From Iceland — Sour Grapes And Stuff!

Sour Grapes And Stuff!

Published September 9, 2011

Sour Grapes And Stuff!


Dear Grapevine,

a word from the precarious position of an gourmet immigrant. Coming to Iceland I was prepared for trying some, lets say, unusual food, such as sheep face or cured shark, what I was not expecting is food to become one of my biggest challenges of living in this otherwise unique and truly admirable country. Circumstances led me into eating most of my meals in a cafeteria of a large nursing home. The menu is composed so it would serve practicality and the taste of some very old people, people who grew up chewing on dry fish for breakfast every day. In these 10 months that I have been living in Iceland I have shovelled down unseasoned boiled fish, mashed fish remnants, industrial gravy and endless amounts of boiled potatoes. Occasionally there is the “special” food on the menu, such as shark, skate, pickled testicles, whale fat and all the other delicacies. I respect the hard work that is required to feed up to 300 people every day, and the food is not bad, but my taste buds come from the background of Mediterranean cuisine, so every day as I descend to the cafeteria for my daily fuel, my taste buds shrivel and hide. On the other hand, outside the cafeteria the food does not seem so hostile. Delicious roasted lamb, caramelized potatoes, great dairy product and of course the lobster. Now my frustration is next, due to the fact that I’m a beginner at Icelandic language, I have accepted my position as a proverbial “bottom feeder”, immigrant on minimum vague, and I’m overcoming my challenge with traditional everyday Icelandic food. On the other hand, opportunity to enjoy some other, more satisfying traditions comes rarely, and lobster is as much an Icelandic tradition as is boiled Ysa. Would like to help me integrate that bit better and throw a party for my taste buds?


Dear Lara,

thank you for your letter and your kind words. Now. You’re killing us here! As much as we would love to make a world’s-tiniest-violin joke or a snarky first-world-problems remark, we just can’t! Your accurately depressing description of the local daily diet commonly found in group home cafeterias had us groaning and gagging so hard. We appreciate how pragmatic and resigned to your gastronomic fate you are (for the most part!) but yeah. We’re totally gonna throw you an awesome free meal here! You have effectively tugged our gastric heartstrings and we kind of feel like suckers, but whatever. It’s safe to say YOU’VE EARNED IT.

Enjoy your meal and keep on rocking in the free world!

Dear Grapevine staff.

I read your insightful article on whaling in Iceland. Congrats for that one. Well done! Something wasn’t quite right though. As I skimmed on I couldn’t prevail an image haunting my mind. No, not the pic of the slaughtered whale you printed with the article. It was the naughty smile of the little old fellow in an ad holding up a whale stick on page 27 of the same Grapevine that featured the article (whaling was uncool etc.). Hence, it is not so much the article as its appearance in your paper which inspired me to get in touch. In fact I found a good few advertisements in your paper trying to lure tourists into having a grand time enjoying a fine whale steak. Oh yes, the prize for the Most Awesome Letter this very issue is a meal for two, a feast as you generously put it, at Tapas Barinn. Now the very same, very noble place I find on page 37 offering Minke Whale with cranberry-souce. Now that I call style! I hope I’ll win this one. I mean the little old men I mentioned featuring in the Moby Dick On A Stick ad is probably harmless, just as his phony smile is harmless. Just as harmless as all the pretentious activists and article scribblers (except me of course) who frequent his little pathetic fish bar down there by the old harbour. I wonder if the brave women and men who according to your article sunk two whaling boats next door afterwards called in and had an overprized Lobster Soup. But as you mentioned, that was in ’86, back then when Lada Niva was still big in Iceland whereas now it seems mandatory here to own a Range Rover. I hope grandpa from the Moby’s Dick place got one as well. Anyway, well done not to place advertisement for whale meat on the same page with the article which avidly concludes that: ‘whaling seemingly continues in opposition to the interests of Iceland’. Btw, ‘seemingly’ (???). Nice one!

With Best Regards
Don 3

Dear ‘Don 3’ (if that IS your real name),

thank you for your letter. Now, what can we say… you caught us!

The truth is, whaling and the consumption of whale meat in Iceland is a really divisive topic around here, amongst natives, immigrants and foreigners alike. We just can’t all agree on it! And while we did run an article on whaling from a writer who is really not into the practice, with some really gory and graphic images, the opinions of our writers do not always fall into ideological line with our advertisements. Or even our editorial staff! You might have noticed a lot of ads for bars too? Well, we have contributors that are straight-edge teetotallers. Ads for clothing stores? There are fervent nudists among us. We try to present content that reflect a variety of uncensored opinions, likewise providing the options for people to try out everything this country has to offer and you know, like, make up their own minds, or something.

Take it easy, yo!

I’ve been reading the articles in the Grapevine with much interest and am amazed at how much talk there is about sexual assault and rape. I’m an American who is living here over the summer, and I really wish there were more articles like this one back home- rock on! My only concern is that the language in the articles has been primarily man-on-woman. Rape happens person-on-person (in the sense that men rape men, women rape women, women rape men…), and I think your points could be furthered by using language that reflects that. Just a thought.


Dear Jess,

thank you for your letter, and your kind words. We’re glad you’ve been digging it! We have a small country and community, but that’s all the more reason for us to engage in discourse about it and try to create a new consciousness to go beyond these borders. We wish it were being spoken about more elsewhere too. You are totally right about the use of gendered language in some (but not all!) of the articles—we don’t buy into gender binary nonsense. We don’t censor our writers’ words but we will totally let them know you brought this up and do our best in the future.

Thanks for calling us out on our bullshit! Love!

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!


Show Me More!