In a bit of a divergence from the typical post, today’s is a two-parter, given the unique country from which the featured chef hails: Iceland. Consider part one a mini introduction to Ísland (for “island,” the Icelandic name of the country), while part two is all about the incredible chef I met there. Enjoy.
Something I learned this summer and had never wondered about before: Pylsa is the word for “hot dog” in Icelandic. This is not the most important thing to know about the country of Iceland, but it will be relevant later in this story. It is also a critical fact for any food lover traveling to the capital city of Reykjavik today, with its prominent pylsa stand (Baejarins Beztu Pylsur – which means “the best hot dog in town”) kitty-corner from the harbor, a little shack serving up slim, snappy sausages made of pork, beef, and lamb, dressed with crispy fried onion bits, minced fresh onions, sweet brown mustard and similarly flavored ketchup and mayo, if you’d like, since 1937.
But first, a bit about the country.
Striking landscapes – anchored by towering, glacier-topped volcanoes and dotted with waterfalls seemingly every few feet – grazed by the most beautiful, miniature horses sporting flowing “Farah Fawcett hair” (as my aunt-in-law Alison says) in all colors. Birds are everywhere. People are not. For a country about the size of the state of Kentucky, the population is roughly that of San Francisco – most of it residing in and around the capital city. The rest of the country is nature, as far as the eye can see, and a nature of extremes at that. For instance, the sun.
The sun did not set when I visited Iceland in June. That reality sounds fascinating – and is – but what you don’t fully appreciate until you live in the land of the midnight sun, even for 10 days, is how mind-boggling, body-clock-altering and just plain bizarre it is to always have sunlight. This is not an exaggeration. My husband (also my travel partner on this trip) and I never tired of the novelty of constant sunlight – each night after dinner, often at midnight, we’d race outside, pointing at the sky, shouting, “Look! It’s MIDNIGHT!” or “Look! It’s 3 AM!” or “OHMYGOD LOOK AT THE SUN!” It is one of the strangest, most beautiful phenomena I’ve ever seen. Supposedly the same goes for winter, when the sun doesn’t ever fully rise. I’d like to see that, too.
A conference took us my husband (with me tagging along) to Iceland, but we turned it into a proper, amazing vacation. I studied up beforehand, reading the books loaned us by Brandon’s aunt, who’d traveled there a few years prior, trolling the internet for insider’s tips on “The Best of Iceland,” and, naturally, watching The Martha Stewart Show.
Curious about how Martha figures into this tale? Keep reading…