December 23 is Saint Þorlákur’s Day in Iceland, and the holiday calls for a special meal which many eat only once a year: fermented or putrefied skate (a type of ray). A poll conducted earlier this month found 37% of Icelanders will indulge in the delicacy today – though the fish’s pungent aroma makes many opposed to even coming near homes where it is cooked.
More old than young eat skate
According to a poll conducted by MMR, the number of Icelanders who hold up the tradition of eating skate has been relatively steady over recent years. Perhaps unsurprisingly, older Icelanders were more likely to do so, with 58% of those 68 years and older saying they planned to eat the fish on Saint Þorlákur’s Day, as compared to 21% of those 18-29 years of age.
The Director of Iceland’s Homeowner’s Association (Húseigendafélagið) says those living in apartment housing should think of their neighbours and avoid preparing skate at home. “It’s not considerate to force such a stench on innocent people. It’s like a terrorist attack on the taste buds, it’s not food, it’s putrefied and classified as waste according to all definitions. These are barbaric feasts and just horrible, the smell can sit in buildings until spring,” he told RÚV.
Luckily for skate lovers – and their neighbours – restaurants around the country offer the fermented fish on their menus today.