The dining dead. It’s a phrase I heard in a movie. A young man looked at his girlfriend as they were having dinner in a fancy restaurant and remarked shocked on the fact that they now belonged to the dining dead. Which comes pretty close to the reason why I will now resign as restaurant critic of the Reykjavík Grapevine.
These have been splendid weeks, and I can start by giving the total verdict that food is great. But one can only have so much splendid food … what would become of parties if you had a party every weekend? Hm, not convincing? In any case, there is a certain lack of … progress? Aim? Meaning? There is some lack inherent to the job of the restaurant critic. Or to me as a restaurant critic.
Man does not live from bread alone. No, but at a certain point in the development of capitalist economy man can make a decent living from speaking about bread. Which seems what we are now all doing, in one way or another. How many magazines are published in Iceland, again? How many pages a week? How much progress does the human spirit make on these pages?
I would proclaim that I had added one keen little insight on local/global culture in one of my reviews, had I not heard, last night, that a very fine seventy-year-old writer already gave radio commentary on that same restaurant a few weeks back, in all likelihood seeing the same things as I did but putting them forward in more youthful, splendid colours.
I’m not going to do any culture-bashing here and now. It tends not to amount to anything either. But I will tell you this: Iceland is, all in all, stinking rich. Its riches are certainly not reaching all inhabitants of the island in equal proportions, nor necessarily in proportion to merit on any human standard. But the wealth is there and if you happen to be the right sort of person in the right place at the right time and willing to do things you never thought anyone would ask you to, when you were growing up, you might taste a bit of it and spend an amazing amount of time dining.
Things to do in Iceland to regularly afford some of the finer restaurants I have been reviewing:
1. Be a joyful visual artist, and you might be invited by a baroness.
2. Be a melancholic life-weary graphic designer.
3. Study humanities and get paid for social criticism and capitalist exploitation.
4. Switch from the Independence Party to the Social Democrats soon and wait for the next election.
5. Be keen to stay for a long time in the same place talking to the same people over and over again.
6. Be ironic.
7. Be nice.
8. Be young, pretty and thin.
9. Say yes a lot.
10. Say no a lot.
11. Be someone’s son.
12. Be someone’s son’s wife.
13. Vice versa, but if you are to be someone’s daughter’s husband you better have a lot of confidence, or they’ll get you.
13. Be a party-animal with good common sense in the morning.
14. Be a student with two part-time jobs and a serious ambition for food.
15. Lie that you are a restaurant critic for a magazine or a tourist guide.
16. Be an attractive foreigner from an even richer place than Iceland and lie that you are any of the above.
More or less it seems to be that simple. Then, if you’re not willing to do any of these, most Icelanders are too prudent to fetch anything from dumpsters, so you can find both fresh vegetables, fruits and bread in unlocked containers outside most supermarkets, up for grabs.
I have nothing in particular to say. I am as bewildered by the ways of the world as I ever have been. But speaking about dumpsters, it should be pointed out, even if not even remotely relevant to the ‘restaurant’ part of ‘restaurant critique’ that the aluminium created in local smelters will be used to manufacture cars that Iceland seems to import 51% more of this year than last year, that will subsequently, four to five years on, be bought back by the importers themselves, who, upon finding they don’t get acceptable money for the used cars, dump them into one of those devices all boys dream of having since they saw them in movies for the first time and don’t know the English word for but change an automobile into a square metal lump. Yes, cars are being taken off the streets to make space for new ones – and these people have, not only spokespersons, but an economic theory to back them up.