Icelandic food

Besides the frightening þorramatur, food in Iceland is generally pretty normal. However, there are a few things that I find a bit odd. Food and drink are some of the most visible points of cultural difference when you go to another country, and also I think one of the things that you hold most dear about your own country. I brought Marmite and Yorkshire Tea with me to Iceland because I didn't want to live without them. OK, that sounds like I would be a suicide risk if I didn't have them - that's not what I meant. I would just strongly prefer to have them than not.

The first thing that I found odd is that they didn't own a potato masher when I first came here. They have now acquired one, I think because I was so dismayed to discover its absence. Honestly, they've got one of those things for slicing boiled eggs, but didn't have a potato masher? I remember those cheaps packs of basic kitchen utensils that people had at university, and they were made up of a ladle, a big spoon, a spatula and a potato masher. Those are the essentials.

Also, Icelanders have a peculiar habit of mixing sweet food together with savoury, definitely not in a good way. For example, rice pudding is eaten with brown sugar and cinnamon and black pudding. Yep, all in the same bowl together. In the same vein, they think it's OK to eat bread with cheese and jam. 

To end on a positive note, I'll also tell you about 'Bæjarins Beztu' ('The Best in Town'), which has a 'z' in it because it has been going so long. 'Z' is no longer in the Icelandic alphabet, probably because it's pronounced exactly the same as 's' and is therefore a waste of a letter. Anyway, it's a little wooden hut down on Tryggvagata where you can get a pylsa (hot-dog), probably the most popular take-away food in Iceland for 300 krónur, or approximately £1.60. Most Icelanders strongly believe that the best hot-dogs in the world are to be had from Bæjarins Beztu - it's become sort of a national institution. There is a massive queue there every lunch-time. What's more thrilling, Bill Clinton once bought a hot-dog there. There are many pictures of this happy event displayed in the hut. 

I don't really have much experience with hot-dogs - they're not particularly popular in Britain - but I will say that they are excellent value. The thing to do is to get "eina með öllu' ("one with everything"), which comes with fried onions, a brownish sauce and a yellowish sauce. I wouldn't say it's the best fast food I've had, but it's pretty good. And did I mention that they are really cheap? By Reykjavík standards, I mean. Apparently it's open until 5 am, which is pretty good, but not good enough. I tried to buy one at 6 am two weekends ago, and was disappointed.

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