From Iceland — How To Lose One's Dignity

How To Lose One’s Dignity

Published August 23, 2023

How To Lose One’s Dignity

On the lack of gastronomic walkability in Reykjavík

A mild fascination of mine is the increased walkability of urban spaces. As Reykjavík grows, it appears to be a thing decision makers are working on, even though it remains a very car-dependent city.

A major fascination of mine, meanwhile, is the increased gastronomic walkability of Reykjavík, a term I invented solely for the purposes of this article. If you hadn’t noticed, let me tell you: this town ain’t no good for eaters on the go. 

Opposed to significant metropolises like London and New York – cities the average Reykvíkingur will gladly compare themselves to – it’s simply not possible to eat and walk simultaneously in Reykjavík while maintaining one’s dignity. 

Reykjavík does not have a history of people having to eat on the go. It lacks the urgency of other major cities. 

The reason is simple. Reykjavík does not have a history of people having to eat on the go. It lacks the urgency of other major cities. The act isn’t woven into the city’s concrete fabric, as opposed to walking around New York with a pizza slice in your hand – an act so naturally ingrained into New York streets that doing anything else seems to contradict the social contract. It’s cool. It’s natural. In Reykjavík, it’s not. 

Tanking my self-respect

As an experiment, I decided to grab a veggie langloka – a sort of a poor man’s sub – from Bónus on Laugavegur before heading over to Grapevine HQ in Grófin. Layered with hard-boiled eggs, mushy vegetables and smothered in a sinnepssósa – a sauce only described as a lovechild of mayo, crème-fraiche and mustard – the langloka serves as the perfect variable for an experiment such as this. Handheld, slightly sloppy, a commoner’s delicacy. 

“I’m disgusting,” I thought to myself.

Things started out well. I contained the sandwich in its plastic wrapper to minimise spillage. This was a false start, though, as after having given it a few chomps, I felt the cold and oily texture of the mustard sauce on my cheeks, climbing towards my ears. 

This was no good. I felt people starting to look at me as I passed them. I was a freak in their eyes. Passing the intersection of Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur, I saw a guy I knew from high school. He thinks I’m a weirdo. As the sauce spilt over my face, I realised in a panic that I had no napkins, resorting to the absorbance of my own sleeves. “I’m disgusting,” I thought to myself.

Having thought I’d cleaned everything off, I could still feel the stabbing glances of fellow pedestrians, none of whom were eating as they walked past the storefronts. When I reached the refuge of my workplace, a co-worker of mine commented, “You’ve got something,” as they pointed towards the corner of their mouth.

My efforts: futile. My reputation: in shambles. My experiment proved worthwhile. You cannot eat, walk and maintain your dignity at the same time. 

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