Anyone for pony stew?

Posted August 24, 2011

Anyone for pony stew?

Food shopping in Iceland is full of surprises. There are all sorts of horrors lurking in those deep freezers!

I’m not in a branch of England’s favourite frozen food emporium. I’m in Hellnar on the Snaefellsnes peninsula which is about a two hours’ drive from Reykjavik. The setting is extraordinary. If I look left through my window I can see the sun glinting off the snow-capped mountain top of the Snæfellsjökull glacier. To my right is the Atlantic Ocean; if I were to set sail from here and head directly south, the first land mass I’d reach would be Antarctica. Yes, it’s a pretty remote spot!

Which is why you can’t just nip to the corner shop for a loaf of bread. All food shopping must be executed with military precision. After all, you don’t want to return from a 30 kilometre round trip to discover that you’ve forgotten a pint of semi-skimmed.

So I made a list of exactly what I’d need to cover my meals for the next five days. This included lamb (I fancied a nice stew.) And that’s when things got tricky because, despite my excellent planning, I hadn’t factored in that all the food names would be in Icelandic.

After much ferreting around in the meat section of the Bonus supermarket I eventually selected what looked like a prime piece of neck of lamb. As I examined the writing on the packaging for some tell-tale clues, a fellow shopper approached me and asked if I needed any help. She tactfully informed me that I’d chosen pony meat.  Just the day before I’d commented that there were a lot of Icelandic ponies roaming about and wondered what on earth they did with all of them. Now I know!

I headed to the frozen food section thinking that I’d find more familiar produce there. I picked up a frozen lamb shank. At least I thought it was. Closer inspection revealed that it was a perfectly bisected sheep’s head. I yelped and dropped it straight back into the freezer. Aha, here’s something I definitely recognise - tenderloin of pork. Turns out it was reindeer meat. Rudolph for dinner – would Santa ever forgive me?? No!!!

Despite my shell shock I eventually gathered together enough palatable ingredients to see me through the next few days. But as I was leaving the supermarket I spotted a couple of French female tourists. They were both rooted to the spot with a look of abject horror on their faces. One of the women was triumphantly brandishing a packet of ham; it appeared to be their sole purchase. I’m guessing that they had decided to skip the cheese counter – it only stocked slices of Gouda. “Et pour boisson?” she asked her friend whilst desperately scanning the shelves for anything that resembled a bottle of Merlot.

I really should have tapped her on the shoulder and told her that if she was looking for du vin she certainly wouldn’t find it here. The Vinbud (off licence) is located at the back of the DIY store further along the street. Why???

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