A large glob of water keeps dripping out of someone’s rain-gutter onto my head as I huddle in a doorway, waiting for my mid-morning date, Svavar Pétur Eysteinsson. Moments later, a large burgundy jeep swoops into the parking spot ahead of me and out pops the man of the hour, smiling and chipper as a farmer about to pick the morning crop.
Appropriately enough, we are meeting at the new Ó›insgata location of the organic, fresh-from-the-farm specialty store Frú Lauga. Svavar makes a quick half circle to the trunk of his car and opens it up to reveal two crates full of his latest success: Bulsur vegan sausages. Not only does he shop here, but they are one of the four local shops that sell the meat-free links, and today they’re getting a delivery.
Of course, up until recently, most people knew Svavar for producing entirely different creations. Namely music, as a member of the band Skakkamanage and as front man for weirdo-pop darlings Prins Póló, various graphic design ventures plus having been co-proprietor of the dearly departed Havarí book and design shop. Then suddenly, he turned his attention to sausages. “I went vegetarian last year and I quickly got a craving for sausages,” Svavar tells me, while helping to unload one of his crates of shrink-wrapped non-meat. “The problem is I hate soy, so I couldn’t really have any of the meatless sausages available. So I decided to make my own.”
Thus he launched into almost a year of trial and failure in recipe making, he tells me, ambling around the shop eyeing the day’s crop and exchanging pleasantries with another person delivering their wares. “I tried many different things to get the consistency and flavour right, and it really took a lot of time,” he says, but doesn’t recall a test batch so terrible he had to spit and rinse.
The result? A vegan’s* dream sausage: a mix of barley, beans, almonds, chia and flax seeds, with no traces of potato, soya, or egg. He walks over to a shelf and grabs a bag of barley from Móðir Jörð, an organic farm in Vallanes. “This is what I use to make Bulsur,” Svavar states with determination. “I love this stuff. This farm is so great.”
Svavar seems particularly at home in this extremely small shop, perhaps due to the fact that it was one of three locations that sold his first batch of sausages. “I thought I had delivered enough to last a week or two,” he says, “but they sold out in two hours. Between ten in the morning and noon, all three stores were sold out.” His eyes are wide in joyful bewilderment. It’s as though the reality of it has still not sunk in, even though his batches have progressively increased from 40kg to 600kg in one month in order to meet the demand.
You can’t digitise food
He and his wife, Berglind Häsler also of Skakkamanage and Prins Póló, now spend four or five days a week making Bulsur at the Esja food processing facility, renting the time, equipment, technical and culinary support. I point out that the technical process of making the sausages is not so different from recording a studio album. “That’s kind of true!” Svavar laughs. “There’s a similarity to it, but what’s really different is how people consume the product. With a CD, maybe a few people buy it but they have it for a long time. With sausages, more people buy it but they… recycle it a lot quicker.”
Svavar walks past the barley and picks up a box of Saltverk Reykjanes’s flaky sea salt, which is handcrafted in the Westfjords using a 200-year old artisanal method. Again, this is another product he swears by for making Bulsur. “This salt is really the best, it has such a good flavour,” he says passionately. Indeed, these pudgy, auburn-coloured fry-em-ups have really consumed all of his creativity.
I spent the past two years working in a studio, sitting down, and I really felt the urge to do work that involved standing and using my hands,” Svavar explains how he redirected himself towards honing a new craft. “One thing that sparked this was sitting in my studio looking at a stack of unsold Skakkamanage CDs and thinking, come on!”
Creation is its own reward
He says that this new venture has so completely taken him over that he has put graphic design entirely on ice (except for designing Bulsur labels), and doesn’t even really have the desire to make music (sorry, fans!). He seems slightly bashful to admit that he had to force himself to take a couple of weeks off at the end of summer to finish up the next Prins Póló record, scheduled for a fall release.
But altogether, he doesn’t see this change as a drawback. “It doesn’t make a difference if I’m making an album or a poster or sausages, it’s just about creating,” he says. “I’m the same person, and the urge to create comes from the same place. It’s just a different outcome.” He is also receiving so much feedback about his product—“It’s nice to hear the good, but it’s important to hear the bad”—that he’s even getting the urge to implement a culinary experimentation kitchen in his own home.
And all this because he went vegetarian? Well, yes. “Changes in life are good for you because they help you come up with new ideas. Move houses, quit your job, quit smoking, quit drinking, quit eating meat,” Svavar says. “When you quit something, you start something new. If you’ve been doing something for a long time, get rid of it and you will find new things in life.”
Nodding happily, he looks over to his left and points to a bag of spelt buns. “I just discovered these recently. They go really well with Bulsur.”
Frú Lauga is located at Óðinsgata 1 and Laugalækur 6. For information and opening hours go to their website.
*The original printed version of this article read “A Coeliac sufferer’s dream” which was incorrect, as the sausages are not certified gluten-free. We apologise for the error.