sunnudagur, ágúst 21, 2005

the skyr zone

E and I sometimes talk about the "skyr zone," a boundary one crosses when leaving Iceland and all of its magical foodstuffs behind. Perceptions of the foodiverse shift drastically on either side of the skyr zone boundary. Because when here on the I.C.E., the lamb, the fish, all of the unique and amazing dairy products, and the fat bars of chocolate seem so accessible that it's tempting to think, "Oh, no need to bring any of that with us." But a 5-hour plane ride later back in the USA, that one container of skyr in the carry-on bag becomes like a bar of gold, a precious commodity to be divided and shared among 5-8 family members. I think my mom limited herself to a tablespoon a day from the container I brought her. I always wish I had brought more.

To the uninitiated, skyr is a dairy product, made a bit like cheese, but spoonable like yogurt. It's super-high in calcium and has almost no fat in its pure form. It's unique to Iceland. Back in the old days, it came as a dried chalky block that had to be reconstituted with water. Now it comes in little yogurt-style containers, with all kinds of flavors added. I like the straight-up kind, mixed with a little bit of Mömmu (Mamma's brand) Icelandic blueberry jelly.

Well it now looks as if the skyr zone boundary is about to be enlarged, according to today's Morgunblaðið. Whole Foods Market, the 140-store American yuppie-food chain, has announced that starting in 2006 they will be selling a whole suite of Icelandic foods. In addition to Icelandic lamb, which is already available in most of their stores, they will sell skyr, Icelandic butter (heavenly stuff), chocolate (can't say enough), cheese (holy moly), and even Viking-brand Icelandic beer (not for the faint of hangover). It'll all be sold with the tagline "Independently farmed in Iceland since 874" (yep, that's 874 A.D.) and the products will be branded with their Icelandic names, e.g. SMJÖR for butter.

But despite this new blurring of the skyr zone boundary, I think the carry-on dairy will remain a fixture of FI 630 to Boston. There is still a dizzying array of dairy products only available here á klakanum. Take þykkmjólk for example. I don't even know how to begin to describe that wonder...


Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

Nice post, makes me think how many things I take for granted. That I should not do.

Blogger JB said...

Yeah it's so easy to take for granted, until you cross that skyr zone dashed line somewhere over Greenland.

Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

Skyr here?
That's going to change my entire relationship to milk products. Exciting times!


Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

Wow Icelandic Chocolate at my corner store here in Beantown!
What I'd do for a bar of Sirius or a taste of skyr. Haven't had skyr in almost 6 years! Wow, I can't wait.
My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
I wonder if they'll sell hardfisk?

Blogger Erin said...

Hi, you don't know me but I'm an American college student on exchange in Reykjavik and I'm positively addicted to Skyr, among other Icelandic foods (smoked salmon from Koloaporti∂? OMG). I was wondering if you could give me any tips for carrying back Skyr with me when I go home in May. Thanks so much! Bless!

Blogger JB said...

Hi Erin,

Just buy it at the local Krónan or Bónus and pack it in your checked baggage, double-wrapped in plastic. Being checked will keep it cold, as the plane's hold isn't heated and it's cold up there in the sky. But the pressure changes will probably pop open the containers; it's still good. My mom eats hers over the course of a month, as though it's caviar.

For salmon and lamb, you can take these in to the States (Iceland is one of the few countries where the meat is "clean" enough) but you need a sticker proving the meat is from Iceland. You can get these at the Fríhöfn (Duty Free) at KEF.

I guess I've done this a few times...


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