I just finished a bowl of delicious rice pudding with sugar and cinnamon and... blood pudding. Sound gross? Well, it’s actually really yummy. Especially because it’s homemade.
For those of you who missed my “Bloody Mess” column last year, I’m a devoted fan of slátur.
Slátur (literally: “slaughter”) is the collective phrase for blood and liver pudding from sheep, blódmör and lifrapylsa in Icelandic.
The slátur season stretches from mid-September to the end of October each year, during which people can buy slátur packages at specialized slátur markets, for example in Hagkaup in the Skeifan shopping district in Reykjavík.
Each package contains the heads, hearts, livers, kidneys, diaphragms, stomachs, blood and fat from three sheep and costs around ISK 4,000 (USD 32, EUR 20).
It’s sufficient for at least ten meals: blood and liver pudding, heart goulash, diaphragm soup and delicious svidasulta, sheep’s head jelly.
You can also make hamsatólg, melted fat, from what doesn’t go into the slátur, traditionally used to compliment boiled fish.
Include ISK 1,000 (USD 8, EUR 5) for the cost of remaining ingredients: oatmeal, rye flour, regular flour, milk, salt and stock cubes, thread to sew the stomachs shut and freezing bags for storage purposes, and of course potatoes and yellow turnips to accompany the first slátur meal.
Then you’ll get one nutritious meal for an entire family for around ISK 500 (USD 4, EUR 2.5). Not bad during these dire times when food prices continue to rise as salaries drop and taxes increase.
My point is this: apart from the fact that slátur is good and healthy (in moderation, though, it’s high in fat), it’s cheap and that’s why it has become such a hit.
However, I’m also noticing a different development. People my age (people in their twenties and thirties)—who for some reason go by the name of krúttkynslódin, the “cute” or “cuddly generation”—are rediscovering slátur, it seems, along with other renounced Icelandic traditions.
While their parents gave up slátur and other simple Icelandic dishes in exchange for hamburgers, pasta, pizza, lasagna, tikka masala, fajitas and egg noodles, in keeping with the influx of international food trends and are satisfied with their choice, people my age bring back memories from the family affair of slátur-making from their childhood and feel nostalgic.
So they ask their grandmothers to dig out those old, crumpled and bloodstained slátur recipes and to teach them how to make blood and liver pudding from scratch.
Perhaps they found slátur clubs with their friends, like I did, and decide to get together every fall from now on to make these delicacies—not only because it’s cheap and healthy but also because it’s a valuable piece of our culinary history and food culture.
Nothing tastes as good as freshly-made blood and liver pudding with boiled potatoes and yellow turnips, perhaps complimented with some red currant jelly and white béchamel sauce, after a day’s work of sewing, chopping, mixing, stuffing and some more sewing.
Click here to watch an audio slideshow on the making of slátur.
Krúttkynslódin is dissatisfied with this label, which indicates that they are carefree and silly, don’t know about hard work and spend their days listening to music and chatting in cafés, mindlessly following the latest trends.
While some members of this generation, who wear skinny jeans tucked into their socks, oversized sweaters and huge glasses despite their sight being perfect (which can make even the prettiest face look dorky), may appear silly, the majority seems quite sensible.
They follow trends, yes, but they also look back, eager to preserve Icelandic cultural values. They are creative in that they take traditions and turn them into something new, in other words, make Icelandic culture trendy and export it to other cultures.
Have you, for example, heard of krummi clothes hangers dedicated to ravens which have a strong presence in Icelandic folklore? Seal pelt blankets inspired by the myth that seals are condemned humans? Or Völuskrín toys, shaped like sheep bones, which Icelandic children used to play farm with when no other toys were to be had? (For more Icelandic design, visit birkiland.com.)
Or have you ever heard of the new Icelandic casual massively multiplayer online game Vikings of Thule, which is currently in open Beta testing?
Inspired by the Settlement of Iceland in 874 AD and the legend that the country is protected by four land wights, the dragon, the eagle, the bull and the giant, players can become settlers themselves. The objective is to become one of the 39 authorities (godar), who rule the land and hold a vote in its parliament, Althingi.
We are proud of who we are, proud of being Icelandic, yet open to other cultures, eager to travel the world and learn new languages and become members of the global community. Then we return to Iceland with what we’ve studied so that the Icelandic nation as a whole can benefit from it.
Lasagna tastes great—we’ve learned that from our parents—sushi is exquisite and tandoori chicken a delight. But that doesn’t mean we can never have good old blood and liver pudding and boiled cod with hamsatólg.
We are Iceland’s future and I have faith in us. One blood pudding at a time, the new slátur generation will make things right.
Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir – [email protected]