Winter is coming

Winter will be here soon, I hear rumours it has already come to parts of the south and west, and it definitely arrived in Iceland.

Iceland in winter requires some effort, but we have come up with some useful things to get through the winter, and I don't mean just the pickled whale blubber, rotten shark and broiled seal flippers.

The traditional winter clothing is "lopi", which is coarse water resistant wool from the Icelandic sheep, renowned for its ability to survive bad weather, and for being stupid enough to be out in such weather in the first place.

handknit lopi - expensive, but gorgeous and amazingly warm.

The modern way to stay warm is GoreTex and PolarTec fleece.
One of Iceland's old workman's clothes manufacturer, known for their heavy duty fishermen's clothing, has become hugely popular in Iceland for a very trendy line of fleece clothing (made in the Baltics for obscure reasons having to do with a gross diplomatic error that turned out well, and people in Iceland suddenly realising that they could become obscenely rich dealing with foreigners).

66 North has fabulous winter clothing, ranging from lightweight bright coloured children and infant's fleece, through middle-wear and accessories, to full blown mountainwear.
They also do good raingear for kids.
Unfortunately the selection at their US online outlet is limited, but better than nothing.

We have full outfits for the kids, renewed as rapidly as we can as they grow out of them... and a growing selection of the adult items; I personally like their balaclava's, good for real snow shoveling, walking to work on certain days, and serious skiing.

For food, you can't go wrong with skyr - it is the perfect food, now available at Whole Foods, and one day they will have the sense to stock plain skyr, which is the essence of it all. In the meantime, we load up on vanilla skyr (excellent breakfast or lunch food, I usually throw in a handful of blueberries) with a selection of blueberry and strawberry to fill up the fridge - I find those too sweet, but the kids like them, and the Big Kid came up with "Elmo skyr" this morning, on her own - curved slice of banana for the mouth, grape for the nose, two blueberries for the eyes, main trick is the keep the Munchkin from eating hers.
Whole Foods also has Icelandic butter (smjör) which is fabulous, and I don't say that just because it is what I grew up with. They also have a couple of camembert style cheeses from Iceland (strange choice, but decent cheeses).
Whole Foods also now has Icelandic lamb - mountain grass grazed with distinct flavour - I grabbed some boneless cutlets for a quick meal on the last trip, and a bone-in leg of lamb which we roasted for sunday dinner (in its juices with barest hint of salt and pepper, with potatoes and peas - maximises the meat natural flavour); we then had it again a couple of days later, and the the rest as stew a couple of days after that...

I also hear rumours there is Icelandic Nóa chocolate at Whole Foods. I love it, but it may be an acquired taste, the base chocolate is very milky - kinda Italian style, very unlike Belgian/French chocolates, and completely unlike Hershey's. If you want to try it, and to try something different, than see if they have the chocolate with liquirice, it is a very nice way of doing it.

So wrap up warm, have some skyr and relax to some Bubbi

Mmmm. Liver sausage and blood sausage, with proper chunks of lambs fat. Whale blubber and rotten shark.


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Nah, nobody really pees on it. We just tell that to foreigners to explain the strong ammonia/ureic acid smell. But it comes by it naturally.

Shark must be eaten with "brennivin", the local schnaps - you take a bite, chew no more than three times and then you swallow with a shot - only way down.
But this time of year the real traditional extreme food is kæst skata, which is skate treated like the shark. It is even smellier and fouler than the shark, traditionally prepared in the garage because no sane person lets it in the house.
Good stuff.

I wonder how cold Iceland would be without the volcanic activity.

By James Cheshire (not verified) on 22 Nov 2006 #permalink

Steinn, "blood sausage with proper chunks of lamb's fat" is an exact description of the Yorkshire delicacy, black pudding. Which looks exactly like the above. I am fascinated but not entirely surprised.

And that sheep looks like a crossbreed between the Swaledale (the coat) and the Dalesbred (the face). Now that's spooky...tell me, is there a game similar to rugby in Iceland?

(You might, by the way, be interested to know that USS Enterprise was tightly stretched over the last couple of months - to provide CAS for both Iraq and Afghanistan, she flew-off some of her F/A18s to a shore base in Iraq.)

Volcanism, strangely, contributes negligibly to the heat flux in Iceland, less than 1% effect.
Although the hot water is useful.

Blóðmör is quite similar to blood pudding, my mum tends to go for it at B&B's up north. That particular one ought to have been pickled though. Traditionally fresh in the fall and pickled in the spring. Sometimes even fried!

Sheep breed is, I am told, quite distinct from others; the coat is thicker and more layered and they are more cold resistant. But then everything is special in Iceland...

No rugby like game up there. Just football and team handball.
During our stern lutheran centuries games were frowned upon.

I had noticed they were reporting Enterprise squadrons both over Afghanistan and west Iraq, figures they'd have flown off.
Still morbidly intrigued as to whether W will go with his instinct and try to take out Iran.