The Honest, Creative Cuisine of Iceland

Photo: anroir

I’m no foodie. When I think “culinary haven,” Iceland doesn’t come to mind. Ethereal landscapes, yes; revolutionary cuisine, no. But I’m wrong. Nicholas Gill reports at Roads and Kingdoms:

Everywhere I went there was a person or a small group redefining what Icelandic food and ingredients can be. Many are alone. Trying to break free from the inside. Tiny isolated islands of change, surrounded by mountains and snow. They are Iceland, literally and figuratively.

Among the talented chefs Gill meets is Eyjólfur Fridgeirsson, a Zen Buddhist using a red alga called dulse in new ways, paying homage to the plant’s role in Iceland’s history:

[Dulse] became essential to the health and wellbeing for the people who lived in the inhospitable landscape. During the worst of times, it saved entire families from starvation…Dulse is sold fresh, pickled, or as salt, where it is dried on rocks in the same way the Vikings once did. He dries sugar kelp and makes a soy sauce from other seaweeds. Spices and teas are made from Angelica and arctic moss. There are jams and juices made from blueberries and a rub made of crowberries to put on lamb.

Fridgeirsson sees endless possibilities of what can be done with the plant life in Iceland. “The secret is just here,” he says with a shrug. “Being careful and putting my mind to it. As a good Buddhist, just putting loving care in what I’m doing.”

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