Throughout history, sheep have been intrinsically linked to survival in Iceland. They provide Icelanders with fluffy wool for their famous lopapeysur, as well as tasty meat for soup and other traditional dishes—such as svíð—half of a singed sheep’s head—which can be bought in many places throughout the island, including the Mýrin cafeteria at the BSÍ bus terminal.
This is where I bought my sheep head—to go—in the name of journalism. A trusted friend and advisor accompanied me on this adventurous journey. The waiter at Mýrin kindly provided us with plastic cutlery, but as we didn’t intend on taking the head on a fun picnic outing, we resorted to a sharper knife instead once we were home.
Food staring at you
The first hurdle after unpacking the head was deciding where to start. Unlike a hamburger patty, svið looks like… well… a sheep head. As two ignorant city slickers, we decided to watch a YouTube tutorial first. Indeed, neither my friend nor I were quite prepared for the elaborate cutting of meat and breaking of bones that would follow. It almost felt like being back in biology class.
Creepy, but tasty
Moreover, we were surprised to find how much fat there is on one head, as we expected it to be mostly bone. It was difficult to get to all the meat, but the pieces we managed to cut off were surprisingly delicious and tasted like any good Icelandic lamb.
All in all, the taste was exquisite and when slaughtering animals, it’s laudable to minimise waste and utilise all parts, not just tenderloins. Indeed, the sheep head made us acutely aware of the abstraction and anonymity of pre-packaged meat, and I will happily reconsider my identifying as a lazy flexitarian.
Read more “great” moments in Icelandic cuisine here.