Shark for dinner


“There’s no way I’m eating rotten food.”

“But it’s an Icelandic delicacy. And you do always say how you only eat brown food when I serve you vegetables…”

“I meant steak and chips. Haven’t you read any of the reviews? People are saying it tastes like ammonia.”

“I’ve never tasted ammonia. Isn’t travel supposed to be about new experiences?”

We had reached Bjarnarhöfn’s shark museum, a little-known attraction on the Snćfellsnes peninsula. Our host, Guđjón, told us that his family had been processing hákarl, or Greenland shark, for over 400 years. It was carved into chunks at the farm and packed into boxes where it was left for several months to slowly rot.

“We can only do this in winter,” Guđjón said. “In summer it would go off.”

I thought to myself that “going off” was supposed to happen if food had rotted, but decided it was best to conceal my ignorance.

The chunks of meat were hung in a drying house a little way up the hill. Guđjón explained that the shark contained high levels of urea and trymethylamine oxide, unfit for human consumption when fresh. However, if the urea slowly dripped out then it was safe. I noticed he didn’t say tasty.

Leading us back to the museum like lambs to the slaughter, Guđjón pointed to a table laid with cubes of brown meat on cocktail sticks.

“Anyone hungry?” he grinned.

I decided to go first and popped a cube into my mouth. On ‘The F Word’, Gordon Ramsay had got this far before spitting it out with his customary expletives. I’d read that the smell was worse than the taste and this didn’t smell too bad. It had the taste and consistency of a chunk of parmesan that had found its way to the back of the fridge and gone hard.

Guđjón and I turned to Mr Fussy.

“Are you going to try it?”

The tension was palpable. We held our breath. He lifted a cube to his nose and sniffed delicately. And then – in it went and stayed down. Guđjón smiled.

Gordon Ramsay, you’re a fraud.

J.Hammond.

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