For the Love of Local (ESA)

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Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir's picture

U.K. Channel 4’s Ottolenghi’s Mediterraniean Feast has been running on Icelandic television, where London-based Israeli-born writer and chef Yotam Ottolenghi travels the southern and eastern Mediterranean to learn about the food traditions in these countries. So far I’ve seen Tunisia and Israel and I absolutely want to go there and try all the delicious dishes featured on the show.

Before I continue talking about food, let me just get this off my chest: the Middle Eastern nations, especially in the Mediterranean countries, share so much: the climate, food traditions, lingual origins, religious origins…

The politics surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict may be complex, but will fighting really solve anything?

Violence will continue to breed violence and hatred, the blood feud will continue forever. In history, even recent history, neighboring countries have been at war but eventually learned to love each other.

Enough is enough. A U.N. school… seriously? Where are innocent people supposed to run to?

On to more pleasant things…

My countrymen are often quick to jump on a high horse when it comes to Icelandic food—and everything Icelandic for that matter—saying it’s the ‘best in the world’ without having tried all the food in the world.

I’ve heard people say that about greenhouse-grown Icelandic tomatoes, for example. They are good, especially piccolo tomatoes from Friðheimar. I buy them all the time because they’re fresh and local and far superior to the imported tomatoes available in Iceland. The ones I’ve tried taste watery and not fresh at all.

I totally support buying local, which is also why when I’m out traveling, I buy the food that originates in the country where I’m at, and have discovered that tomatoes grown in the Mediterranean sun make Icelandic tomatoes seem tasteless in comparison.

Nothing can replace food grown under natural circumstances.

I’ve also come to discover that even though more and more varieties of tomatoes are becoming available in Iceland, the diversity is endless. I’d heard of exotic things like yellow and green tomatoes, but while in Sweden last month, I found brown ‘chocolate’ tomatoes. Amazing.

There’s so much in the world of food that I have yet to discover and one day I’m going to eat my way around the world, for sure.

Meanwhile, I will do my best to support local producers in Iceland, as well as enjoying what Icelandic nature has to offer.

Wild bilberries from North Iceland, especially after the summer that they’ve had, juicy little, taste explosions, may actually be the best in the world—but I’ll have to try them all before making that statement.

Fresh wild berries with Icelandic skyr and cream is unbeatable.

On that note, Icelandic dairy products really are good. I find myself missing them—and the Icelandic water—whenever I’ve lived abroad for a while. And Icelandic lamb, as well as fresh fish with new potatoes and butter.

Love your local food. Apart from the fact that food usually tastes best eaten in the environment in which it is grown, food traditions say so much about the people and country where they originate.

If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and all the world’s nations could join together in one big feast with a buffet comprised of all the different traditional dishes, I’m sure we could all learn to love each other.

Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir – eyglo@icelandreview.com

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