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Putrid skate for beginners

So EPI’s brother and sister-in-law have invited us to a putrid skate party tomorrow.

Putrid skate parties are without a doubt one of the more bizarre Icelandic traditions. Every year on December 23, Icelanders get together and eat skate [as in fish] that has been sitting in a closed container and allowed to ferment for about a month. By that time it has a smell that will totally clear your sinuses from about a mile away, and which smells remarkably like cat piss [it’s the ammonia].

Predictably, not everyone is partial to this tradition, and not everybody can handle the smell. It’s kind of a macho thing… EPI has for years now [more years than he’s known YT] met up with a group of his buddies every year on Dec. 23 to eat putrid skate for lunch. Normally they go to a restaurant, but last year and the year before, one of the group got permission from his wife to cook and eat the skate at home, although he was relegated to the garage. This is not uncommon, incidentally. You will frequently see people outside of normal human premises on this day, cooking up something that smells really extraordinarily foul.

Part of the fun [and the only way some people can possibly imbibe the stuff] is to drink some ice-cold schnapps with it. Aquavit [Danish liquor, 42% proof] is popular, as is our very own Icelandic brennivín [a.k.a. Black Death]. This can be risky, however, as some of EPI’s pals have discovered in the past as they’ve dragged their butts home around dinnertime to some very irate womenfolk waiting.

YT only had her first proper skate-eating experience last year, and while the food was not exactly my idea of haute cuisine, the party was a riot. And shall be repeated tomorrow. Yo.

SO WHAT LITTLE YULE LAD DO WE HAVE TODAY?
We have the one and only Gáttaþefur – Doorway Sniffer. He of the huge nose that he used for sniffing around in people’s doorways. It is reported that he could detect the smell of laufabrauð frying all the way up in his cave. Eat yer heart out, Pinocchio!

WEATHER
Gorgeous today – cool and clear and calm. don’t think I’ve ever been so relaxed on this day for years… don’t know what it is, maybe I’m finally getting the hang of this enjoy-the-advent thing. Even managed a run this afternoon while the sun was still out [although it was so low in the sky that I ran in permanent shadow]. Temps at the moment are right at the freezing mark, 0°C – sunrise was at 11.22 and sunset at 15.31 – which means the day was longer than yesterday BY ONE MINUTE, Whoo-hoo!!

ps – for more on the putrid skate experience, the city of Reykjavík has very kindly provided a full rundown here.

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