I recently discovered an intriguing BBC report on Iceland. The report is about how the financial crisis has affected the food that Icelanders eat, but instead of turning to cheap fast food or low-cost-low-quality grocery shelves, they have turned back in time. This story provides a fascinating look into our relationship with food.
As an island, food imports are quite expensive, so Iceland has turned to home-grown goods, much of which means dishes that adults remember from their grandparents, dishes from Iceland’s history. In the report they talk about how the nutrition of the food is high (and it sure sounds hearty), and how buying “Icelandic” has become trendy. The report also highlights some of the cons of what returning to tradition means as it addresses international whaling concerns, and finally highlights the harnessing of the island’s natural resources to grow fruits and vegetables in greenhouses.
Personally, as the great-granddaughter of Nordic immigrants, I began to think of the food that I ate growing up, including recipes passed down from generations. Meat and potatoes are still a staple at my parents house, and with farms a few miles down the road offering organic beef and local potatoes, the cost of transport and sale is much lower – making me think about how simple, hearty, traditional dishes can be both better for the environment and cheaper to consume at the same time. When I think about other recipes of tradition, particularly scrumptious baked goods, I also realize how simple their ingredients can be. Perhaps Iceland’s return to traditional foods could serve as a little wake up call for the rest of us.
What fruits, vegetables, meats or grains are local to you? What are traditional dishes in your part of the country? As we begin to come out of this financial crisis, let us not forget its lessons…even if we learn them from half a world away.