From Iceland — Great Grandma’s Recipe, With a Kick

Great Grandma’s Recipe, With a Kick

Larissa Kyzer
Words by
Photo by
Matthew Eisman

Published August 1, 2014

Farmer’s Soup

Skólavörðuholt, just across from Hallgrímskirkja
Mon-Sun 11.30-20.00
What we think
Come for the kjötsúpa.
Kjötsúpa with a kick.
A perfect spot on a sunny day, otherwise, take it to go.
Warm and friendly.
Price for 2 (no drinks)
1,380 ISK–1,980 ISK

Farmer’s Soup Food Truck

Sceptics of Jungian psychology take note: the collective unconscious is most certainly A Thing here in Iceland. How’s that, you wonder? There are lots of good examples, such as the quickly passé, but briefly passionate fad for Tex-Mex-themed confirmation parties. But more to the point, consider the emergence of Reykjavík’s food truck culture. Less than six months ago, it didn’t really exist in Iceland. And then, practically overnight, a handful of carts suddenly blossomed around town, with two of them selling kjötsúpa, or Icelandic meat soup, as their premier item.

Having opened in May (slightly beforeits kjötsúpa-serving cousinSúpuvagninn), Farmer’s Soup has staked out a lovely vantage on Skólavörðuholt, just in front of Hallgrímskirkja. The truck is owned and managed by social worker Jónína Gunnarsdóttir and, on busy days, staffed by her sister Anna, and (sometimes) her sons Ómar and Óskar, any of whom you might find serving while wearing aprons printed to look like upphlutur, the national costume worn by Icelandic women in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

My companion and I arrived for a late lunch on a crisp but sunny afternoon, the kind of unlikely day that is perfect both for eating soup and eating outside. (Unfortunately for food truck proprietors and customers alike, there haven’t been many of these during a damp summer such as this one.) Taking advantage of the lovely weather, Farmer’s Soup had set out a few colourful picnic tables for guests who wanted to dip into their soups right away, rather than mosey over to the grassy area in front of the church or any of the benches lining nearby Skólavörðustígur.

Farmer’s Soup serves two varieties, both listed on a chalk board that hangs on the back wall of the truck: Traditional Icelandic Meat Soup and an excitingly-dubbed ‘Vegan Power Soup.’ Both soups cost the same—690 ISK for a small portion served in a large to-go coffee cup, and 990 ISK for a large portion. (Nicely, customers who bring their own containers will be given a 10% discount.) We ordered one of each.

According to the chalkboard, Jónína’s kjötsúpa is based on her “Great Grandmother’s Recipe from the Westman Islands.” Here’s the backstory: Also named Jónína, her grandmother used to make huge pots of kjötsúpa to serve to her son, a troubled alcoholic, and other “guys who didn’t have any good fortune.” So with her Farmer’s Soup recipe, Jónína wanted to pay homage to her grandmother’s memory and her classic recipe, while also “pumping it up a bit.”

The result is, quite simply, delicious. The ample portion of lamb is tender and a bit fatty (in a good way), and is mixed with little pieces of red pepper, sweet potato, rice and fresh garlic. There’s no potato or swede, which threw me off for a moment—that is, until the spice of the broth kicked in and I no longer cared. Jónína uses ginger to add some heat to the soup, which is instantly warming, slightly nasal clearing, and just lovely.

While it’s nice that the Vegan Power Soup is available, given that vegetarian options are so often neglected in Reykjavík, it’s not nearly as interesting a soup as the meat option. A broth-based soup with sweet potato and red pepper as its main ingredients, the Power Soup lacks the depth of flavour that the kjötsúpa has. We were told that Farmer’s Soup doesn’t use any salt in their recipes, and being a sodium addict, I appreciate the gesture toward healthfulness. However, the Power Soup would probably be much improved by a dash of salt, and maybe a bit more of the ginger and garlic that make the kjötsúpa so good.

Acknowledging that most people “don’t want to stand in the rain and eat soup,” Jónína says that Farmer’s Soup will likely be open through the early fall—September and October—but may then close for the winter. That is, unless the faculty and students at the Technical College next door can convince her to open for lunch during the week, in which case, Farmer’s Soup may be warming Reykjavík throughout the winter.


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