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Into the North

Into the North – Live well, eat well – the Icelandic way by couple Inga Elsa Bergþórsdóttir and Gísli Egill Hrafnsson is a beautifully illustrated cookbook depicting the culinary traditions of Iceland through the centuries.

Inga Elsa, an art director, and Gísli Egill, a food photographer, take the reader on a personal journey through the changing seasons.

We travel from the long winter and the old midwinter month of Þorri, when we yearn to see the sun rise higher day by day, through spring when the migratory birds arrive and the fields are prepared for sowing, the long summer days filled with walks in the countryside and meals of freshly harvested vegetables, salmon and trout, to autumn, alive with berry and mushroom picking and the herding of the lambs from their summer mountain pastures.

Into the North tracks the transformation Iceland has undergone since settlement to “paint a picture of our nation through the food and the culinary culture of the past and present.” In doing so, the authors explore both traditional Icelandic food, that of generations past, passed from mother to daughter, but also new additions to their families’ recipes, innovative twists on old favorites reflecting a newfound creativity in the use of local ingredients.

Stories of the hardships of past generations, references to ancient written sources and the historical use and preparation of foods intertwine personal stories and a rich selection of recipes to inspire.

Landscapes and images of Icelandic nature and rural settings accompany those of the food and preparation techniques. Into the North exuberates the couple’s passion and enthusiasm for food and Icelandic ingredients.

While not as comprehensive as the Icelandic version of the book (Góður matur – gott líf í takt við árstíðirnar), Into the North provides English-speakers with a window into the history and daily lives of Icelanders and introduce them to the potential of locally and seasonably available ingredients.

The rich selection of recipes demonstrates a mix of old and new: spice-marinated herring with rye crisp bread, Christmas hangikjöt (smoked lamb), potato waffles with smoked salmon, rhubarb ice cream, chili sesame salmon tartare, mussels in beer with dulse, skyr cheesecake with blueberries, liquorice meringues and blood pudding.

Into the North is one of the standouts in recent cookbook releases. Published by Vaka-Helgafell in 2012, the book is available in Icelandic bookstores and on


Zoë Robert

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