It’s a fact of life: you will need to eat during your holiday in Iceland. So, just what are the Icelandic specialties; what should you eat in Iceland? The key to Icelandic cuisine is freshness. Fish comes fresh from the unpolluted oceans surrounding the country, meat from animals that graze in meadows situated far from urban areas, sometimes deep in the uninhabited interior. And it may come as a surprise, but a lot of vegetables are also grown in Iceland, some in the open air, others in greenhouses heated with natural hot water. As a result, Icelandic chefs have easy access to raw ingredients of the highest quality, allowing them to give free rein to their imaginations. Fish and lamb are traditional, but most restaurants will also include beef, poultry, pork, game, seabirds, lobster, shrimp and scallop on their menus, as well as vegetarian dishes.
You will also find many specialist restaurants, such as Indian, Pakistani, Korean, Chinese, Thai, Filipino, Japanese, Italian, French, Spanish, Danish, American and Mexican. And of course there is fast food, but fast food is relatively expensive in Iceland, so in many cases a proper restaurant meal will not set you back much more.
There is, however, one typically Icelandic version of fast food that you might like to try: the “pylsa”. This is a hot dog with a topping of your choice: tomato ketchup, mustard, rémoulade, raw or fried onions.
Of particular interest is traditional Icelandic fare, based on foods that used to be preserved to last through the long winter in pre-fridge days. Fish was dried, and “harðfiskur” is still a popular snack. Shark was cured, thus acquiring a peculiarly strong taste. Blood and liver were used to make sausages, which were preserved in whey, as were joints of lamb and rams’ testicles. Other Icelandic delicacies include boiled sheep’s head, with the wool singed off, and headcheese. You can sample some of these specialties in a handful of restaurants, while from mid-January to mid- February Icelanders celebrate “Þorrablót”, when they feast exclusively on these traditional types of food. For more information see Iceland Gourmet guide.
In terms of music, Iceland has everything from pop to classical, opera, rock and musical. International artists often play in Iceland, while at the other end of the spectrum you will find that many pubs offer a wide variety of live music. Also, more and more Icelandic artists are making names for themselves internationally. Suffice it to mention Björk or Sigur Rós! Theatre is popular, but is usually performed in Icelandic. In cinemas, however, all films are presented in the original language with Icelandic subtitles. The Icelandic dance scene, meanwhile, offers everything from classical ballet to belly dancing. To find out what cultural events are happening during your stay, click on www.grapevine.is or www.midi.is