föstudagur, desember 23, 2005


I walked into the company cafeteria just now and was greeted by the powerful smell of ammonia. As I approched the lunch counter, our cook waved me into the kitchen, asking, "Viltu skötu?" I followed him to the back and sitting in a stainless tub of hot water were pieces of floating, powerful-smelling fish.

Today, the 23rd of December, is the traditional day for an Icelandic delicacy, skate. As in the flat fish. In the old days, skate meat was preserved by allowing it to rot and ferment under controlled circumstances. Then, boil and serve! According to my coworker, the fermented skate was something they had in his family once or twice a month when he was a kid. It was a good cheap meal for his parents to serve the family. But nowadays it's seen as an exotic old-timey Icelandic food and mainly enjoyed on the 23rd as part of traditional Christmas celebrations. Many Icelanders have never even tried it, as it turns out.

But that didn't stop me! The chef spooned out a fist-sized piece and laid it on my plate. It had a brownish skin and the meat inside was pinkish. The cafeteria was mostly empty and I walked over to the table with a few people smiling at me, knowing what was to come. The fish itself was full of square pieces of cartilage that I had to separate out from the meat. I loaded up a fork with some of the stringy pink meat and popped it in my mouth. The flavor of ammonia shot up my nose, like I was back mopping the kitchen floor at Camp Quinebarge. I must have made a face because the onlookers smiled knowingly. Because I was at work, I didn't even have the advantage of the strong alcohol chaser that usually accompanies the skate these days.

After that first hit, it was actually quite enjoyable to eat. The flavor was strong, and the texture much better than its rotted cousin, hákarl (shark). The flavor was so strong, in fact, that when I switched to salted cod, potatoes, and rugbrauð afterward I could barely taste them. But I'd eat it again, for sure. I'm trying to get E to come with me down to Sægreifinn tonight and try some more. But I'm not sure how far that plan will go.


Blogger Alda said...

Gleðileg jól JB! Og takk fyrir afmæliskveðjurnar... :)

Anonymous Nafnlaus said...



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