Get your teeth into tradition
Most visitors are full of praises for Iceland’s ocean-fresh seafood and mouthwatering mountain lamb, but these are only part of the local culinary experience. Traditional food is also served, made using the only preservation methods available when people had to store up for the winter in the days before refrigerators. Some is delicious, some is different, and is very good to boast about to your friends after you’ve finished it. Meat was commonly smoked, and the delicious hangikjöt (smoked lamb) is still popular today. Among dairy products, a big favourite with visitors is skyr (curds), especially served with fresh bilberries in late summer. On the more adventurous side is slátur, which literally means “slaughter” but is like haggis. And for those with nerves of steel and stomachs of iron, the menu for the Thorri midwinter feast (January/February) is a real challenge. Delicacies there include some quite indelicate cuts of meat, including boiled sheep’s head (on the bone or pressed), ram’s testicles pickled in whey, and loin bags. But what really sorts the men out from the boys is rotten shark, cured by burying, washed down with a well-deserved shot of Black Death schnapps. Hint for beginners: if you manage to get it past your nose, you’re half way there.