19 October 2013

on the flipside

Last month I returned to Iceland as a visitor for the first time since I moved. It was a work trip so after landing in KEF, I went straight north to Akureyri. After a refreshing evening at Kea following the best Arctic Indian food you’ll ever find, I was work-ready. My company’s hired some Portuguese contractors, so this was their intensive training week and introduction to All Things Icelandic (snow-related mishap+superjeep rescue included). After several long workdays in the northern office with the dev team, they’re back in their local office, working remotely like I am.

When people who’ve never been to Iceland come visit, Icelanders generally put on quite the hospitable show, and this was no exception. On the second evening there, coworker B opened his house to us, and he and V started in on the cooking straight after work. I set off from the hotel with the Portuguese contingency, three regular smokers used to city living. I’d warned them that we had a 2.5 km walk ahead of us, and they gamely trudged on despite the steeply sloped dirt road we had to climb near the end. All three of them were perfect gentlemen determined to keep pace with me, now well trained on Norwegian hillsides.

We arrived to busy preparations for the usual impress-the-visitors meal- lobster prepared in copious amounts of garlic, butter, and parsley, V’s special potatoes (each potato is prepared with thin vertical cuts almost to the bottom across the whole potato, then roasted while constantly bathing it in oil), and of course, grilled lamb steaks with a generous dollop of béarnaise. I was in charge of the salad preparations, but everyone pitched in with shelling lobster, mixing of sauce, setting the table, opening beers, and choosing music. One of the Portuguese guys commented that he’d never seen so many men in the kitchen before. As the only woman there, I was only too happy that I wasn’t solo preparing a meal for 11 hungry programmers.

Dessert was provided by F, one of the Portuguese guys who’s been working with us almost a year- he had port wine (“for the good times”) and another local schnapps (“for the bad times”). Both were finished before the night was over. The party broke up soon after since the next day was work as usual, but the evening was a success by all accounts.

A few days later, I flew to Reykjavik to finish up some errands. It was an unusually beautiful and clement Friday afternoon, so the streets were choked with all the usual 101 fashionable suspects. After a few months away in a rather more practical environment, the studied styles of passersby was clearly evident, and the high turnover on Laugavegur shops made for an entertaining, albeit slow trip back to my hotel.

Even staying in a hotel in Reykjavik is peculiar, having now only done it one other time. Fortunately, the place I found at a bargain price was right downtown and happens to have one of the latest in cool restaurants, Snaps, right off the lobby. After a power-hour catching up with J&D over tea in my room, I met H with plans to have dinner together. Despite the crowded and noisy atmosphere of the restaurant, we decided to give it a try and were seated with brisk efficiency right near the open kitchen. Our cheerful waitress left us to peruse the menu while we watched delicious dish after delicious dish whisk by behind us.

Both of us kept it simple and ordered exactly the same thing- cheese soufflé to start, the fish of the day, and lemon tart for dessert. H spent many years of her childhood in France, and I’m no stranger to the country either so we were delighted to find so many of our lesser-known but much loved French favorites on the menu. Fortunately, the flavors exceeded expectation, and the service was full of good humor and didn’t rush us in the slightest, despite the busy Friday crowd. We had a good long chat while interrupting ourselves with exclamations over the deliciousness of the meal.

Many hugs later, I climbed the stairs for my brief sleep before my early morning travel back to my new home. It had been an intense visit but a good one, and although I don’t regret the move, it’s excellent that I continue to have reasons to return to such a magical land.


Truman said...

What a wonderful treat it was to see a new post! Thank you for the update, it was great to hear how you're doing.

Since the demise of Google Reader, I found a great replacement in Feedly.com so I added your blog along with a few other Nordic writers under it's own category.

All the best!

tsduff said...

I don't know how the posts of the past have disappeared... really it is great to see and hear from you once again. I haven't read about where or why you no longer live in Iceland - but I shall read on and perhaps discover. I've been back to Iceland myself many times in the past few years, though not managed to make my way back to live there. Cheers E - hope all is well.