Icelanders are, as you might have noticed, very proud of their heritage. We are in fact somewhat obsessed with it. But there is one thing that the Icelandic nation doesn’t mention very often when it comes down to history, and that’s food. Indíana Auðunsdóttir says in one analysis of the rapidly changing food culture in Iceland on page 27 that she thinks Icelanders are a little bit ashamed and embarrassed of their food culture. I think she is dead right.
The Icelandic food culture hasn’t been that great, although there has been important progress over time. Icelanders became obsessed with American fast food culture in the ‘80s and for a long period of time you could not get anything other than a hamburger and fries when you were driving the Ring Road around Iceland.
The reason for the lack of a rich and various culinary tradition is simple, of course; for a long time we had to figure out store food over the long hard winter months. This explains the sheep heads, the shark meat and “súrsaðir hrútspungar” (pickled rams testicles). We also had blood pudding, liver sausage and a lot of innards.
Icelanders still celebrate the old ways of preserving and serving food at the historical Þorrablót feast in midwinter, and we had started to become accustomed to the notion that this rocky island does not offer good material for cuisine. But luckily we are starting to have more and more talented chefs that are doing important work for the rest of us. They are our food fighters. And they are proving that Iceland is indeed a flourishing island when comes to ingredients and possibilities for fine cuisine. This new food explosion in Iceland is something to pay attention to. The only fitting way to embrace it is to raise your glass and shout: Skál!