Meals and Customs in Iceland
The normally reserved, independent, and industrious Icelanders become talkative, gregarious, and even humorous after a few drinks. But it should be noted that the usual alcoholic beverages are confined to meals and most especially to evening gatherings in homes or nightclubs. Morning breaks are not the rule, but an afternoon coffee break with bread and butter and several cakes and cookies is enjoyed. Snacking and street vendors are not as much a part of Icelandic life, but coffee shops are as popular here as anywhere else.
Mornings begin with a breakfast of oatmeal porridge, bread and butter, milk and coffee. Lunch is usually a hot meal of meat or fish with potatoes, followed by a sweet fruit soup and a glass of cold milk. From about 2:30 to 4:00 p.m. most Icelanders will be enjoying their coffee with open-face sandwiches or bread and butter, and/or a variety of layer cakes, tortes, quick breads, and cookies. At 7:00 p.m. the family enjoys either another hot meal based on meat or fish and similar to the noon meal, or sliced meats and cheeses may be enjoyed as open-face sandwiches with rye and wheat breads. Skyr will be the usual dessert eaten with a sugar topping or sugar and cream. The day would not be complete without an evening coffee and pastries around 9:30 p.m. If there are guests, the evening will not be concluded until all have enjoyed coffee, though probably much later than 9:30 p.m.
Icelanders are casual about meal service, preferring to place food on the table and allow diners to help themselves. Bread and butter is part of every meal. Given the country’s lack of vegetation, it is understandable that Icelanders have a great love for flowers and these are a part of the table setting whenever possible. Preferring to talk in separate groups, men and women disperse after the meal, it still being considered “odd” or “forward” if women join in men’s conversations.
Foods Commonly Used in Iceland
Iceland cuisine revolves around the plentiful sea harvest supplemented by dairy products, wholegrain and white breads, and potatoes. Vegetables and fruits are often scarce and expensive, but canned products and the produce from local greenhouses, which include bananas, grapes, and tomatoes, are helping to increase the variety.
Vitamin supplements are widely used to help make up for the lack of greens and fruits. Lamb, the favored meat, is prepared in unusual ways. The traditional Scandinavian cold buffet and love of coffee together form the traditional ways of entertaining: buffet and coffee parties are common.