24 April 2007

party time!

Over the weekend I went to my first Real Icelandic afternoon birthday party, held at the function hall of the church where I sing. One of the guys in the choir was having a stórafmæli (big birthday), the special word for those birthdays when you reach a decade mark. The event was Pure Iceland, down to the birthday boy's attire- the traditional Icelandic getup with the paired line of silver buttons marching down his vest (very dashing!).

This was an afternoon cakes'ncoffee party, with psychedelic green tablecloths, flowered napkins, and proper cups and saucers (this is genteel living, people!). For warmups, there were the traditional flatkökur wedges topped with closely overlapped slices of hangikjöt or smoked salmon. When sufficiently limber from these appetizers, there were cakes, oh so many cakes to attack, cakes looking like they were created by the family of princess and the pea fame if they had gone into the confectionery business instead of being all boring and royal. These were sturdy layers of cake interlaced with mixed fruit, gobs of whipped cream (the real stuff- no rediwhip, coolwhip, or any other sorry goo), topped with more fruit and possibly a layer of marzipan. This was eaten with a sea of coffee or appelsín for the kids. The really seasoned professionals ate the hangikjöt at the same time as the cake, intermixing the smoked flavor with the dripping sweetness.

After we were all half comatose from the sugar, there were speeches, reminiscing, and then since the choir was almost fully present, we sang a few songs. By then the champagne had been busted out, and although our tunefulness might have suffered as a result, the spirit was certainly jolly. By then it was getting on towards suppertime, so people began to rattle off the "takk fyrir mig"s and disperse into the tempestuous spring day soon after that.

Birthdays are serious stuff here- as the birthday child it's your responsibility to provide your people at work with an afternoon cake-break, and failing to do so remains fixed in their minds. I was away in Holland on my birthday last year, and some folks are still keeping tabs on my sugar-provision failure. So, my advice to all you would-be residents of Iceland- don't forget the cake!


Djaddi said...

Cake and coffee party! Awesome :).

I went to an 85 year old woman's birthday party last month, there were almost as many cakes as people :)

I didn't know about the whole bringing-a-cake-to-work thing though. I didn't mention it to my co-workers on my birthday, so I wasn't told to bring anything.

Rose said...

I want to come to an Icelandic Birthday Party! The birthday-ee looked so handsome in the picture.

cK said...

Lovely post. I adore the food anecdotes! (That princess-and-the-pea analogy is sharp. Nice one.)

Happy days,

ECS said...

djaddi: Are you sure they're not keeping tabs on your lack of cake-delivery? I didn't realize it was so important until months later when I got a glower and a "you forgot cake" from someone. Tread lightly! :-)

rose: that photo was not actually of the birthday boy, but it was the only photo I could find of the Icelandic costume. He does look like a nice fellow to know though.

cK: thanks! I think if you'd seen these cakes you would agree with the description.

Visionary & Medium Extraordinaire said...

Thanks for the little postcard E. It brought a smile to my face.
Hnallköku tertur! Hnallkökur are delish!
SH makes absolutely fantastic tertur especially her shrimp bread, which you should ask for the recipy. That one is my fav. With white bread, shrimp, mayo, cucumber....mmmmm That one I miss.
I wish I was there
Guess what, now we can get skyr at WF (sounds like What the bleep) ;) but it's $2.79 for a small one :( so expensive, but so delish!