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Living in Consciousness ~ Indi(r)a’s Food and Garden Weblog

Iceland ~ Guest Post by Veena Parrikar

Some of my blog readers already know about Veena Parrikar, the incredible and generous lady who sent me gifts in appreciation of ‘Mahanandi’. Veena and her husband recently visited Land of Fire and Ice - Iceland. One may wonder why Iceland? If you are like me, the first question might be “What were the food traditions there”? When I requested her for a guest post, she kindly agreed to share her Iceland experience with me and with Mahanandi readers. I thank Veena for writing this wonderful article and sharing some beautiful pictures from Iceland with us. ~ Indira

Viti Crater
The Colors of Iceland ~ Viti Crater

Last month, we visited Iceland for the first time. Except for a couple of days in the cities of Reykjavk and Akureyri, most of our trip was spent driving around the country, with stops in small towns and villages along the way. We drove for nine days, for the most part on the Ring Road that encircles the island, starting from Akureyri (Iceland’s second-largest city situated in the north, only 60 miles or so south of the Arctic Circle), heading east to Lake Mvatn, then along the eastern fjords towards southern Iceland, then a foray into the interior Highlands to the wondrous Landmannalaugar, finally making our way back to Reykjavk.

One of the great philosophers said that a man travels round the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it. There are some things in Iceland that could probably never be experienced in the countries I call home (India and United States). Some are obvious - Nature in her most beautiful forms, yet so capricious, so forbidding, so untamed that it strikes fear in one’s heart. Others are not so obvious:

* It is the last inhabited unpolluted space on the earth. The environment and water are so pure and clean that they permeate every food item grown and prepared in Iceland, from the dairy products, chocolate, bread, and vegetables to the fish, lamb and other meat products.

* Very few places in the world can claim the silence, stillness and isolation one experiences in many parts of Iceland. There is not even the rustling of trees or the soft, muted noises made by tiny critters. The silence is so palpable that it envelops your ears and wraps itself around your mind like a thick fog, blurring out all mundane details.

* One encounters public rights in Iceland, a term that one forgets after years of living in the United States. Our tour guides informed us that travelers may walk into any farm or land and spend one night without the owner’s permission; for more than one night, you have to seek permission. Even in the most isolated of areas, we could walk into a farm or an open-air bakery and take pictures without fear of being questioned or shot at.

* The concept of tipping does not exist. No tips are given and there is no expectation of one -not in hotels, not in restaurants, not for taxis, nowhere! No bellboys hovering outside the hotels to take your luggage - you haul your own, which is the way I prefer it.

As anyone with a penchant for food is wont to do, I try to learn about the culinary specialties of any place that I intend to visit (after all, the best souvenirs are to be found in the local farms or grocery stores!). To a foreigner and a vegetarian at that, many of Iceland’s traditional dishes might sound rather extreme: H?karl ?”rotten” or cured shark, Svi? ? singed sheep’s head, and blood pudding to name a few. Oddly however, I felt neither disgust nor nausea when I came across some of these items. Iceland’s traditional cuisine was shaped by the exigencies of their land and harsh environment, where they could afford to waste nothing from the few food sources available. Iceland’s meat production entails none of the mechanized and beastly practices that are the hallmark of North American meat industries.

Iceland’s dairy products meet, no, surpass the highest standards of good taste and quality. Icelandic sheep and cattle breathe unpolluted air, graze on pure pastures, and are not subjected to cross-breeding, antibiotics or hormones. I was somewhat apprehensive about the vegetarian fare in Iceland, and had gone armed with packets of heat-and-eat food products. These quickly became unpack-and-throw products once we discovered the simple, yet extraordinarily flavourful vegetables-and-cheese sandwiches and soups in even the most unassuming caf’s. We found three Indian restaurants in Reykjavik - Shalimar (of course!), Indian Mango (which, to our pleasant surprise, was run by a Goan, George Holmes), and Austur India Fjelagid (“East India Company”). The last one, said to be the northern-most Indian restaurant in the world, was exceptional. As for souvenirs, I came back with Icelandic cheese, locally prepared rhubarb jam, which is absolutely delicious and not very sugary, and Icelandic milk chocolate.

Some scenes are forever etched in my memory. The sight of Mjifjrur the most remote and beautiful of Iceland’s fjords, with a population of 35, after a harrowing drive on a one-lane dirt track where every turn was a hairpin bend. The wild white reindeers that appeared on a mountain ledge out of the fog like some mythical creatures, unfortunately, or perhaps, fittingly so, we do not have pictures of this scene as it would have been dangerous to stop given the bad weather and treacherous winding road. The colony of white swans in a lake encounted briefly one dusky midnight when it still looked like twilight*; the eerie silence broken by their strange, bugle-like calls to each other. Like phrases from an exquisite melody only once heard, these scenes return to haunt the mind long after all tangible evidence of the visit has been either eaten or stored away in a closet.

* Iceland has 24 hours of daylight in the summer.

Iceland ~ Photo Gallery


Keri, an explosion crater, around 3000 years old.


On the way to Lake Myvatn.


Sheep grazing in a field at Lake Myvatn - a very common sight in Iceland.


Close-up of a bubbling mud pool at Hverarnd.


Underground baking ovens near Bjarnarflag Thermal Station, where hverabrau, a traditional rye bread is slowly baked for over 20 hours using geo-thermal energy.


Hverabrau (traditional rye bread), which we were lucky to get fresh and warm out of the oven.


One of the hairpin bends on the way to Mjifjrur.


Arriving into Sey?isfj?r?ur, the most picturesque among the fjords of Eastern Iceland.


ingvallakirkja (1859), the beautiful church at ingvellir, the site of the world’s first parliament.


Rainbow near ingvellir. We saw five full rainbows on the same day!


The 17th century “house of prayer” at Npsstaur, a small farm in Southern Iceland. According to this site, the same family has lived on this farm since 1730.


Summer flora in Iceland.


After driving miles and miles with not a sign of life in sight,
this lone couple of swans reminded us that we were still on Earth.


Is it yogurt? Is it cheese? This is skyr, one of Iceland’s traditional delicacies. May be available in some parts of the United States


Hkarl (Preserved Shark) ~ An Icelandic Tradition
Fisherman Hildir showing us his hkarl at his farm in Bjarnarhfn. He regretfully informed us that the traditional occupation of fishing and preserving shark is declining.


Chef George Holmes outside his restaurant “Indian Mango”
My husband was thrilled to bits meeting him - imagine bumping into a fellow Goan in Iceland!

~ Guest Post by Veena Parrikar

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Veena Parrikar (Friday July 21, 2006 at 1:42 pm- permalink)

The New Home of Mahanandi: www.themahanandi.org

59 comments for Iceland ~ Guest Post by Veena Parrikar »

  1. Pretty cool. The pictures are awesome. I have never even thought of going to Iceland (the name is frighteningly cold), but now am tempted. Good one, Veena.

    Comment by Nithya — July 21, 2006 @ 1:59 pm

  2. Awesome pictures!!

    Comment by Deepa — July 21, 2006 @ 2:04 pm

  3. wow..wow..wow..is all I can say! What a beautiful place to visit, what a beautiful write up. I think I read the entire article without even blinking my eyes…it was captivating..great job Veena and thanks Indira for sharing it!

    Comment by Luv2Cook — July 21, 2006 @ 2:11 pm

  4. Those were some breathtaking pictures! Iceland sure sounds like an exotic place to visit… even more considering the serios summer like weather lately. Thanks for this round up, Veena!

    Indira - keep up the sleuthing! You have a keen eye for the most interesting perspectives on food and its close allies :)

    Comment by GaramMasala — July 21, 2006 @ 2:12 pm

  5. Oh my God Veena ! What have you done..now everyone who reads Indira’s blog will be flocking there in droves:)

    But this is so beautiful. Almost too good to be true!

    Comment by Janani — July 21, 2006 @ 2:26 pm

  6. Beautiful Pictures !! Have heard a lot about iceland, seen pictures.But Boy!these pictures are breathtaking. Thanx to you and Veena.

    Love love love the pictures of “The House Of Prayer”. You are one lucky girl to go visit the most exotic places in the world.

    My most desired places of visit are Alaska and Iceland. Now these pictures made me even more tempting.

    “Stay in a farm without the owner’s permission”, “population of 35″, “no tipping” WOWWW !! Very amazing people.

    Iam sure this would have been Veena’s most memorable trip.

    Comment by Priya — July 21, 2006 @ 2:38 pm

  7. Classic Writeup Veena. It is nice of you to share such a lovely memory and place. Its hard to imagine life as uncomplicated as it is in Iceland.

    The food you mention sounds fantastic. New culinary adventure.

    Comment by Sam — July 21, 2006 @ 2:43 pm

  8. I can just echo what everyone else says, this must have been one amazing trip!How I yearn for silences so deep!

    Comment by disha — July 21, 2006 @ 2:45 pm

  9. Thanks to you and Veena for such a nice post :)

    Comment by Supriya — July 21, 2006 @ 2:49 pm

  10. Hi Indira,
    Beautiful writeup and worth watching place.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Vineela

    Comment by vineela — July 21, 2006 @ 3:00 pm

  11. wow awesome post, nice pictures !!!

    Comment by Menaka — July 21, 2006 @ 3:03 pm

  12. Beautiful pictures and great writing, Veena. Indira, can Veena take some questions by email on how she went about the trip planning? May be another write-up about it? I really like to travel to such off-beat places.

    Indira replies:
    Mika, email me.

    Comment by mika — July 21, 2006 @ 3:16 pm

  13. Wow! Absolutely gorgeous!!

    Comment by Shoshauna — July 21, 2006 @ 3:59 pm

  14. Beautiful,captivating,superb,awesome,breathtaking,i am falling short of words.Great write up veena.I echo with mika about a write up on how to plan the trip.
    Once again very good work.Thank you so much.

    Comment by Anu — July 21, 2006 @ 4:40 pm

  15. What a succint and passionate travel account. I knew Iceland was beautiful and isolated but to hear a first person narrative with awesome photos really brought it home.
    A very wonderful write up Veena.
    And Holmes is such a typical patrao :-) He could still be in Goa really….

    Comment by Ashwini — July 21, 2006 @ 5:11 pm

  16. Awesome post!

    Comment by Faffer — July 21, 2006 @ 5:33 pm

  17. OMG! Those pictures are just breath-taking. I wish I was there with veena.
    Thank you Indira and Veena for sharing those pics with us.

    Comment by Radha — July 21, 2006 @ 5:39 pm

  18. Wow! no words yet to describe. Amazing pictures and what a wonderful write up.you just took everyone to be floating in air feeling as if we were in Iceland too Veena. This must be the most memorable trip to you.”House of Prayer” is really wonderful.Indira, my all the time dream is to Visit Paris at least once in my life time. Yesterday you reminded me of Kerala and now Veena made me wanna visit Iceland. Seems like my day by day all time wishes are going up.Gosh! i think my hubby have to do 2 more extra workships to fulfill my dreams….oops…

    Comment by Bharghavi — July 21, 2006 @ 5:39 pm

  19. Wow, Thats amazing Veena.

    I have heard stories about no ice in Ice Land and a lot of ice in Green Land :-)
    Arent these people with the purest DNA or something like that?

    Great..Great..! Looks so pure…. And I couldnt blv..that..3 Indian restuarants, there? Whats the Indian population like? What jobs do they have? Very curious.

    Thanks a lot Indira….for hosting this!

    Comment by L.G — July 21, 2006 @ 5:43 pm

  20. Beautifully, beautifully written !!! Excellent photos, thank you Veena. Thank you Indira for bringing such talented friends over.

    Comment by Archana Thomas — July 21, 2006 @ 7:33 pm

  21. Did you make it to the Blue Lagoon? We were there in 2002. Your pictures brought back pleasant memories. there is also a really nice vegetarian restaurant called ‘A Naestu Grosum’ in Reykjavik. We ate pretty much all our meals there.
    Thanks Indira and Veena

    Comment by Prita — July 21, 2006 @ 7:35 pm

  22. Gorgeous photos ! Indira, very thoughtful of you to ask Veena to write up this post. I wouldn’t have ever known that there are 3 indian restaurants in Iceland.

    Comment by krithika — July 21, 2006 @ 8:10 pm

  23. Dear Veena and Indira, thank you for sharing. Veena, beautiful pictures and essay. Five rainbows in one day - reminds me of The Little Prince! Indira, I love “meeting” all the excellent people you gather through your blog.

    Comment by Uma — July 21, 2006 @ 10:41 pm

  24. Phew!!!…I am at loss of words…Thanks Indira, for hosting the amazing post of Veena. Every morning, I check your website for your exotic recipes worth a feast, even before checking my mail!..And I try the recipes promptly. But this morning, a feast for my eyes was awaiting in the form of iceland. Your site is becoming more and more unpredictable and incredible day by day. Thanks both of you.

    Every day, when I serve the curry to my husband, he asks..”is it Indira’s? or not?” He loves to try all your recipes. You are so famous in my home!!!

    Comment by Anuradha — July 21, 2006 @ 11:17 pm

  25. Truly amazing. Gorgeous scenery. Definitely makes me want to visit there!

    Comment by yum — July 21, 2006 @ 11:50 pm

  26. Hi Indira & Veena,
    Beautiful pictures…and very nice write up by veena.
    I can totally relate to this story. Infact we are the only Indian family leaving here in northern most town in USA(Barrow,Alaska).
    Thank you so much for sharing Indira.

    Comment by Madhu — July 22, 2006 @ 1:12 pm

  27. What a beautiful journal of your trip, Veena! Thanks for sharing the photos and the stories.

    Indira, your tomatoes are looking lovely!

    Comment by Linda — July 22, 2006 @ 5:05 pm

  28. Wow! Veena, you just took me to Iceland. Really enjoyed the journal and pictures.

    Comment by RP — July 22, 2006 @ 9:08 pm

  29. My thanks to everyone for the enthusiasm! It was a pleasure working on this post with Indira and I enjoyed getting a “behind-the-scenes” glimpse of all the effort that goes into creating a blog entry. It has renewed my appreciation of the Indian food blogs that I regularly visit, and from which I often cook.

    Mika and Anu - the write-up on planning the trip is a one-liner: my husband did it all :-) Seriously though, if you are interested, please email me.

    Prita, we visited Blue Lagoon very briefly. It must have been an other-worldly place once upon a time, but now it is a tourist trap - a bustling restaurant, souvenir shop, long lines of tourists waiting to bathe, and yes, even Blue Lagoon Spa products! We passed by A Naestu Grosum, but did not eat there.

    LG - there are about 30 to 25 Indians in Iceland. We know that two of them are doctors. We heard also that there are some engineers.

    Regards,

    Veena

    Comment by Veena Parrikar — July 23, 2006 @ 1:36 am

  30. Gorgeous pictures. Got to know so much about Iceland that we didnt know. Thank you Veena for sharing.
    Thank you Indira for posting.
    Pavani

    Comment by Pavani — July 23, 2006 @ 10:56 am

  31. Very interesting.

    Reminded me of this article from the Hindu.
    http://www.hindu.com/mag/2005/07/10/stories/2005071000470600.htm

    Comment by tilo — July 23, 2006 @ 11:48 am

  32. Hi Indira, I have been away for some time.

    The balance you achieve in your posts through a variety of food-related an otherwise posts, is commendable. And you have such wonderful friends like Janani & Veena for guest posts. The ‘trip’ to Iceland the fresh bread was rejuvenating!

    I tried your Kaalan recipe. It turned out heavenly. I also added a spoonful of roasted poppy seeds to it. Just one of Amma’s suggestions. ;)

    Comment by Vidyanath Tirumala P — July 23, 2006 @ 2:52 pm

  33. Indira & Veena,

    Thats a great and informative post. Thanks for sharing.

    Cheers,
    Nav

    Comment by Nav — July 24, 2006 @ 5:01 am

  34. Indira and Veena
    Thank you for sharing the beautiful pictures and the post. It was wonderful to read it and get away from the heat into the fjords. :)

    Comment by mandira — July 24, 2006 @ 3:50 pm

  35. The post felt as cool as the autumn breeze… Can there be any better way to beat the heat than read your post? Thanks for a wonderfully pleasant post - Indra -your blogsite is bringing such good karma your way - soul-satisfying experience for all of us through your recipes and travel blogs!! Yet to whip up ice cream with the ice cream maker.

    On a slightly different note, my neighbor gave us some cucumber ( don’t know what variety but they were small) that had grown from her garden - I sliced them up, mixed some chilli powder and salt together, and simply rubbed it on the cucumber slices.. The system instantly felt chilled and cool - I am sure this is one snack all of us have had growing up - outside our schools with the vendor selling them in carts.. Later realized I should have taken some pictures of the cucumber and chilli combo - the most extreme cool and hot combination, if you know what I mean… May be you could do it for us???

    thanks!

    bye!

    -praba.

    Comment by desimom — July 25, 2006 @ 5:51 pm

  36. Hi Indira and Veena,

    as a regular reader it was a very pleasant surprise for me as an Icelander, to read a post on my country here. Thank you so much, it was wonderful and totally did my country justice and i’m happy and proad to know how much you enjoyed it.

    This totally made my day.

    Best regards from Iceland, Helga

    Comment by Helga Guðrún — July 26, 2006 @ 1:58 pm

  37. What an incredible write-up! I felt like I was there!

    Comment by Nupur — July 27, 2006 @ 6:11 am

  38. Veena–what a great post, and beautiful photographs. Thank you so much for sharing with us all your experiences in the land of the midnight sun!

    Indira–thank you so much for giving Veena a space to share her adventures!

    Comment by Barbara — July 30, 2006 @ 2:27 pm

  39. Did you try that rye bread with the rhubarb jam?

    Comment by Another Bettiah Bandit — August 3, 2006 @ 10:21 pm

  40. I love reading your blog for the recipes and for perspective on a different culture. I never imagined I’d read about Icelandic culture in your blog! And it’s so fascinating to read about Icelandic culture from the perspective of your culture. I’m from all over the United States and from Scotch and French descent. I’m with Bettiah Bandit, the description of rye bread with cream cheese and rhubarb jam had me drooling. They slow cooked rye bread picture looked like traditional Boston brown bread, which contains molasses and rye flour and is steamed. The Boston brown bread is traditionally served Sunday nights with baked beans which are cooked in brown and tan crockery pots which look exactly like Indian pots described in one of your posts.

    Comment by Lynn D. — August 4, 2006 @ 9:59 pm

  41. Helga - we had gone to Iceland thinking that this would be the one and only visit. We returned knowing that we will visit Iceland again (and again)!

    Bandit, we did not try the bread with the rhubarb jam. We should have. Next time!

    Lynn, I have made Boston brown bread at home. Hverabrauð has a similar texture, although the taste is different - there is no strong molasses flavour.

    Veena

    Comment by Veena Parrikar — August 5, 2006 @ 9:24 pm

  42. I have always wanted to visit Iceland, but this post made me want to travel there even more! Your pictures are amazing and beautiful. Thank you.

    Comment by Kate — August 6, 2006 @ 11:36 am

  43. Mai Iceland 1991 meh gia tha aur woh desh muje bohut acha laga aur mai aab apni patni ko leh kar jao ga.Mere bhai be mere kehnay par gaye thae aur boh be bool rahe thae ke Iceland kitna sunder ha.

    Comment by Balram Dass — August 10, 2006 @ 3:08 pm

  44. My uncle was a State guest of Iceland in mid seventies. I know a famous Badminton coach from India ,who was quite popular in Iceland and this Doctor from Maharastra in the second largest city of Iceland is well known Indian in Iceland.
    Frankly I got intersted in Iceland due to Vigdis Finnbogadottir, the former head of the State.I am an avid fan of Iceland and its people.

    - Deep

    Comment by Deep Basu — August 13, 2006 @ 9:59 am

  45. Hello world

    Comment by Feed — November 21, 2006 @ 2:37 am

  46. Thank you Veena for these inspiring writings on my country! It makes me fall in love with it again! (Despite the current dark period of the year and the snowblizzard outside - or because of it?)
    Hlin Helga, Reykjavik, Iceland

    Comment by Hlin Helga — January 11, 2007 @ 1:48 pm

  47. Hi Veena and Indira,

    Awesome pictures and excellent blog. Your description of the place reminds me of Chilean Patagonia with its Andes range.

    Can you please put out an Iceland itinerary, even if brief, or even better email me one to ganeshd at gmail.com? I’m planning on a trip to Iceland for about 9-10 days soon and any itinerary, must visit places, etc. will be highly appreciated.

    I can exchange a complete customized itinerary to interior Chile or Utah complete with back country 4WD trails with you, if you’d like, in return.

    Cheers,
    Ganesh.

    Comment by Ganesh Davuluri — March 21, 2007 @ 11:46 am

  48. Above post continued

    Meanwhile, please check out my photo blogs from Chile and Utah at my sulekha homepage referenced/linked by my name below.

    Cheers,
    Ganesh.

    Comment by Ganesh Davuluri — March 21, 2007 @ 11:48 am

  49. I will be visiting Iceland again with my family. I bet it has changed a lot since my last visit in 1991.

    I hope to see some indians when i come

    Balram

    Comment by balram — March 27, 2007 @ 10:04 am

  50. I am a writer frm India, visiting my icelandic friends . would love to know and meet indians staying there.. can u help ???

    Comment by swati — April 9, 2007 @ 1:27 pm

  51. Yes its Gods country, wow! especially enjoyed fishing for lake trout. one thing honesty does compell me to admit, GOAN INDIAN CUISINE at indian mango. a real treat was the duck course and guillemott done indian way with garam masala and lemon guice was worth it, never tasted any thing like it before, gracious host as well. DESSERTS were superbly presented and tasted… mouth watering. May there spring up more indian mango restaurants globably. fairly priced too.

    Comment by dev sharma — June 21, 2007 @ 6:20 pm

  52. Hey,thanks to Veena and Indira, Iceland seems to be thee destination for all nature-lovers. I wish to visit Iceland, hopefully soon and explore it as much as you did. Iceland,is a beautiful country with the right mixture of untouched nature and pradise on earth. Absolutely mermerising.Cheers!!!!!

    Comment by Rashmi — July 15, 2007 @ 10:09 am

  53. Hi, what is the scope of fashion in Iceland?? Just curious, is there any fashion house/company in the country? I would be happy if you could help me out with this.

    Comment by Rashmi — July 15, 2007 @ 10:11 am

  54. Dear Veena,
    I will be visiting iceland in june and was extensively searching for information about the country when i came across this blog..thank u sooo much for the insight..cant wait to go to iceland now and discover the place for myself…

    Comment by gargi — April 30, 2008 @ 10:41 pm

  55. Dear Veena,
    I am Ramesh from Maharashtra India. I will in iceland in September this year for 2.5 years. Your article about icelnd is very very nice. Can you please write me contact details (E-mail etc.) of indians in Iceland? will be very much helpful for me.
    Thanks.
    Ramesh

    Comment by Ramesh — September 17, 2008 @ 10:48 pm

  56. Hi veena,

    really iceland is very beautiful…. even i read in vijaya karnataka news paper about Iceland and Kannadathi Mrs. Chandrika.

    Could assist me with yur and Mrs. Chandrika G Gunnarsson’s e mail id please…..

    Comment by Siddaraju — March 18, 2009 @ 5:19 pm

  57. Hi Veena,

    Lovely photos. You might want to mention that photographing of storefront windows by tourists often is prohibited in Reykjavik and even smaller outlying towns. Our friend had to hand over his camera to delete photos. Book carefully. Expense of hotels, food, car rental in Iceland often the highest in Europe.

    Comment by Prasad — November 5, 2010 @ 12:59 am

  58. Ever since I was a teenager I have always wanted to go to Iceland and Greenland, somehow (seen a lot of the world) but did not get a chance to go to either places yet. I have been reading a lot about Iceland lately and then I came upon this blog by Veena P. What an infomative article, and of course lovely pictures to go with it. I’m planning to go mid April or in July when the days a are long, and I will take Veena’s article as a reference. Thanks.

    Comment by veena — January 17, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

  59. Wonderful………

    Comment by manosha — September 23, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

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