Traditional Icelandic Food - What do the locals eat?

18. March 2019

What is the most traditional food in iceland? What is Black Death or Brennivin?

Traditional Iceland food varies depending on the era as Iceland’s culinary tradition has been greatly influenced by outside sources over the centuries. Most traditional Icelandic food revolves around the conditions that were present in Iceland when the first settlers arrived. Skyr, for example, was brought to Iceland from Norway. Now, the thick yogurt-like dish is one of Iceland´s most popular exports.  
 
 
The month of Þorri 
In the ancient Norse Calendar, the fourth month of winter is called Þorri and traditionally begins in late January. The month is remarkable for its feast held in honor of the Þor, the Norse thunder god. These feasts, called Þorrablóts, consist of food that was historically eaten during this difficult time of year when much that was available was what had been preserved through fermentation or curing with salt. 
 
The typical dishes include svið, a boiled sheep head, slátur, a liver pudding, and hákarl, fermented shark. There is also hrútspungar, made from ram’s testicles, and sviðasulta, a jam made from lamb meat. The most palatable and popular of these dishes is the smoked lamb, hangikjót, typically eaten with boiled potatoes. 
 
Harðfiskur is also a palatable snack that is simply air-dried fish, usually cod, haddock, or catfish. As harðfiskur can be notoriously tough to chew on, it is best to slather it in butter to soften it and drink it with beer. 
 
A drink known as ‘Black Death’
While beer is not a part of traditional Þorra cuisine, it is definitely part of the current feasts. Despite the plethora of independent breweries popping up in Iceland now, beer was actually banned in Iceland until 1989, but that is a different story. The prohibition that technically ended in Iceland in 1935 only included spirits. 
 
Brennivín is considered Iceland’s signature beverage and is traditionally drunk cold in shot glasses to wash down the lingering rotten shark flavor of hákarl. It is made from caraway seeds, giving it a strong taste similar to vodka, and follows the Scandinavian tradition of steeping herbs to create schnapps. It is now considered the traditional drink of the month of Þorri. 
 
If you find yourself in Iceland during the month of Þorri, sampling some of these traditional dishes can be an inspiring culinary adventure into food history. Another ingenious method for food preparation is in the making of rúgbrauð, a rye bread that was made by placing dough in pots within geothermal hot springs. 
 
 
Danish inspired pastries 
As Iceland was part of Denmark from 1814 to 1944, many traditional Icelandic dishes were adopted from the Danish. This is perhaps most evident in pastries as the first bakers in Iceland were Danish. Traditional pastries include a cinnamon roll called snúður, a spiced layer caked called lagkaka, a twisted, fried doughnut called kleina, and the Christmas waferbread, laufabrauð. These can be found in most bakeries and coffee shops in Iceland, and, as per tradition, are served with drip coffee. 
 
 
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