From Iceland — Food Of Iceland: Shark and Brennivín

Valur Grettisson
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Scared of sharks? Well, Icelanders eat them for breakfast, and what’s more, we drink Brennivín to cleanse the palette afterwards. Ok, to be fair, most of us don’t eat shark for breakfast—that’s a delicacy traditionally reserved for feasts during the month of Þorri—and the Brennivín is just to keep our minds off the bleak and pointless existential repetition of life.

The Greenland shark that Icelanders eat is a nasty bugger—the biggest can measure around 7 meters long, and they live deep in the Atlantic ocean throughout the winter (they’re the only shark species in the world to live so deep). We really don’t know that much more about these emo-sharks that love the darkness like a dramatic teen, other than that they can also live to be around 150-years-old. That’s why we drink shark liver oil to stay young.

Back to eating these mysterious sea beasts: Sharks don’t urinate. Instead, they break down ammonia within their body, making their meat incredibly poisonous, sure to kill anybody who dares to eat it fresh from the sea.

So what do Icelanders do? Well, we bury the meat in the ground and wait one to three months. Then we hang up the meat for it to ferment. Finally, you have this bitter, strong taste akin to a punch in the face that forces the consumer to scream in anguish: “Oh, my f&%ing god!”

The only way to force this down this fermented piss-bomb—hey, at least it’s not poisonous!— is to drink Brennivín, which is even more diabolical then the shark meat. Go easy on the Brennivín, though, it’s known for robbing people of their sanity.


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