‘Iceland has plenty of testicles.”
This was a front-page headline of a three-column story of Iceland’s largest paper Tuesday this week.
See, in the past few years, Icelanders have run out of testicles in February, so this was a good news story.
And Iceland certainly has plenty of testicles.
Two tonnes of them.
No, keep your dirty thoughts to yourselves — these are from thousands of summer-old male lambs slaughtered this fall.
The testicles have been cut off, cleaned and treated in whey.
And they taste scrumptious. The best ones are just sour enough, soft and white, like good cheese.
Thorri is the name for one of the old months; this year, it begins on January 20th and lasts until February 19th.
Traditionally, it is the most feared of all months; it is still dark and winter is in full force.
Christmas, with all its light and joy, is over.
Fishing hasn’t begun in most parts of the country, and spring is still months and months ahead.
The fiercest storms rage, sea ice glided to shore (more often than not bringing hungry polar bears, which the ancestors had few weapons to fight) and little work could be done outside.
Travel’s hard, and, in the past, many who had to go between farms, or even just to the barn, perished outside.
And who knows what evil lived in this seemingly endless darkness when the winter storms shook the sod houses and the snow and ice piled up — ghosts, trolls or the hidden people?
In previous times, hay may have been getting scarce and food would have been down to the bottom of the barrel — quite literally. What had been placed in whey in the fall, was getting quite… sour.
Though Góa, the month after this one, is often dreadful weather-wise as well, at least it brings light and more work can be done outside in a culture where no electric lights existed.
In fact, though Thorri is the fourth month of winter, impersonated, he is winter, an old grey-bearded frosty man who comes and places his cold hands on all, more often than not killing everything in the process.
Góa, on the other hand, is a young woman, the bearer of spring, though timid.
Nowadays, Icelanders don’t fear Thorri much, though the weather in February is often bad and can bode ill for sailors.
But it brings joy, too.
In our time, Icelanders celebrate the food that was getting scarce in Thorri in the olden days.
Friends get together or companies invite their employees out for a good time, where everyone eats as much rotten shark, blackened sheep jaws, rolled up intestines and sour sheep testicles as they possible can, along with lots of cheers and good laughter.
It is, truth be told, quite spectacular to see modern dolled-up Icelanders (and few nations take dolling-up as seriously as Icelanders do) stuffing their mouths with this… well, less than appetizing food, at least in the eyes of foreigners.
In fact, Icelanders eat about 200,000 testicles in this one month, or about two tonnes of the delicacy.
And then we’re not counting the liver sausage, the blood pudding sewn up in a sheep’s stomach, the herring, pâtés, mashed turnips, lots of butter or sweet brown bread.
And, of course, there are the countless shots of the traditional Brennivín, the potato aquavit, which makes everything taste oh-so-much-better.