Þorramatur - as disgusting as you might expect

Yesterday we all went to Ikea, because they needed some more stools for the kitchen. And also because it is supposedly the cheapest place you can get lunch in Iceland. Anyway, I'm sure you've all heard that in Iceland they eat rotten shark. They don't all the time - it's like traditional food (þorramatur - food of þorri, which is an old Icelandic name for late January/early February) from the olden days when they didn't have freezers or anything. So the only way to preserve meat and fish for the winter months was to pickle it into submission, rendering it almost inedible, but not actually toxic.
They were selling this stuff at Ikea of all places, and the father thought it would be funny to get some for me, 'bara að smakka' ('just to taste'). And yeah, rotten shark (hákarl) really is absolutely vile, although it smells a lot worse than it tastes. Sviðasulta (sheep's head brawn), hrútspungar (pickled ram's bollocks) and lundabaggi (pickled sheep-stomach roll) are equally disgusting. They just taste like sour whey. The pickled herring was actually quite nice, though, and I quite liked harðfiskur (which in this case was dried haddock). It just tastes really strongly of fish, with a texture like fine wickerwork - sort of like eating a coaster. I also had some hangikjöt (smoked lamb), which was pretty unpleasant and tasted quite a lot like an ashtray.

Then we went round to the mother's parents' house. They were very nice, and they kindly lent me Sjálfstætt Fólk, which is the original Icelandic of my favourite novel Independent People by Halldór Laxness, and made some waffles with jam and cream, which were much better than the þorramatur.

In other new experiences, I drove a massive automatic 4x4 round Reykjavík on the right-hand-side of the road last night. It was absolutely terrifying, but I didn't crash or anything.


  1. Uh, sounds horrible.

    Have you ever seen this skit of Icelanders?

    But it was the description of svið that I read one time made me want to be sick.

    When are you going out to party :D ??

  2. Haha, yeah I have seen that. I wouldn't mind trying svið as long as it wasn't soured - the souring just makes it all taste disgusting.

    I don't know about the partying, but I've been having some pretty wild times playing 'feluleikur' (look that up on ordabok.is :D). I'm free on the weekends, but I don't have any evening plans yet. Might be going out with Sindri and his pilot friend Oddgeir on Sunday, though.

  3. you drove a massive 4x4 or were in a massive 4x4 while it was being driven?

  4. I was driving it. I wouldn't be scared of someone else driving me! I am not quite that pathetic.

  5. I gave the girls balls for supper, but they were mozerella, from Hilary F

  6. I tried hákarl in Reykjavik a few years ago and it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought...in fact I quite like it, so now I order it occasionally from www.nommi.is and keep it in the freezer. I use it in small amounts in salads and tuna fish for extra flavour. Hákarl has nothing on Swedish surstromming though...that shit's nasty!!

  7. I think you mean nammi.is. Nah, it is disgusting.