Happy Feast of Saint Thorlacius.


I hope everyone got some “cured” skate!

It is the reason for the season, the excuse for all Manly Men, and Women, to go somewhere suitable (like the garage, your uncle’s house, or a restaurant desperate enough to put up with the smell and serve the stuff) and eat the food traditional to this Eve of of the Day of the Advent of Yule.

Þorlákur, is the patron saint of Iceland, in what is a truly novel game of Thor’s – to have one of his own be the patron Saint.
His feast has been celebrated on this day for 809 years, by law.
Party on.

Tindaskata – from fauna.is
Copyright Jón Baldur Hlíðberg, www.fauna.is.

If you like funky fish, fowl or plants, www.fauna.is has the most comprehensive and gorgeous set of pictures, drawings and plates of the wildlife of Iceland.

In celebration of this day, leading into the festive season, the obscure custom of eating cured skate has spread – since skate is poisonous fresh, it has to decompose sligtly first, and is then eaten, either lightly salted or strongly salted, and rotten.
With potatos, and butter, or molten lambs fat with crispy bits of abdominal membranes.
You only eat the wings! That is important.

Wash down with lots of cold beer – Egil’s, or Polar – and icecold brennivín.

I can’t find skate for sale on the web.
It has to be hand carried to the US, past airport security and customs (Iceland’s airport security knows the hazard of skate – imaging if the jar broke open in mid-flight! Even diverting to Greenland or Halifax could take 2-3 hours…

But, nammi.is has genuine putrefied shark.
In small jars.
Order now in time for Þorri.
And get some soured bloodpudding and pickled ram’s testicles to go with it.


  1. #1 HP
    December 23, 2008

    I’ve wanted to try Icelandic putrefied shark ever since I first heard of it, but now that I’m looking at the nammi.is page, I’m getting cold feet.

    If you go directly to the product page for putrefied shark, they have urls for YouTube videos, the first of which features UK celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey spitting up putrefied shark into a bucket. (That’s one thing Iceland has in common with Japan: They both have traditional foods that are best known for making foreigners gag. I wonder how an Icelander would make out with natto.)

    I have tasted brennivin, courtesy of my friend Sigurður when I was in university. He made a big deal of offering me less than an ounce (what a sacrifice!); then he took the bottle into his room, locked the door, and didn’t come out for 24 hours. That’s one Icelandic tradition I wish I could get at my local package store.

    I really need to get off my duff and visit Iceland. I was very lucky when at college to be connected to pretty much the entire Icelandic community in Bloomington, Indiana (all three of them!), and I’ve always intended to visit, but here it is 25 years later and I’ve never been. Would now be a good time to visit? I assume they could use the money. But I might just wait until summer, because, you know.

  2. #2 Steinn Sigurdsson
    December 24, 2008

    Hm, I always made sure my friends drank all my brennivín when I brought it back.
    Yet they are still my friends.

    Ramsey was such a total wimp, I’ve seen that episode several times. Though the producers of the show mishandled the hosting very badly, he could have had a much more interesting course of exotica if they had done some groundwork.
    Oh, and his restaurant is overrated. And the service sucks.
    So there.

    We offered some older friends of our in the UK some shark a few years ago, the older was a WWII vet, wounded and captured by the Germans, and also spent time behind lines making good use of his classics education – he very politely ate a bite, and then smiled and said “I’m afraid this cheese is a bit too strong for me”. We had to leave the jar with our friends, and they called us a few months later and said they gave in and ate it – couldn’t leave it in there any longer yet couldn’t bear to throw it out.

    Now is a good time to visit, in that it is cheap and people will be grateful. But I hear the mood is not the usual cheerful mania it has been for the last decade.

  3. #3 eddie
    December 24, 2008


    I’ve wanted to try Icelandic putrefied shark ever since I first heard of it, but now that I’m looking at the nammi.is page, I’m getting cold feet.


    HP Monkey wins all of the internet!

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