cucinanicolina

More on Cooking Abroad

12 February 2006

I am currently in Iceland, where things seem to be nearly 3x as expensive as in the States. Of its 300,000 inhabitants, over half live in Reykjavik — where I have been for the past week+ — and I hear waitresses at the coffee shops can make the equivalent of $30 an hour, which may explain the high price of … everything (not to mention that the kroner is so very strong against the dollar at the moment).

But there are so many health food stores! Full of delicious vegetarian foodz and organic rice and beans and other legumes! And free range eggs! (I think?) And soya melk! And … ! What is lacking, though, is good, fresh produce. Oh, there are baskets of apples imported in from Washington State (mealy and bruised and, yes, overpriced) and cucumbers (decent) and bags of spinach (the best of the lot), but it’s not the same. Stuck in winter, I am already dreaming about this summer’s farmers’ markets — and I will be in California, no less, which makes the dream ever sweeter [the Ferry Building! I cannot wait!]. I am longing for those Early Girl tomatoes, sweet and pink and dripping juice down my arms. I could eat those like peaches, I think. And squash that tastes like squash, delicate and thin-skinned, satueed with a little olive oil and basil (basil! the smell of that spicy and dark herb hangs heavy in the air at every market to which I have ever gone) and salt.

Here, a lot of the produce is grown in geothermally heated greenhouses (what genius!) because the land cannot support farming, being as cold and rocky as it is. There seems to be grass enough for the horses, but it is certainly not warm enough, ever, for oranges, or tomatoes, or bananas. And, with my weak dollars clutched tight my hand, I am reluctant to spend a lot on things that may not fully satisfy. So there has been a lot of lentils and pasta and soup and bread and cheese concoctions — delicious in their own ways, but not what I am really craving [which, to be honest, is a big pile of wilted spinach, a mashed sweet potato, a fresh tomato, and a portabello mushroom. I don’t know quite why, but that is what I want right now.] Still, we’ve managed to find Bonus (the pig!), described as the working-man’s grocery store (oh! the faux gourmet-ity of it all!), but which is almost affordable for we Americans. I call it Safeway (in DC, that is) quality at Whole Foods prices. But they stock tofu and vegetarian baked beans so I mustn’t complain too much.

What I do love about this place (besides the horses) is the restaurants that all have at least one veg option (and it is invariably very good), the amazing hot chocolate (with option of soy milk, thanks), and the bread from ‘our’ little bakery up the street. The water may smell sulphorous but it brews up a nice cup of tea, and when the sun shines and the mist burns away to reveal the mountains across the water it is truly beautiful and strange.

But lest I forget and behave as though I have been starving myself, a few of my favorite meals thus far:

-homemade pita with falafel and sweet potato fries
-potato leek soup, red beans and brown rice
-pasta with lentils, squash, and red sauce
-lentil soup with leeks, spinach, and corn
-cauliflower, potato, and chickpea curry with couscous, spinach salad

So it hasn’t been all bad. I’ve also had a few lovely vegetable quiches out, and cake, and have made a few chocolate cakes myself, though sadly not from scratch. I think it is just that in winter, I always wish for spring. And because this spring will bring with it such change, and such sun and water, I am especially impatient for it.
2/11/2006 8:39:33 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) Comments [1]