22 July 2009

summer barbecuing

One of the staples of an Icelandic summer is the single use grill. These are available at every grocery store and discount shop, and often at most gas stations as well. They're an aluminum pan filled with coals, covered with a sheet of paper soaked in some lighter fluid, and topped with a metal mesh. The idea is that you can have all the joys of barbecuing without having to own all the apparatus of grilling, and when you're done you don't have to carefully carry all the ashes back home.

On the covers they depict fat kebabs covering the entire grill surface, sizzling merrily. Of course this is rather far from the truth. The first challenge is to get them lit, which requires a wind-free spot (good luck with that in Iceland!), and a little prayer and a little bit of lighter-action. If you're fortunate enough to for the flames to take hold, the next feature to enjoy is that there is never a full pan of coals, so you maybe have 2/3 of the grill to work with, which always burns inconsistently. Still, it's enough to make a dinner for two with several grilled components. Word to the wise though- avoid the one that is labeled as being "handy, rapid, and sure!". We had a few of these on a trip to the West Fjords last year and discovered that all 3 of the claims were totally false. We got creative with the primus stove in an attempt to ignite the thing but ended up melting the aluminum and getting no reaction whatsoever out of the coals.

Enough of the boring stuff- what to cook on the onesie grills anyway? Well, in addition to selling these made-for-camping grills, the grocery stores sell all kinds of delights that make for the perfect picnic. To start, there are these nice shrink-wrapped packets of lamb, beef, and pork that are already seasoned in a variety of tempting flavors. Want Argentinian-seasoned beef chops, dry-spice lamb ribs? It's all available in an easily packable flava-bag. You can add grillsósa if you like, available in a dazzling selection of flavors- sundried tomato, green peppercorn, blue cheese.

On to the veggie department, pick up a package of the huge mushrooms stuffed in cheese and ready for the grill in their own little aluminum pan. These come with blue cheese (if you go to Hagkaup), cream cheese (if you go to Krónan- but skip these, they don't have enough zip) or my favorite, the industry standard ones filled with a soft cheese that's zipped up on garlic and herbs. Grab some Icelandic-grown red or yellow peppers, and then in the dairy section, grab a triangle of Akureyri blue cheese. When it's grill time, slice the peppers in half and mash some blue cheese inside. When the pepper starts hissing and the cheese has melted, they're ready (and soo mm good).

For dessert if you still have room, pick up a pair of bananas and some chocolate (I prefer the orange Sirius variety). Slice the bananas on one side, stuff with chocolate, and grill until the banana oozes and the chocolate is all melted. Add some screw-top wine or a few beers and that's all you need to have a grand time.

The best part, of course, is finding the perfect spot for this grilling where you can contemplate a great view, soak up some sun, and enjoy the amazing freedom and solitude that is summertime in Iceland. The countryside is chock-full of these staggeringly beautiful locations where the only company might be a few birds wading in the waves or a solitary Arctic fox slinking by, perhaps attracted by the smell of the sizzle.

In some ways this summer is becoming the swan song for the community I know here. At the last party I attended I talked to so many people who were planning to stay until the end of the summer and then move on to jobs elsewhere in continental Europe. As long as the weather's nice we can all ignore the situation a bit and get to our grilling and admiring of sunsets but sooner than I'd like to think, the great weather will be all over and then what?

1 comment:

Professor Batty said...

It really is an end of an era, is it not? My October trip to Iceland had to be canceled when Icelandair cut back on its flights to Minnesota. Maybe next year...