Sunday, July 1, 2012

Xan: Iceland and England (Part 2)

If I didn't say so already, Iceland was pretty awesome. Somehow no one in America knows this, although it's just a 5-hour flight from New York. But we here at Vongsafood, we know it, because somehow a majority of us have been to Iceland.  Let's face it, economic collapse is good for tourism, and Icelandair has great package deals if you'd like to stop by on your way to Europe.

I'll tell you about some of the more interesting sights we saw, but first we have to get there.  Our story begins as so many of our days began: with a long drive out of Reykjavik, broken up by both planned and unplanned stops.  You have to understand that in Iceland they drive on the right side of the road, except when they don't.  If, say, there is construction on the right side of the road, your tour van might find its way over to the left.  And then a steamroller might suddenly decide to reverse into you without looking.  Hypothetically speaking, this is something that could happen.

Here's what it might look like, if it did happen:

Artist's rendition of a hypothetical Icelandic steamroller, thoughtfully entitled, "Before and After"

This piece is entitled, "Van with Crumple Zone Leaks Radiator Fluids"
And then you would probably have to wait, like, a couple hours for another van to come pick you up.  Or something like that.

If this happened an hour into your first tour on your first day in Iceland, you would probably be like, "Jam Doughnut, I really wish that guy had looked over his shoulder!  You gotta be careful with those things!"  Well, if wishes were horses...

Wait!  Horses!  Icelandic horses!

There are friendly horses everywhere in Iceland, and they are always happy to come over and say hello to stranded travelers.  They like to be hand-fed the exact same grass they are already eating, and also they will let you pet their soft noses.

They did bring the flies, but Catherine improvised a fly mask. 
Apparently these horses were brought over from Mongolia long ago -- as you can see they are short and stocky -- and the population has remained unadulterated since then.  Iceland has strict rules about importing horses, and even an Icelandic horse is not allowed back in once it leaves.

What could be better than a few friendly horses to kill an hour?  More horses! All of a sudden, a hundred horses came stampeding down the road, kicking up dust and shaking the ground beneath our feet in a serious way.

They were being herded by a sheepdog and a handful of riders on horseback.

So, yeah, that was pretty cool.

Speaking of livestock, Iceland also has a lot of sheep.  It probably isn't much of an exaggeration to say there are sheep within sight of the road most of the time.  And at this time of year, many of them are cute fluffy lammykins.

A black sheep!

If you have to be a sheep, Iceland is a great place to be.  They roam free all year until the fall, at which time they are rounded up and sorted back to their owners.  As a result, Icelandic lamb has a reputation as the ultimate freerange lamb.

Lamb shanks!

I was very excited to try the lamb boat (Pinnabatur) from Hlolla Batar, and it did not disappoint:

Note the fried onions!

Look how much lamb there is!
As a matter of fact I went back a second time.  It was right in the city center.

I also bought some lamb at the grocery store.  Most of the lamb was marinated in some sort of orange mixture, so I figured I should try that.  Bounty from the Bonus supermarket:

These fried dried onions are delicious and ubiquitous in Iceland. Needless to say, I smuggled a few bags home.

Gratuitous fried onions!

The ingredients were in Icelandic, but paprika accounts for the color.  In any case, we enjoyed it!  But I don't know how much of that was the lamb versus the marinade.  Maybe someone else can tell the quality of the lamb under all these spices; I myself do not claim such a discerning palate.  I just like lamb, okay?  I care a lot more about the simple fact that lamb was so abundant than the supposed quality difference.  In fact, there was more lamb at the airport than at my home grocery store.  For real!  Even though that makes no sense!

Am I missing something?  Seriously, why would you buy meat at an airport?

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