Iceland is an amazing country with some of the most stunning landscapes that I have ever seen. They also have an interesting food culture, including delicious waffles, geothermally grown tomatoes, and fermented shark. Believe it or not, whale and puffin are not on the list of foods that are commonly eaten by Icelanders, but are those that are consumed by tourists.
My travel tip here is, eat like a local not like a tourist. Tourism has increased substantially in Iceland and tourists are demanding puffin and whale meat as something exciting and novel to eat. However, Icelanders generally do not consume these animals. Tourist consumption of them is highly unsustainable because Iceland has a high influx of tourism compared to the local population of 332,753. If only Icelanders were to eat whale and puffin meat then it would not have such effects on the sustainability of these animals but this is not the case. And like I have mentioned earlier these are not animals that are normally consumed by Icelanders anyway. Yet tourism is booming and the prospect of eating whale is something that seems exciting. It’s not exciting. It’s sad that tourists just want to try whale meat or puffin just to try it and do not realize the detrimental effects they are having on these magnificent animals. Further, tourists probably do not actually enjoy eating it, but find it be a novelty and an experience. How about instead of eating these animals, that are facing hardships enough from environmental degradation, how about meeting them? Taking a whale watching tour must be a truly awe inspiring experience. Viewing puffins diving into the sea and nesting with their young would be another fantastic sight. These are some hardy birds that can dive 60 meters deep into the sea and mate for life, but they are facing habitat loss and their numbers are diminishing.
Also for this trip, my boyfriend was gifted the Lonely Planet guide for his birthday. In the guide they even have a disclaimer about not eating whale or puffin. That’s pretty cool. Instead, they offer you loads of authentic choices. Even the smallest Icelandic town comes with a list of local eateries which you can visit.
Okay so what should you eat then? Well head to a restaurant in Reykjavik owned by a local, cooking locally produced and caught food in the best way possible at Resto. Enjoy a coffee and some waffles from the retro cafe, Mokka Kaffi, where the decor hasn’t changed since the day it opened in the 50’s. Or head out to a greenhouse to get some truly locally produced food. You could even try a local specialty like fermented skate. However, I highly recommend sharing it because it is not easy to get down and don’t ask how it is made until you are finished with your meal (pictured below). The options are endless and do not have to include whale or puffin in order for you to have an unforgettable culinary experience! Tourism has gone a long way in helping Iceland repair from its financial nightmare, caused by the greedy pockets of their bankers. Let’s make sure it’s not our greedy mouths that bankrupt Iceland of its rich natural culture. Eat local, eat fresh, eat Icelandic.