The highly anticipated and/or dreaded Þorrablót season is upon us here in Iceland, as of this coming Friday. This occasion derives its name from Þorri, the fourth month of winter in the old Norse calendar honouring king Þorri, and blót meaning feast. So Feast of Þorri might seem like a good translation, but this is not the case. Much more appropriate would be a catchy name like: „Feast of disgusting food“, as this is what it involves, i.e. fermented and sour animal parts that are usually not eaten, and for good reason. The most popular dishes are pickled and fermented rams-balls and singed sheep’s heads from which the eyes and tongue are considered a delicacy. These yummy morsels are washed down with Brennivín, sometimes called black-death, not coincidentally.
In retrospect, the end of January and most of February would have been the most meagre period of the year food wise during Iceland’s settlement and the centuries that followed. Everything from the more bountiful summer would have been eaten or have perished, unless fermented and the people thus forced by no festive reason, to eat what we now celebrate. It is a strange event but it has one thing going for it – the bizarre dishes remind us from what grain we grew and how tough our ancestors were forced to be. This should actually be taken up elsewhere as people everywhere in the world had great difficulty sustaining their existence in the past and it helps to be grounded by remembering this, if not just for the fact that in places this is still the case. It certainly of takes the punch out of any temper tantrum brought on by being served tepid soup in a fancy resteraunt.
I realise that for those who follow this blog Iceland will not sound terribly appealing for gourmets but this is not the case at all. We have the occasional eccentricities in this respect but aside from these the food here is really good, particularly the fish. A friend of mine from France who lived here for several years mentioned that he had never realised how exquisite fish is when served as a filet and explained that in his country the fish was usually served whole, head, tail, scales, fins, gills and all. This he believed was to prove that it was fresh, not old or frozen. In Iceland this is not required as why serve old fish when there is plenty of fresh fish available? On this note I leave you with a promise not to mention food again unless describing something good and never the time when we ate the soles of our shoes in a long ago famish; which, in case you are wondering, are not served at a typical “Feast of disgusting food”.
Yrsa - Sunday