Right now, Skriðuklaustur is haunted by a Canadian who spends his days hiking and meditating. Fantastic! But what does that look like on the day-to-day level, which was so important to farmers and monks? Here, for the first time, an inside view of everyday monastic life at Skriðuklaustur, Iceland — not the hiking, the meditation, the research, but the caring for the body, the Skriðuklaustur way! In the morning we can talk about the fantastical technical arrangements and clever (well, you be the judge) solutions for making a kind of alchemical coffee, but right now, dinner! Here’s the flowery decoration that brightened up Easter so, gone a little long in the tooth …
The Blossoms Have Grown Roots
Hey, that’s cool. Easter is about springing forth and all. Those are rocks I borrowed from the lake, so I could talk to them. Oh, wait … no talk about meditations!
And here are the spices, also, ahem, a little long in the tooth …
There is a 2 page set of instructions for sorting and recycling everything that passes through the kitchen, and it seems to mean business, so when my basil when, ahem, a little, well, let’s say “old”, in its really poorly-sealable but oh-so-recyclable tray in the fridge, I let it keep the willow company, and now look at it! All grown up and ready to crumble into the pan. Um… the plastic goes in … yeah, tub 3, that’s it. Done.
And now that your mouth is watering, here is the main course, the famous aðalréttir of all Icelandic menus, ta da!
Chicken and Pork Gunnar
When the store is 45 kilometres away, creativity is more in what you do with the fridge rather than what the store has to offer.
•Come back from hiking at 5 pm, think about dinner. Remove pork chop and slip into the 1000 year old Viking-era microwave, which has one setting: grill. Grill to thaw. People, when it’s your turn to stay here, try 30 seconds.
• Salvage what one can of the pork chop, mourn, and add a frozen chicken breast. Do not even think of touching that microwave. Put the chicken on top of the nearly-smoking pork chop, to thaw that way.
• Make tea. Drink the tea while congratulating yourself on your resourcefulness. Return. Slice the slightly-thawed chicken, mix with the pork scraps.
• Dice an onion (you bought too many, so use the whole thing), dice 3 garlic cloves (the previous writer bought too many, and there’ll be some for you, too, enjoy), melt some Icelandic butter, sautée the onions and garlic on super duper low on the big burner of the stove. Do not rush this step. Go read a chapter of a book. You get a knack for this after the first time, when you had to open some windows quickly, and you can smell the exact moment on the air when everything is just perfect. Saunter in.
• Add some chopped up parsley, because, well, it’s not enjoying the fridge anymore, and some mushrooms, because mushrooms are really cheap and high quality in Iceland, who knew, and that basil, yes, this is her time!!!! Then add the chicken pork mixture. Stir a bit. Add some cream (this is Scandinavia, and a former Danish colony, to boot, so… without cream, it’s not considered a foodstuff. Simple as that.) Add some frozen peas. Put a lid on all this. Go off and answer ALL your emails, and download and sort the pictures you took today.
The Side Dish
Here are some of the amazing arctic potatoes from Akureyri. The smaller they get, the better. No sense trying to cut off the warts and little blackened frost-got-at-them bits … they don’t appear to affect the flavour, and they are all otherwise as clean as if they had been pressure-washed by a fishing boat scouring apparatus… which, given the Icelandic respect for re-use and re-cycling, is probably the case. But what beauties they are…
Potatoes All Dressed Up
They taste a bit sweet when boiled (last fall was tough on potatoes in Iceland), so I hit upon this method: when the feta cheese in oil and herbs you can pick up beside the smjör in the grocery store is all gone and you have to find something else to dress your salad with, well, there’s oil left, right, with spices in it? That’s the Skriðuklaustur way! Into the oven for 40 minutes they go!
A little freshly-grated sea salt helps, because this is Iceland and here salt is a spice much like cream is in Denmark, and we want to be good guests. And there you have it…fridge hygiene restored, staying on top of the recycling, and when you come back all leisurely and what not, with your pictures sorted and your email mailed or deleted and a chapter of a book read, dinner is delicious. In fact, just between you and me, one could serve this in Reykjavik for about 4400 kronur, but only if you had fresh flowers.