þriðjudagur, desember 23, 2008

skate in '08

Today is Þorláksmessa, the day we celebrate Þorlákur Þórhallsson, an Icelandic bishop from Skálholt. He died on this date in 1193 A.D., and to remember him Icelanders made a law in 1199 A.D. reserving the mass on this date in his memory.

Actually, I bet most Icelanders don't know anything about Þorlákur. But everyone refers to the 23rd of December as Þorláksmessa. It's the day people leave work a little early and the Christmas festivities begin. It's also a day with a very special culinary tradition. Today is the day Icelanders eat fermented skate, a dish so potent it must be boiled outdoors.

I had my skate today at lunchtime, at an unusual location: the restaurant at Iceland's trendiest athletic complex. But there was nothing athletic about the skate meat itself: pale brown and boiled and reeking of ammonia, it's a bit like eating a soggy meat mop. It's also full of little soft bones, fanned out like little cartilaginous bamboo poles. To make it a bit more appetizing, it's served with a big dollop of what are effectively chitlins floating in animal fat. So you get a plate full of grease to lube it down. There is also rye bread and salted cod on offer. "Balancin' my meal!" as the Abominable Snowman used to say.

It's not my favorite meal of all time. But it's good to eat something strong once a year, to mark the beginning of Christmas and the passage of time.

5 Comments:

Blogger Kristen said...

Hooray! A food post! :)

23.12.08  
Blogger JB said...

...per your request!

23.12.08  
Blogger Lyle said...

The way Abominable rattles off the contents of his tray is hilarious. Nice inclusion.

28.12.08  
Blogger JB said...

If you liked that Abominable clip, here is one more for you: Wagon Wheels!

29.12.08  
Blogger carmen said...

omg, time for timer! a most excellent post.

8.1.09  

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