One of the exoticisms of travel is tasting cuisine that challenges your notion of edibility. I call it food theatre. We love to taste something “awful", pull a face and then have a story to tell. This is one of those stories. Warning, don't read this aloud to the little ones... it gets graphic.
Ulfur and Annska hosted us on their farm outside of Isafjordor today. Their friend Orri had just come from a Viking ceremony put on for a group of German tourists. He was still clothed in traditional attire: woollen overcoat with wrought-iron brooch, linen tunic and pants. Thus it came to pass that our food-sampling took place looking out over the calm inner-sea of the fjord in the company of a Viking.
I will quote from Orri whose descriptions lacked any gilding. They were delivered with elegance and a matter-of-fact economy but they seemed to me remarkably apt. And if you think Orri doesn’t like some of the dishes he describes you would be wrong. He is an avid eater.
Hákarl - putrescent shark. Orri says of the particular batch we tasted, “this is only rotten but not rancid.” I will need to trust his guidance on this since my palate lacks such nuance. Rotten it was - with an ammoniac aftertaste that climbs up into your sinuses and digs its own graveyard.
We drank a mysterious whey as a kind of sadistic chaser. It is a sharp and sour drink that had been diluted with water, giving it a milky translucence. Oddly I didn’t mind it too much but perhaps this is because it followed the shark?
Lumpfish smoked using a process call Tað (pronounced “toth"). This is a fish that is smoked using a compounded mixture of sheep manure, hay, wool and urine that accumulates in the barn over winter. It is hard-stuff that comes out in bricks. At this point you might already be sensing that something smoked in such a substance can never find its way to goodness. You are right my friends... read on.
Orri says, “Its like, ‘let’s shit in an ashtray and feed it to people!'” Well said. I actually tasted this a few days ago, mistaking it for regular smoked fish. It took all my powers of dissociation to get through the ordeal. Yvette kept asking me what it tasted like while I was chewing. I couldn’t answer her. At one point, my mouth still chock a block with this vile matter, I cried “I just need to get through this… I can’t think about it!"
Orri reminisces: “My uncle made a very strong tað once and the taste of shit was lingering in the mouth for days.”