20 May 2005

the assembled multitudes

It's interesting to see what new things have great variety that are totally different from what I got used to seeing. In Boston, there is eternal variety in Redsox paraphernalia, and a trip to the store will give you about 20 orange juice options to pick from. If you want to see a great variety of people, 15 minutes in Downtown Crossing will give you an interesting cross-section of population.

In Iceland, the variety is still there, but it appears in new categories.
For example-

This neighborhood is crawling with cats. For example, in the house across the street, I can see 3 in the windows right now. There's a black and white one curled up with a siamese in the upstairs windowsill, and a little tortoise-shell kitten in what looks like the laundry room window. I go outside and meet striped tabbies on the corner, lithe black kittens on the main shopping street, furry orange longhairs having conversations with small dogs, and wary white cats peeking from yards. They weave through the car tires, they tiptoe along the fence lines, they roll on the rough lava sidewalks.

Next, mayonnaise-based sauces. There are special ones for hamburgers, hot dogs, salad, and lamb, and then there's the extra-special mustard based sauce for hotdogs, pylsusinneps. This one comes in a white plastic bottle with a red top and a red logo of the company,a sprinting hot-dog man in a chef's hat. The pared-down design and single-color printing looks more like something you'd find in the garage to lube up a squeaky door hinge than a sauce to put on food, but it's absolutely the best thing I've had on a hotdog (except for the crunchy toasted onions...) It also goes well as a salad dressing, on hamburgers, and the great Icelandic delicacy, fiskibollur (fishballs)

Next, and a personal favorite. the dairy product selection. There's about 20 kinds of yogurt/milk/cheese to pour on cereal or eat with a spoon, and from there it branches out even more. To start with, my personal favorite is the pourable yogurt. This comes in about 6 flavors, including my breakfast choice, the aloe vera variety. Then there's flavored buttermilk, skyr, and pourable skyr. For those of you who haven't heard of skyr yet, it tastes and looks somewhat like yogurt, but is created using a cheesemaking process with rennet. It's unique to Iceland and is very addictive. I just last week discovered that they also make a dessert skyr, which tastes like mascarpone or ricotta, and comes with chocolate or caramel sauce in a convenient single-serve container. A few days ago I even discovered another variety that looks like some kind of cracker spread, available with pepper, spice, onion, or garlic flavor. It must be tough to be lactose intolerant here!

Next, the assembled bric-a-brac in windows. It seems like the lease for renting a first-floor apartment must come with a special accessory clause, stating that the occupant must put little geegaws on the windowsill. I should first mention that windowsills here are none of those little scrawny narrow ones- every place I've seen has sills at least a foot deep, which becomes filled with statues, lace doilies, candles, beer mugs, driftwood pieces, dolls, pieces of glass, shells, stones, birdhouses, plants, stained glass panels, and little stuffed animals and birds. J and I have taken to it as well, and have several plants and candles, an odd boat float I found on the south coast, and of course, the Redsox sign. Haven't seen that in anyone else's window!

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