20 July 2007

eating locally

One of the things I get asked about oftenish is the quality of the food here. Yes, it is expensive, and choices are limited, but that doesn't mean you can't eat well and still stay close to the land. This is something A has thought about quite a bit, so while she was around, we got to talking about it, and thinking about the localness of the meals we were cooking. It's hard to go 100%, but it's actually quite easy to have a pretty good time with mostly locally produced food.

One dinner we made was so good we spent the evening congratulating ourselves on our better-than-restaurant flavors, and then had to have it again a few days later. The menu was:

Main course:
  • Icelandic lobster (Vestmannaeyjar)
  • with butter (Selfoss)
  • and garlic (not local)
we saved the shells from the lobster and made a lobster stock, adding more Icelandic butter and some local carrots for a delectable summer soup.

  • tomatoes (Hveragerði)
  • cucumber (Laugarás)
  • red pepper (somewhere over the hill as well)
  • spiced feta (Búðardalur, although the oil & seasoning was not from Iceland)
  • lemon (also not local)
Garlic bread:
  • Bread baked in Reykjavík from flour ground about a mile away (imported wheat)
  • Italian cheese (some things aren't the same unless they're the Real Deal)
  • Butter (again, Selfoss)
  • Garlic (again, from Far Away)
  • Basil (from my own windowsill)
It can be frustrating that still so many of the things we buy and eat here come from overseas, but at least when you're eating Icelandic produce, it is a very local experience. I can see the chicken farms where my eggs come from practically from my kitchen window, I have probably passed a cow or three in my time here that has produced the dairy I consume, and I have been through most of the towns producing the vegetables I eat from here. The ships that catch the fish and lobster are a part of the daily landscape of life here, and the processes they go through are very close to the surface. I know some of the farmers, the fishermen, and the millers that are all contributing.

However, there are still some things that are just Not The Same when compared to where I am from. It's impossible to get a decent apple here, not to mention strawberries that haven't come in from Holland on their little bubble-pack mattress, and sweet corn! How I miss the sweet corn of a late New England summer. On the positive side though, I had the first of the season's local blueberries last night, picked straight from a bush in Hvalfjörður, and mixed with that wild-hillside flavor of krækiber.


SOe said...

I´m hungry! Don´t forget the SKYR! I really love it!

ECS said...

mmmmyeah.. skyr and I are not the Best of Friends, as I confessed two years ago. I like it very much as an ingredient along with other stuff, but as a standalone breakfast item, I really don't dig it. Bring on the AB Mjólk or the Þykkmjólk instead! However, my friend obviously did. She bought one of the big tubs of it and it was gone in like 3 days!

Anonymous said...

I just have to correct you with the strawberries. Hagkaup and Bónus have sold Icelandic strawberries this year. They were a bit expensive but definitely worth it.
I would like to taste a "decent" apple and some sweet corn ;)

Karyn said...

Yes, what is it with the apples there? And the corn? Two wonderful pieces of produce that I nearly gagged on when I was there. My mother-in-law was telling me she didn't like corn at all, and after eating a piece of corn on the cob one night at her house, I can see why. If only they could take a trip with me to a roadside stand in Wisconsin and come home and boil it and rub it with butter and salt...mmmm.

I really do love the food in Iceland, but when I left I was craving fresh fruits and vegetables for the first time, like, EVER. As soon as I came home, I went to the store and filled my cart with fruits and veggies (and my full cart cost me about $50! What a treat.)

cK said...

Ah, corn. When I lived in Illinois, where one has trouble not walking into a corn stalk, we served it during a dinner for some Irish graduate students who were visiting for the semester. Their eyes were huge. "This is an appetizer in Ireland," they said. "And half the size. And very expensive." I'd not considered how truly native corn is to the US. We all just took it for granted having grown up with so much of it.

Now you have me thinking of apple season. I love picking apples in October. I love the fresh apple butter. I love the bone-white look of the drying feed corn into which mazes (no pun!) might be cut.

We're trying to eat very local here this summer. Thank god Saint Paul has such a gorgeous farmer's market! I really buy little outside of olive oil that isn't state grown. It's a fun challenge and I do feel very good about what I'm eating.

PAUL said...

my mom sometimes sends me grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes from my backyard in texas. I've been surprised at how well they ship in the mail. has a care package with fruit ever made it to you in good time?

The Thor said...

Indeed yes more fresh fruit and veg would be good, but for the quality of fish it is worth it, and pretty much anything they manage to grow locally it is worth it too.

ECS said...

nafnalaus: darn, I missed the ice-strawberry season? :-( Maybe better luck next year. As for the corn n' apples, you must try. It's best to eat the apples outside on a country road on your way to go horseback riding, of course.

karyn: well, they just gotta come from too far away to maintain that fresh-picked tastiness. I like the corn when it's so sweet & tasty that you don't even need the butter and salt.

ck: I'm getting serious corn-envy from all these posts. It also reminds me of stories my mom told of my grandpa when he lived in rural France in the seventies. He planted corn in the garden there and all the locals looked much askance at him, saying it was only to be consumed by cows, not people.

paul: I'm guessing that customs'd probably steal a package of renegade fruit like that for fear of Poisoning the Purity of The Land, but I can't say I've ever tried.

thor: gotta agree with you after 2 years here. The amount and variety and awesomeness of the fish here is splendid.