Dad’s been to Iceland

Latest stop has been Iceland, researching my book and a story for the Guardian.

Good grief, what a landscape: one minute you are in the Scottish Highlands, the next in Tellytubby Land, then Mordor and then the moon.



I was on my way to the Blue Lagoon one day when I spotted these odd wooden constructions:

It was only when I opened the car door that the stench hit me. It was drying fish, or rather the remains of fish – haddock, I think – being dried to make the popular (in Iceland) snack, hardfiskur. Ironically for a country with perhaps the best access to the freshest fish in the world, the Icelanders seem to have a peculiar preference for decomposed fish.

I couldn't visit Iceland without trying the legendary, the infamous, the really fabulously disgusting hakarl, or fermented shark.

I tracked it down to the Icelandic Bar in the centre of Reykjavik, where they kindly let me try a couple of cubes. Let's just say that the smell – think of a multi-story car-park stairwell on a Saturday night combined with cat vomit and Roquefort – is worse than the taste – a burning, fishy-cheese flavour – but that both are experiences I would never care to revisit.

They told me that it had been 'rotting' for 18 months. I shudder to think what the four year old version is like.

I can't help wondering if, with revenge clearly on their minds over the Icesave fiasco, hakarl was something they lay on only for the British and then laugh about later up the pub…


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  1. 1
    Arnbjorn Olafsson

    Dear Michael.
    I recently bought your book “Sushi & beyond” at an Icelandic bookstore. I am halfway through and enjoying it so far … so much that I’ve ordered your other food (travel) books from Amazon.
    Just one thing I wanted to mention at this point. You state that Iceland catches around 1000 whales (more than any other country in the world). I don’t think this is true. I believe that the maximum number is a about a fourth of this ( A number which is less than the US is catching (through indigenous whaling quotas).
    Well … enought complaining … I still like your book.

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