Yes, its true, we have a festival dedicated to eating a lot of questionable meat. Thorrablot! Þorrablót in Icelandic. This is not the time to visit Iceland if you are vegan, but that said Iceland is surprisingly vegan friendly.
Þorrablót, or Thorrablot, started as a midwinter festival, as many cultures have. As it celebrated pagan gods it was abolished during kristnitaka, literally the taking of Christianity in Iceland. Which is a fascinating story itself and can be read about here. During the 19th century it was resurrected, and we still celebrate it now. Interestingly paganism is making a come back in Iceland, with it being the largest non-christian faith here, and the fastest growing religion in the past decade.
The month of Thorri, part of the old Icelandic calendar, begins on the first Friday after January, and so that is when the feast of Thorrablot is celebrated. Icelanders come together during that time to drink and be merry…whilst eating traditional Icelandic food. Some of them may seem repulsive to non-Icelanders but trust us, it goes down a treat with Brennevin, the local schnapps made of potato and caraway. The nickname of which is ominously ‘Black death.’
The types of culinary delicacies served are things like blóðmör, a dark sheep’s blood sausage with course texture…it has an indescribable taste… you’ll have to try it yourself. Or lifrapylsa – a liver sausage, similar to the Scottish haggis, a ram’s stomach is stuffed with fatty tissue and liver, mixed with oats and rye flour, then boiled to…let’s say perfection.
You may well have heard of hákarl, the ‘rotten’ shark meat (It is actually more fermented but let’s not split hairs here). But have you ever had sheep’s head? Svið is boiled, and once you get over the initial shock of your dinner looking back at you it’s really tasty. You can also eat it as sviðasulta, which means Sheep’s head jam. The meat is chopped up and preserved in gelatin, and, once cooled it’s great to have a slice of. The taste and texture is similar to a traditional English raised pie filling.
As for Ram’s testicles. Yup. Súrsaðir hrútspungar and Thorrablot go hand in hand. Sour ram’s testicles to be specific. They are pressed in blocks, boiled and cured in lactic acid, then you can slice them. Delicious.
As well as these meats we also have our gorgeous rúgbrauð, traditional rye bread, mashed turnips, and air dried fish! Whatever you chose to eat you enjoy you will also get to join in with traditional games, learn songs and listen to stories until the small hours.