Foreign Cuisine

Brief Encounters: Tales of Everday Life, Jul/Aug. 2012

Columns | Vienna Review | July / August 2012

On a recent Friday night, I found myself at a soirée of Icelanders. And much to my delight, I spotted a buffet, covered with a smorgasbord of exotic Icelandic dishes.

"Go ahead," the waitress encouraged me, "They serve dried shark meat and mutton testicles." Don’t be a loser, I told myself, just try it! Approaching the buffet, I considered, but, well, I just couldn’t do it. Better to start with something other than dried animals.

Scanning the table, my eyes fell on a big glass bowl filled with white cubes delicately resting on ice. In the dim light, it looked like feta cheese. I was curious and asked a blond fellow next ot me what exotic Icelandic delicacy it might be.

Despite the language barrier, he managed to make it clear that we were dealing with a milk product here. "Cheese?" I suggested. "No, it’s not cheese." he replied and handed me a piece of this surprisingly greasy substance. As I guided it to my mouth, he started, almost shouting: "No! Not to much of it!" Too late. I already had.

My jaw muscles clenched in shock, suddenly realising what I had just taken a massive bite of. "Oh you meant ‘butter’ didn’t you?" I sighed.

"Yes!" he smiled triumphantly "Butter! That’s the word! ...And we usually eat it with bread too," he added, kindly offering me a slice.

Johanna Sebauer

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