Friday, December 28, 2007


We had our white Christmas: hvít Jól. Icelanders, and I do agree with them, like their Christmas to be white. Surely the result of global warming, snow falls in Iceland are not what they were and nowadays it is not always sure to have a white Christmas. In that case you have a red Christmas: rauð Jól. It was snowing almost all day on Christmas day and Reykjavík covered itself with a "thick" (about 20cm) blanket of snow.

Over the next few days tons of fireworks (flugeldar in Icelandic) will be sold in Iceland. These fireworks sales are organized by the Icelandic association of search and rescue: Slysavarnafélagið Landsbjörg. All profits made are going to the rescue services.

To give you some figures, it's an extimated 800 tons of fireworks that will be blown up and this figure is always getting bigger year on year. "Only 638 tons" were imported in 2005.

As a result of this huge fireworks display that last hours over Reykjavík, peaks of air pollution are recorded every year on new year's eve.

Most companies will be giving their employees some fireworks. Most of fireworks have names of famous characters from the Icelandic sagas. Last year we got from work a box of fireworks named after Hallgerður Langbrók and this year we are getting a box named after Grettir Ásmundarson, from the saga of the same name: Grettir's Saga.


Weather outside: sunny, -8°C
I just realized it was +7°C last week, a 15° drop over a week, not bad!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Fish à la piss...

The dreaded day is almost upon us!!! On December 23rd, Icelanders are celebrating Þorláksmessa, Þorláskur's mass, patron saint of Iceland. So nothing wrong so far...

The problem with Þorláksmessa is what Icelanders traditionnally eat on that day: skata (literally skate in english). Nothing wrong there again with eating skate...

I do eat skate/ray wings in Brittany. We have a traditionnal dish called "aile de raie au beurre noir" (ray wing with black butter).

So what is wrong with skata???....

The skata tradition is supposedly coming from the west fjörds. A hole is dug on the beach, the fish is then buried in the hole for several weeks. Skate, like sharks, don't have a urinal track and therefore release urine through their skin. This means the flesh of the skate rotting away in its hole is saturated with ammonia. The finished product smells like... well, it smells like piss!

It's not Þorláksmessa today but it's last day before it in the company and for that matter, it will be served at lunch today. Luckily for me the skata won't be cooked here but the fumes from the "ready-made" trays will still make the building smell like urinals from the rarely cleaned bathroom of a railroad station.

Being French I should be used to strong smells. French washed rind cheeses are the smelliest cheeses in the world but they still smell way better than skata.

To read an oposite opinion about skata, have a pick at the article posted yesterday by Bjarni on Iceland Review: click here.

Gleðileg jól - Merry christmas - Joyeux noël

Weather outside: Mostly cloudy, 7°C

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


"Christmas" has really started today in Iceland as last night households were visited by the first Yule Lads: Stekkjastaur. These Yule lads are 13 and are the sons of Grýla and Leppalúði, two mountain-dwelling trolls. Grýla has for "hobby" of looking for kids and put them in a sack that she carries on her back. The couple owns a huge and horrible cat: Jólakötturinn. The cat helps Grýla in her task of picking children. The tradition was that kids with a new article of clothing would be safe and not eaten by Jólakötturinn. Icelandic singer Björk interpreted a song called "Jólakötturinn". You can listen to it on Youtube: here. And I'm going to throw in the lyrics with both Icelandic and English! Lyrics here.

The 13 Yule Lads are naughty characters: they steal your food, slam your doors, peep through your windows, etc... Nowadays, kids leave their shoes by the window. When they wake up in the morning, nice kids will find a present and naughty kids will find... a rotting potato!

  1. Stekkjastaur
  2. Giljagaur
  3. Stúfur
  4. Þvörusleikir
  5. Pottasleikir
  6. Askasleikir
  7. Hurðaskellir
  8. Skyrgámur
  9. Bjúgnakrækir
  10. Gluggagægir
  11. Gáttaþefur
  12. Ketkrókur
  13. Kertasníkir

All pictures are from the Jólamjólk website.

Weather outside: mostly cloudy, 2°C

Monday, December 10, 2007


One of most, if not the most, served desserts over Christmas in Iceland is the traditional Danish "Ris a l'amande", which is a dessert made of rice and almonds. The Danes already got it wrong when using french words to name the dish (it should be riz à l'amande) but Icelanders are really out by a mile when it comes to spelling it.

I have seen the following:
  • Ris ala mande
  • Ris a la mande
  • Ris alamande
  • etc...
  • but this year's winner has to be the spelling from the glersalurinn menu: Ris á l´allamande.
Here is the recipe if you want to give it a try:
Servings: 6 servings
Prep. Time: 1:00
Total Time: 3:30

1 cup short grain rice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups whole milk
3 tbsp. sugar
3/4 cup finely chopped almonds
1-3/4 cups whipping cream
6 whole almonds
Cherry preserves for the topping

Cook the rice in the whole milk with the vanilla extract at medium-low heat for around 45 minutes until tender and let cool. Add the sugar and the chopped almonds. Whip the cream until you get soft peaks then fold it into the now cooled rice mixture. Spoon a little into ramekins then put one whole almond in the center and cover it with more rice mixture. Refrigerate for a few hours to let set. Serve it cold with warmed cherry preserve spooned on top.

Weather Outside: Clear, -3°C

Monday, December 3, 2007

Best í heimi...

It turns out that Iceland is the best country to live in for this year 2007.
For the past 6 years, the Human Development Index was topped by an other Scandinavian country: Norway.


With only over 300000 inhabitants, Iceland does not have the resources to do some good television and most of what is shown is coming from the US and get subtitled.

A few examples of all that goodness: Dr Phil, Oprah, Survivor, Amazing Race, The biggest loser, High School Reunion, The bachelor, The bachelorette, America's Next Top Model, So you think you can dance, American Idol, and many more...

Icelandic version of some shows were done: 3 seasons of Idol, 1 season of "The X-Factor" and I think just one of the batchelor. The latest to date is an icelandic version of the american show named "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?", which would translate to Ertu skarpari en skólakrakki? and is shown every Sundays on Skjáreinn.

I found an small video of the original show on Fox that raises a lot of questions!

Weather outside: Sunny, -2°C