Food and Drink of Iceland
The cuisine of Iceland is not known for its variety or its tastiness, but if you get into the spirit of things it can be quite enjoyable.
Let's have a moment of brutal honesty here: No one travels to Iceland for a Food Holiday. People may go to Tuscany, or Paris, or Japan in order to explore and enjoy the culinary delights of those regions and countries, but people do not do so in Iceland. Come to Iceland for the spectacular views, the incredible scenery, and the wonderful people - but don't come to Iceland unless you like Lamb, and lots of it. Sheep outnumber the human population of Iceland four to one, so you'll be seeing a lot of lamb on the menu. And when you don't see lamb, you'll likely see fish.
But for this legal translation professional, one of the most difficult aspects of the Icelandic dining experience is the difficulty in getting alcohol. Alcohol is very restricted in Iceland - which is remarkable, as drinking alcohol is embedded deeply in the culture - if you're looking for a party, time your visit with the annual bank holiday in August and you will see some eye-opening sights.
Yet until very recently sales of full-strength beer were very restricted, and even today purchasing alcohol for yourself (as opposed to in a restaurant or tavern) is very difficult. In some humorous (or very sad, depending on your attitude) cases, liquor stores in your area may only be open a single hour every day!
Iceland's menu is very heavy on fish and meat, naturally enough. Haddock and Cod dominate on the fish side of things - you'll see a lot of people in Iceland munching on a snack called Harðifiskur, which is dried Cod or Haddock - sort of like a fish version of beef jerky. Generally, though, the seafood you'll eat in Iceland will be some of the best you've ever had, as it's fresh-caught and Iceland has centuries of experience turning it into something wonderful. If you're feeling adventurous, try some Hákarl - which is Greenland Shark, buried in sand for up to six months for ageing, which means you are basically eating rotten meat. It's one of those acquired tastes: Some will tell you it is marvellous, others will turn green at the thought of it, and many Icelanders will agree!
More palatable are some of the many, many traditional lamb dishes you'll find: Hangikjöt is simply smoked lamb, often served in sandwiches, and if you're familiar with Sottish cuisine you'll recognise svið, which is sheep's heads boiled and singed in a pan and slátur, which is very similar to Haggis. Although the word slátur means slaughter which might put some off their feed.
Sadly, vegetables are not highly prized in Iceland, and the only local veggie is usually fjallagrös, otherwise known as Iceland Moss. But rest easy - Iceland has a very strong imports industry and you can generally get anything you wish while you're visiting the country!
Image courtesy lvoe.ca
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