On this day, the traditional Icelandic saltkjöt og baunir, salted meat and bean stew, is eaten to celebrate Sprengidagur ('Bursting Day'), which is Iceland’s answer to Shrove Tuesday. The motto is to eat stew until you burst.
Photo: Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir/Iceland Review.
Salted lamb or mutton, saltkjöt, can be bought in most stores the days preceding Bursting Day, easily recognizable by its distinct pink color.
Stores might also sell the other ingredients needed to make this dish in one package. Such a package typically includes onions, yellow turnips, carrots and yellow split peas.
First chop the onions and fry them for a little while. Then peel and chop some potatoes along with the remaining vegetables from the package.
Bring out a large casserole and fill half of it with water. Do not salt the water—the meat is salty enough. Bring to boil and then add the meat, a generous portion of yellow split peas and some whole peppercorns, preferably black.
Let the concoction boil for about a half an hour before adding the remaining ingredients. Then boil for another 20 to 30 minutes.
Take the meat out of the stew, remove the fat and bones and cut the meat into bite-sized pieces. Then put the meat back into the stew and it is ready to be served. Encourage everyone to eat until they burst!
Bursting Day is always celebrated on a Tuesday seven weeks before Easter, this year on February 12. It is a Catholic custom to eat meat on that day because it’s the last chance to do so before fasting.
Salted meat and bean stew has been served on this day in Iceland since the late 19th century. Before that, hangikjöt, smoked lamb, was eaten on Bursting Day.
The Monday before Bursting Day is known as Bun Day, when children spank their parents in exchange for cream puffs, and the following day is known as Ash Wednesday, when children dress up in fancy costumes and sing at stores in exchange for candy.