Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I like fish. Everyone in Iceland likes fish. Well, everyone past the age of about twelve. This approximate age is when the tongue, the roof of the mouth and the insides of the cheeks have developed enough not to spasm from panic at the slightest prick of a tiny bone and the imagination has dulled to the point that such occurrences do not bring about envisions of a choking death. This does not mean that these thoughts leave you completely; I can easily recall this feeling and sometimes lose my appetite when I feel a bone in my mouth, always if it happens twice from the same plate.
Today bones are rarely found in the fish filets sold in the stores as the processing of fish has advanced greatly from when I was a kid. Also fish is cooked as filet in most cases today whereas it used to be thrown into a pot with everything but the head and the guts. This left a lot of bones that needed to be removed before eating, not all successfully. I recall my grandmother and grandfather always asking the same question when placing a fish on the table: “How many oars in a boat?” The answer lay in the ribs, i.e. the fish was opened and the ribs were counted. This game drew attention to just what one wanted to forget, namely the ominous presence of bones in the dinner.

According to the Icelandic Institute of Natural History there are five fresh water fish species in Iceland (salmon, trout, bleach, stickleback and eel) and over 340 species have been encountered within our fishing grounds. Not all are eaten, for example although “stickleback” is a big name, the fish carrying it is very small and one would need to eat about fifty to feel halfway full. Removing its bones would require a microscope and needle thick tweezers. Historically many of the fish we prize today and greatly enjoy eating were thrown back into the sea, catfish and lobster for example. This was not because these were too small but because they were too ugly. Ugly had to originate from evil of some form and better not to digest evil if you could avoid it.

This is actually reasonable. One should not eat or drink evil.

For the millionth time in my life I am what in Icelandic is called “afterwards smart” meaning you realize something too late, once the consequences have set in. This particular case relates to a dinner party me and my husband attended on Friday evening that lasted way too long. At the end of the party I drank Cointreau, lots of it actually, and now realize that this particular drink is pure evil despite its sweet taste. I ended up throwing up in our new sink after waking up during the night feeling absolutely horrid. The sink got plugged and as all stores were closed over the Easter holiday we were unable to buy drain de-clogger. I was cursed by all family members every time someone needed to wash their hands or brush their teeth for three whole days – not very Easter-ish at all.

I would drink a lot more if it were not for hangovers. I hate them. One of the things that I can't stop thinking about when in such a state is how happy I am that humans don’t have antlers or a rhinoceros horn sticking out of our forehead.  A hangover headache is bad enough with just hair attached to one’s head.

Yrsa - Wednesday


  1. You crack me up! I love fish! And beer, or aquavit. I like to think it's the Norwegian in my Blood!:) Reading Ashes! i am a fan from the Amazon Mystery group NBIEVI Nordic British Irish Euro Mysteries!
    Arnie Slater

  2. So funny. I actually tried a catfish on Iceland - it was the catch of the day. I enjoyed it a lot, though I am not a fan of fish. Then I had a look at what I've actually eaten and... got scared. It did look like a pure evil. Better that I didn't know that before ordering this poor little creature, though I can't deny it was really good.

  3. Ask anyone who attended the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, in the heartland of corn and soybean country, during the 70's and 80's, about the Deluxe Diner. Every Friday they cooked vast amounts of the most delicious beer-battered catfish sandwiches. The lines of would-be diners often stretched out the door and around the corner. Sadly, 'progress' in the form of a new building resulted in the owners deciding not to continue their wonderful feasts.

  4. Yrsa,

    If only chickens lived underwater I'd be an utterly satisfied free-diver.

  5. Hi Arnie - skál!(in aquavit)

    Hi Dagal - apparently the fish loses its teeth during the mating season. Smart of it.

    Hi Stan - a beer battered catfish sandwich sounds really, really good. Even if you need to take classes to be introduced to it.

    Hi Jeff - I always smile when I read your comments. Thanks!