Is Iceland’s Fermented Shark Meat Really The Most Disgusting Food In The World?

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Driving around Iceland in winter, you wonder how anyone could have settled such a barren* island before the invention of greenhouses and electricity and reliable international trade. I knew the sun-deprived December landscape would be misleadingly gloomy during my brief visit — they get a concentrated summer full of sun, after all — but Iceland sure doesn’t look like a place conducive to salads and fruit smoothies. (*Fun fact: you wouldn’t know it now, but the island used to be covered in trees. Humans just broke them all, as we do. Currently, however, Iceland is making up for tree genocide by planting more per person than any other country). Clearly, the diet of such a place was always going to consist largely of meat, fish especially. But even off the snowy glaciers and volcanic highlands, the extreme conditions around the island are gonna make fishing excursions in the dark of winter fairly treacherous. Like any culture around the world — those in equally inhospitable climates and those not — early Icelanders developed methods for preserving precious food through hard times. And mostly, that means fermentation.

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