About the food of Iceland

Icelandic houses with turf roofs. Photo by Stefan Schafft

Do you remember in gradeschool when your teacher told you that Iceland is actually greener than Greenland?

That blew my wee, 11 year-old mind. It still does. The simple factoid pops up at the strangest times, like when I’m in line at the grocery store or weeding the garden. Or brushing Ava’s hair. It’s amazing the lifelong influence our teachers have on us.

Iceland is greener than Greenland.

Apparently the island was named Iceland to deter people from overpopulating the small country. They hoped instead that icy Greenland would lure people over instead – you know, because they named it Greenland.

Tricky, tricky.

Hot spring (Leirhnjúkur, Iceland). Photo by Andreas Tille

I’m happy to report that’s not the only trick Iceland has up her sleeve. In the kitchen they turn trick after trick, resourcefully turning unusable food into delectable nibbles. Have a bunch of stale rye bread? Don’t throw it out – make sweet rye bread soup [recipe]. Need a handful of raisins, but only have rhubarb? No problem. Icelanders make it happen [recipe].

They even make cod roe waffles, which I read about in Icelandic Food & Cookery by Nanna Rognvaldardottir. In her recipe she actually folds the roe (fish eggs) into the batter and cooks it straight up.

While there certainly is a lot of fish on this island nation, there’s also a surprising amount of lamb and offal, especially in the long winter when stews and roasts reign supreme.

The summer brings plenty of fresh rhubarb and berries – blueberries, lingdonberries, and more. They use the fruit in soups [recipe], jams, and ice cream [recipe]. Take a jaunt to pick your own (this is blueberry season, after all) and you’ll be feeling the Icelandic spirit.

And, speaking of the Icelandic spirit – remember not everything is how it appears.

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

Don’t judge a country by it’s name.

Someone else’s icy can in fact be your green and beautiful.

An important life lesson, don’t you think?

Heimaey, Iceland. Photo by Hansueli Krapf | Maps: Courtesy CIA World Factbook

14 Comments

    • Sasha Martin says

      I’d love to spend a week in one of those grassy houses :) In fact, I think it’s making the short list for my Global Gingerbread house contest this year! How fun would that be?

  1. Brian S. says

    I’ve researched the matter and found some delicious Icelandic dishes for you to make!

    Kæstur hákarl, putrefied Greenland shark
    Súrsaðir hrútspungar, the testicles of rams pressed in blocks, boiled and cured in lactic acid.
    Svið, singed and boiled sheep heads, sometimes cured in lactic acid
    Sviðasulta, head cheese or brawn made from svið, sometimes cured in lactic acid
    Lifrarpylsa (liver sausage), a pudding made from liver and suet of sheep kneaded with rye flour and oats
    Blóðmör (blood-suet; also known as slátur, meaning slaughter), a type of blood pudding, which is made from lamb’s blood and suet, kneaded with rye flour and oats
    Harðfiskur, wind-dried fish (often cod, haddock or seawolf), served with butter
    Rúgbrauð (rye bread), traditional Icelandic rye bread
    Hangikjöt, (hung meat), smoked and boiled lamb or mutton, sometimes also eaten raw.
    Lundabaggi, sheep’s loins wrapped in the meat from the sides, pressed and cured in lactic acid
    Selshreifar, seal’s flippers cured in lactic acid

    • Sasha Martin says

      I can always count on you Brian. That second one …wow!

      • Collette says

        I am trying to picture Keith helping you press those testicles… I am still giggling. ;)

  2. elisa waller says

    I so LOVE Iceland….There is an icelandic band called Sigur ros who came to Boston..I brought mom to their concert, and she made an interesting comment…”they all look the same, its sort of cult like, they are all so skinny” hahaha..I wonder if thats because of their diet…..It was a fabulous concert….and their langusge is sointeresting..I compare it to gibberish but its spoken so beautifully…I am excited for your menu… <3

    • Sasha Martin says

      The words have a ot consonants in them from what I can tell – and very long :)

  3. Celeste says

    so very interesting…and the cottages look just like pictures of Ireland (which is coming up soon, right?!!) We’ve got a ways to go before blueberry season arrives in our neck of the woods though–do you really have them already out there? They come in August here. So are you making an Icelandic anniversary treat for your hubby?!! ;-)

    • Sasha Martin says

      Wow – August? June is prime season in Tulsa :) As for the treat… we actually cook a week ahead, so it’s actually Indian ;)

  4. LynD says

    We visited beautiful Iceland one month ago from our home in Oregon. We got to sample many of the traditional dishes, including puffin, whale steak, and guillemot, all difficult to come by in the US! But our favorite was a traditional Icelandic lamb stew, with potatoes and other veggies. Enjoy your ‘ visit’ to Iceland. You have a wonderful idea!

    • Sasha Martin says

      Thank you Lyn – so neat to hear about your experience. If it wasn’t 100F degrees here, I’d love to try that stew :) I’ve read they oven serve meats with rhubarb jam/chutney. yum!

  5. Tina says

    Does Ireland get its own week? I didn’t know if it would fall under the UK or not. I love Brian’s suggestions – so hilarious! I have a feeling Mr. Picky not try ANY of those things if you told him what they were in advance!

  6. GuyfromBrookline says

    Don’t forget about the famous Icelandic “fermented” shark. I had some there last year and enjoyed it more than I expected.

  7. Jessica Bennett says

    My uncle is currently in Iceland. He gets back in a couple days, and I can’t wait to hear all about it.

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