Grace under Fire… and Ice


The price of the pepperoni special went up at Eldsmidjan pizzeria around the corner from our house, and our household income is only going down. Sacrifices were made. Flour was purchased.

We’ve started baking our own pizzas, among other cost-cutting measures (braving the elements instead of driving, getting a Skype account to phone home, handicrafted Christmas presents all around). It’s nice. We do it once or twice a week and the ingredients don’t cost so much because we use Icelandic flour, Icelandic pepperoni, Icelandic mushrooms and Icelandic cheese.

But an interesting thing happens when pizza-consumption is put under duress. You discover things about one another you never would have known otherwise. For example, I realized quickly that notions of pizza-topping propriety were different when I got to Europe. This became blatantly obvious my second night in Reykjavík when I split a pizza with a Danish friend and on her half of the pizza she ordered—with a perfectly straight face—tuna and corn.

But little did I know that my boyfriend and I had such intrinsically differing ideas about what belongs on the sacred surface of the pizza pie. That was, until the economy imploded. That’s when he started making this…

I give you the Gísli Rúnar Special. What are those green and black splotches, you might be asking yourself? Are those smudges on your lens? Dust in the air? No. The GRS is made of the following: homemade whole-wheat crust, seasoned marinara sauce, Icelandic pepperoni, and… wait for it… prunes and capers.

He loves the GRS. He eats it up and then licks his fingers. Experimentation has also been underway with variations on the GRS including mango chutney, BBQ sauce, whole cloves of garlic and Cajun powder. I have tried to suppress my horror as he—well some might use the word—defiles the top of a good pizza. But in these uncertain times I have come around to his way of thinking. If necessity is the mother of invention, then this country is full of proud parents.

Take the idea that I got in my e-mail from someone at Gogogic. The proposal was that the state buy 200,000 roundtrip tickets to Iceland at cost. These airline tickets would then be given to people abroad who want to visit Iceland as tourists in the winter months, a time when planes regularly fly far below capacity anyway. The visitors would have to book a hotel here and stay for at least five days, but the airfare would be free for them.

The proposal figures that a 5-day trip to Iceland generates about ISK 150,000, which, with 200,000 seats, injects a healthy dose of ISK 30,000,000,000 of foreign money directly into the economy. Although there are clearly other factors that would have to be considered, it’s this kind of prune-and-caper thinking that moves us forward.

Others are sidestepping the economy entirely to keep their heads afloat. Certain businesses that rely on imports from the UK, like stinky cheese sellers, have been teaming up with fishing companies who export to the UK in an effort to circumvent the need for foreign exchange into and out of Iceland, which has been practically frozen after Gordon Brown’s government labeled Iceland as terrorists.

The fishing exporters can’t get paid in Iceland from their clients in the UK, so they pool their British currency in a British bank account. As long as Gordon Brown doesn’t brand fishing operations as terrorism and freeze these accounts, the fishing exporters can use the British currency to help the Icelandic importers buy their stock, like Stilton or Red Leicester, from UK suppliers. In turn, the Icelandic importers, who are blocked from buying their stock directly from the UK, turn over a portion of their cash to the fishing exporter, and the companies are able to survive and carry on their evil terrorist activities—fishing and selling stinky cheese. Both of which I expect to see on the Gísli Rúnar Special any day now.

Adversity? Bring it on. We’ll put it on a pizza and eat it cold for breakfast.

JM – [email protected]

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.