ArticleA Viking Recipe
When the word “recipe” is mentioned, there must be food of some sort - and Icelandic cuisine is a fascinating topic in its own right. It’s not surprising that a nation, living on a barren island in the middle of an ocean, might be somewhat restricted in its choice of food – yet it’s hard to reconcile with the fact that, by the beginning of the 20th century, a whole people had never tasted fruit or vegetables, and even bread would be their Christmas treat! Many generations of Icelanders would live their whole life on fish, meat and dairy products – and manage to stay healthy, at that.
Added to that, quite a few of them lived in huts with earthen floors that looked much more like burrows on the above picture rather than houses, and it will be rather obvious where the Viking phenomenon came from. As previously mentioned above, initially the new settlers had to resort to raiding in order to supply themselves with women but later they could favour the same activity to escape the cold and enjoy more various food. Many did indeed resettle and find new homes around the European continent but the majority must have considered those expeditions but a useful side income, while the island remained Home. They would return there with the loot to facilitate their daily life and increase their prestige among their fellow men. To understand, how crucial prestige was to one’s prosperity and even survival, it is necessary to consider the structure of Icelandic’s early society.
The first settlers came to Iceland from Norway where they were subject to the king and assigned a particular place on the social ladder. The highest authority they could possibly have at the beginning of their new life on the island was their group leader – and there were probably quite a few separate groups landing there at different times. All that implies that one’s social life in Iceland during the early stages of the settlement had been quite spontaneous – and often enough that would spell trouble. At the very least, it was necessary to establish acceptable ways to settle disputes – better yet, to create laws one would have to abide by. To achieve that goal, the group leaders would meet and talk the matters over a period of time. Since there were many of them – and each was accompanied by a retinue of his close followers – such meetings had to be held outside. In a cold country like Iceland, it meant either the late spring or summer time. Given an opportunity, the leaders decided to combine business with pleasure by discussing social issues several hours a day and feasting for the rest of the time. They might have invited everybody else to join them for the latter activities, or the common folk might have done so uninvited – one way or the other, about the whole population of the island would come together for a number of nice summer days. Such a gathering naturally required quite some space – something bigger than a lawn, a grove or a field. Maybe a valley – or even a rift-valley!