Walking along a boardwalk on the shore of Lake Þingvallavatn in Iceland, the ground bubbled on either side of me. My nose wrinkled at the smell of sulphur. The steam spewing from the earth fogged my glasses and camera lens. I walked carefully but quickly, following an elfish-looking fellow carrying a shovel. He didn’t speak, nor did I.
It sounds like a set up for a creepy horror flick, but the outcome here was not at all creepy – totally delicious.
Baking Bread Underground in Iceland
Our journey along the lake stopped at a black sand beach where the elf-like guy began digging. Soon he hit a metal pot, covered in your basic kitchen plastic wrap. Carrying it in his shovel, our elf dipped the pot into the cool lake. Then he grabbed the pot by the handles and carried it into a nearby building.
Dumping the steaming contents onto a cutting board, the elf’s nose and face crinkled pleasantly as did mine. We were about to experience freshly-baked Geysir Bread, one of the many culinary treats of Iceland.
Geysir Bread is basically a rye bread recipe placed in a simple aluminum pot and then buried about two feet under ground for 24 hours. At about 100° C or 212° F, the bread bakes slowly, creating a rich, molasses-like crust from the sugars. Slather that with some butter made from Iceland’s genetically pure sheep, and you have a delicious treat that is worth a journey to this land of fire and ice in the middle of the North Atlantic. Oh yummm.
Iceland’s Natural Geothermal Ovens
Yes, the geothermal conditions found throughout much of Iceland, the same energy that heats their homes, their water and provides other energy, also bakes their bread. Despite a rather short growing season, Icelanders enjoy a number of fresh fruits and vegetables all year long. Their hot houses are naturally heated by the earth.
We ate a fair amount of fresh cod, some just minutes from being pulled out of the water. Lamb is also served in generous portions in Iceland.
I did NOT eat rotten shark meat, which is considered a delicacy, and I cannot recommend that you eat whale meat, found on many restaurant menus. Although Icelanders do, the fin whales are an endangered species in these waters.
Otherwise, I found the food in Iceland to be quite delicious, seasoned with generous portions of black sand salt and other herbs and spices. But nothing, nothing compares to baked bread, freshly dug from the bubbling earth.