When I tried out for The Amazing Race (an experience I will blog about eventually) I made it a point to mention that I have a stomach of steel and therefore would be able to finish a food challenge with little hesitation, assuming that on some leg of the race they would pull a Fear Factor and have us eating live spiders or bull testicles. That brilliant personal marketing didn’t get me onto the show, but I think I found another way to prove to television producers — nay, the world! — that I can literally eat anything without calling for a barf bucket. All I have to do is get to Iceland by tomorrow and partake in the feast of Thorrablot.
Thorrablot is a lot like other feasts and festivals from around the world: people come together with their loved ones to eat a lot, drink a lot, and then dance around until the food coma overpowers the alcoholic stamina. The main difference, however, is that only Icelanders and people who are out of their damn minds would ever consider eating this food. Common Thorrablot fare includes boiled sheep’s head, blood sausage with a ram’s stomach as casing, and an interesting little dish called hakarl (pictured above) which consists of putrefied shark meat that smells like pee:
So why do the people of Iceland eat this stuff, let alone spend a whole day celebrating it? It’s mostly an effort to keep Icelandic traditions alive. The notion of a midwinter feast has roots in Icelandic paganism, and Thorrablot is a way to celebrate that history even though it was largely wiped out after the Christianization of the island. The unusual dishes served add to this idea of preservation, as they are all locally produced delicacies that form a part of Iceland’s cultural identity.
This year Thorrablot falls on February 25, which is tomorrow. Unfortunately, that means I won’t be able to partake in the festivities or videotape myself hoovering hakarl for my second Amazing Race audition tape. But if you’ve looked over my life list of travel goals you know that one of my dream destinations is Iceland, so mark my words, I will one day eat the rotting flesh of a shark.