Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Eating skata (ray) in Iceland

Christmas is indeed a very special time of the year in Iceland. My wife and I had the blessing of having our children visit from India and Canada and we looked forward to giving them an Icelandic Christmas. We began our celebration on the 23rd of December (St Thorlak's Day) by going to one of Reykjavik's finest restaurants to eat one of Iceland's famous delicacies: Skata (i.e. putrified ray). The first challenge was getting used to the dish's "bouquet," an overpowering steamy aroma with strong hints of ammonia. The next challenge was having the intestinal fortitude to introduce a grayish chunk of the ray into one's mouth, chew it, and swallow it. My daughter was the first one to complete the cycle. She sought relief from the experience by chasing the ray with a mouthful of mashed potatoes only to find out that it was laced with skata! We then understood the value of Brennivin as the only effective chaser. We all finished our plates and were happy to have participated in an important Icelandic tradition. I can't say that we became fans of the delicacy, but we talked about it for a couple of days and pledged to do it again next year.