Sunday, 12 June 2011

tar ice cream

it never really got dark in Turku
I'm just back from Turku in Finland, from the Unconventional Computing conference. I had a great week listening to talks on computing with chemicals, with membranes, with weird quantum entanglement, with closed timelike curves, and more. (Did you know that if GPS didn't correct 42 microseconds a day for relativistic effects, locations would drift by 10km a day?) The weather was beautifully clear, and extremely hot (for Finland), sometimes even hitting 30C. And, of course, at this time of year, it never really got dark.

I'd been in Turku before, in 2003, at a formal methods conference (nice weather again, but nowhere near as hot). One evening a group of us went out for a meal at the Harald "Viking" restaurant (we didn't wear the helmets...). On the sweet menu was "tar ice cream". Ho, ho, ho, we went, it must be mistranslated. So we asked the server. "Tar? Like you put on the roads?" "Yes" she said. Okay, so I have to order that. It arrives: a scoop of plain white ice cream. I take a hesitant spoonful as the rest of the table watches. "It's tar!"

It had a lovely tarry flavour -- like mild creosote. It is actually pine tar, made from tree sap -- and it's very nice (although not everyone agrees!). This visit, one evening I was in a restaurant, and recognised it as that same place I'd been 8 years earlier. So I looked eagerly for the tar ice cream. Still available, and still delicious.

The next day was the conference dinner. We went to a lovely place in the archipelago, where they were serving a smoky tar drink in a wooden mug -- and the dinner included (among many other kinds of fish) herring in tar. Both nice, but not as good as that tar ice cream.

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