Well, I missed Kalevala day, but no way am I gonna miss Icelandic bun day! (and thanks to the Ohio State Scandi program’s Facebook page for reminding me…) Icelandic Bolludagur falls on the Monday before Ash Wednesday, and involves kids whapping their parents on the butt and yelling “Bolla bolla bolla!” It is even a school endorsed activity, as the kids make their Bolla-day paddles at school. @_@ WHEN I HAVE CHILDREN THEY WILL NEVER HEAR OF THIS. But it was pretty fun to be surprised with a bun one morning when I was doing research at Stofnun Árna Magnússonar in Reykjavík.
I didn’t get buns all that often in Iceland (yeesh, be careful how you read that…), but I did enjoy frequenting the bakeries while I was there. Well, more often I worked in coffee shops, since those are just better set up for dissertating, but they typically had more standard “Hip indie coffee shop food,” which is fine, but while “standard” does in fact mean “not really the same as any other exact place,” you had to go to the bakeries to get anything more unique to and shared within this particular nation. The weird muffin-like chocolate chip thingy that you see to the right was one of my favorites (the hot chocolate was amazing too). I picked this up at a cafe right near Tjörnin, the city pond/lake (can’t remember the name of the bakery though). I also tried an Icelandic donut (kleina) a couple of times–not super sweet, but nice with a cup of coffee.
My family is Swedish/Norwegian (mostly the former), so we didn’t have any traditional Icelandic pastries growing up, but we did make cardamom bread (and still do), which is the best thing in the world ever. I didn’t go to bakeries as much when I was in Sweden (one Fall and three summers), but when I did I was pretty happy to be able to get all different sorts of cardamom pastries (but watch out, because the moment you start expecting EVERYTHING to have cardamom, you bite into one that doesn’t…). I don’t know whether Norwegian pastries make use of cardamom, but I don’t remember finding any cardamom goodies in Iceland, so it may just be a Swedish thing. No Swedish bakery in the Bay Area, sadly, but there is a Danish Bakery, and you can get more general Nordic goods at the Nordic House!
What did Vikings bake? Well shoot, now I want to find out. They certainly had bread, but I have always assumed that sweet dessert breads (and, well, dessert itself) were a later import. Any archaeologists out there want to weigh in re: Viking Age baking?