put in gardens and living rooms, moon-lanterns and red paper garlands tacked to trees and ceilings.

A wealth of fresh-water crustaceans. Honestly, the sight makes my eyes tear up with happiness.

A wealth of fresh-water crustaceans.

Like midsummer, the crayfish premier is a very Swedish thing. People come together over small, bright-red crustaceans boiled with beer, dill and salt, served with white bread and mayo. Party hats and bibs are donned, the snaps comes out of the freezer. Crayfish eating is interactive and therefore slow so a crayfish party is a fairly leisurely affair interspersed with bouts of singing and toasting.

We rarely had Swedish crayfish, instead we had the frozen American, Turkish or Chinese varieties. The Swedish hunger for these mini-lobsters, coupled with disease in the stocks, meant that there weren’t many local crayfish around when I was a kid. Luckily, we could import them. As predictable as the “did the right song win” headline the day after Eurovision, there would be double spreads in all the papers testing different brands of crayfish, judging them on flavour and texture.

Now I live in Scotland and crayfish just isn’t a thing.

Except it is, thank’s to Joseph Pearce’s.

Look at those lovelies!

Look at those lovelies!

Crayfish at JP’s

Every year they run crayfish parties hosted by Anna herself. The format is simple: you sit down to a welcome drink, then eat crayfish, sing drinking songs and toast in snaps. When the crayfish is all eaten, there’s a cheese tart followed by coffee. Anna’s an excellent host. She explains how to eat crayfish (there’s a process) and leads the joyous singing. It’s a wonderfully social and cheerful event, a coming together of cultures and ages, locals and visitors. Fun is always had!

I go as often as I can: I love crayfish and love remembering that I’m Swedish. A ‘Helan Går’ and a shot of OP Anderson adds the perfect gilding on the occasion.

If you like seafood and you’re interested in other cultures, give the JP crayfish party a go. They’re over for this year but comes back next year on August 20, 21, 27 and 28. This year, tickets were £25 – a steal for crayfish, Västerbottenpaj, snaps and singing. (If you want other drinks, you pay for them. I recommend Pistonhead lager. It is light and easy to drink and works rather well with snaps and crayfish both.)

See you there!

Joseph Pearce’s

23 Elm Row
Edinburgh EH7 4AA

Telephone: 0131 556 4140

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About Caroline von Schmalensee

Cooking, eating and drinking is fun as well as necessary. I do food for fun and I write for a living. Good food makes the world a more delicious and satisfying place. Good writing, meanwhile, can make the world a less confusing place.

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