literary food blog, for readers with good taste.

Kellie Strøm's "Worse Things Happen at Sea" & Scallop Vermicelli

My older brother has a weakness for sea monsters. He went through a phase growing up where he was terrified of giant squid, but that passed relatively quickly and now he's into all fantastical ocean-dwellers. When we visited Rome together this year, his favorite part of the Vatican was the map room because there are mermaids hidden in the paintings. Meanwhile, he only got excited about watching Game of Thrones when he learned that dragons played a role. You get the picture.

So you can imagine how excited I was when I learned about a brand spanking new book from lauded Scandanavian illustrator Kellie Strøm all about the perils of sea travel. The promise of sea monsters was enough for me to pre-order Worse Things Happen at Sea as a birthday present for my bro.

What came in the mail was even more magical than I could have predicted. It's hard to know whether we should call this a book, a work of art, a graphic novel, or even an songbook. The work is a long fold-out panoramic illustration that tells the tale (through illustration only) of a ship full of brave and perhaps fool-hardy soldiers trying to survive a stormy, monster-infested sea.  

 Image via Cool Hunting.

Image via Cool Hunting.

The detachable cover of Worse Things Happen at Sea is integral to the story — featuring a song (complete with barebones sheet music!) with lyrics that describe the eventual demise of the doomed sailors (I guess you could call "spoiler alert" on this one, but, c'mon, it's only a few panels long). The attention to detail both in form and actual visuals is astounding — Strøm actually had to use a magnifying glass while he worked to cram his pen-drawings with the all detail he desired.  

Though short and non-traditional, this is storytelling at its best. It is magical, surprising, clever, and absorbing. I recommend it for all story-lovers, not just monster fans! It will be equally beautiful on your mantle or in your bookshelf.


Naturally, such a work deserves a seafood feast. Inspired by the omnipresent Vietnamese cuisine in my new Seattle home, fresh shellfish, and Strøm's complex and detailed work, I put together a nuanced scallop vermicelli.


- 8 oz. rice vermicelli
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon sliced fresh red chili (or jalapeño)
- 1 lb. bay scallops
- a dash of soy sauce
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 4 sliced green onions
- 3 large leaves of green leaf lettuce
- 1 medium carrot, julienned
- 1/4 cup fresh mint, cut into small pieces
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, cut into small pieces

Boil some water and cook your vermicelli for about 4 minutes. Drain, rinse, and set aside.

Combine your water, fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, and chili. Set aside in a bowl — you'll use this as your sauce later.

Heat up a skillet, and add the oil, soy sauce, garlic, and onions. Cook for a couple minutes and then throw in your scallops. Cook just until scallops become opaque white.

Put your noodles in a large bowl, pour in the scallop mixture, add the lettuce, carrot, and herbs, and toss it all together. Serve with your sauce on the side — dinner guests can add the right amount for their tastes.

Adapted from Martha Stewart

At The Table With...Elizabeth Stark of Brooklyn Supper

The TBR List: July 18