Yesterday we celebrated St. Thorlakur's Day, the day we call Žorlįksmessa, St. Thorlaks mass. The main custom associated with Žorlįksmessa, at least nowadays, is the partaking of a simple meal of skate. This custom, which originated in the West Fjords, has become traditional all over Iceland. The skate must be hung for some time, until "kęst" or ripe, before cooking. Over the years I have strongly refused to put that kind of a "food" into my mouth but yesterday we were invited to my brother's home to have a skate and now I gave in. Oh boy - how I regret all those years of stubborness! This strongly "fermented" fish is a delicacy. Nothing less. So my advise: Don't refuse any food except you have at least tasted it first.
Tonight we are having as dinner the Rjśpa or rock ptarmigan, which once upon a time started out as the poor man's dinner but is now an expensive meal along with reindeer. It was so much sought after, that the last four years the bird was protected by law.
Another Yuletide specialty is Laufabrauš or leaf bread. This is very thin sheets of dough cut into intricate patterns and fried. Interesting to make and a delicasy to eat, e.g. with hangikjöt or smoked mutton - another Icelandic traditional Yule food through centuries. Leafbread, evolved in poverty, when wheat was a rarity except among the rich. The practical housewives flattened the dough into thin circles, like pancakes. The cake was then artistically carved by the family, gathered for making the leafbread for Christmas. The carving was to make up for the poor dough quality. Thus, the carved Leafbread reflects the unique economy, folk art and the culinary culture in Iceland.