I’ve just returned to Reykjavík from my Easter vacation in my native country Germany. While there, I watched an Iceland-themed TV program called Island Café ein ZDF Experiment (‘Iceland Café, a ZDF Experiment’). ZDF is a German television network.
In each episode four young and ambitious gastronomes take over a restaurant or café somewhere around the world and try to make the most of it. This time, the group chose to go to Sauðárkrókur, a small town in Northeast Iceland with a population of about 2,600.
The principle of the program is “good food opens doors and hearts” which I can totally relate to. The gastronomes cook for the locals and try to get to know the culture by exploring local food habits, which gives the viewers a whole new aspect of Icelandic culture.
Sounds good to me.
The four gastronomes, Philipp, Caroline, Ina and David, ran the small café Kaffi Krókur owned by Kristín Magnúsdóttir. Usually, Kristín only opens the café during the summer months but she was excited to see if the German chefs would attract more guests.
After learning about local food traditions, the team stated: “We now know exactly what Icelanders like to eat: meat and fish.”
Most inhabitants of Sauðárkrókur took great interest in and were excited about the Island Café. Usually, there isn’t much variety in town regarding catering and therefore the café experiment made for a very welcome change.
And indeed, the German café was a raving success, the people of Sauðárkrókur responded very well to their cooking. The only crux was when the Germans organized a vegan day at the café. It made me laugh to see some of the guests pulling a long face when looking at the entirely vegan menu. Icelanders simply love their meat!
Even though I have been living in Iceland for over eight years, I had never really gotten an insight like that into the life of an Icelandic small town and it was very interesting. It was fascinating to observe how enthusiastic the people of Sauðárkrókur are about their town.
I love the idea of getting to know people via cooking and eating and the Island Café is certainly a brilliant idea. Sadly, the episode only covered a tiny bit of traditional Icelandic dishes and ingredients like the usual suspects: dried fish, fermented shark, horse meat, etc.
They could have featured so much more of the delicious Icelandic cuisine, such as hangikjöt (smoked lamb), kjötsúpa (meat soup) and rúgbrauð (rye bread).
But let’s be honest, Iceland and Germany aren’t that different. It’s not like coming to Iceland from Germany or any other Western country will give you a culture shock.
Still, in this case, the motto “good food opens doors and hearts” really worked out.
Katharina Hauptmann – katha.hauptmann(at)gmail.com