THE WEIRDEST THING WE EVER ATE- by guest Explorateur blogger Greg A.
Living in a culture obsessed with expiration dates, the idea of eating something that is rotten on purpose seems as far fetched as life on Mars. Given the recent photographs from the Red Planet showing water and “99% pure ice”, it might be time to put aside all thoughts of “sell-by” dates as well. Enter hákarl, Iceland’s most potent food offering.

Hákarl, simply put, is putrefied shark meat. It is the meat of the Greenland Shark hailing from the North Atlantic waters. Oh, and, its flesh is poisonous due to the high levels of uric acid that build up in its body throughout its lifetime.

Toxic flesh might be enough to stop most of us from even considering any culinary use, but Icelanders took a different approach. They found that after gutting and beheading the shark, it could be buried in a shallow hole at a slight angle for six to twelve weeks. This process is used to drain the fluids out of the shark’s body. It is then cut into strips, and hung to dry in a covered, outdoor building for as long as six months. And when it’s dried, the meat is cut into small, bite-sized cubes and is ready to eat. Ready, that is, only for those with strong stomachs and a sense of adventure, as even many Icelanders themselves do not eat hákarl.

Given the overwhelming smell of ammonia emanating from the meat, it’s preferable to have a shot of the Icelandic spirit, Brennivín (a potato spirit flavored with caraway seeds) ready to wash the taste of hákarl down and then, perhaps, something else to wash away the taste of the Brennivín, also known as “black death”, itself.

If you’re still interested (seriously?), the Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum is the place to have the authentic hákarl experience. While there, you can see a small museum dedicated to the hákarl business, a drying shack and there just might be a “fresh” catch somewhere on the premises. If you cannot make it to Bjarnarhöfn, rest assured, hákarl can be found in grocery stores in Reykjavík.

Guest blogger bio- When not traveling, Gregory has filled his time working as a landscaper, political advisor, graphic designer, child model and an alcohol taste-tester (strictly pro bono). He currently lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, the city that brought the world baseball and Frank Sinatra, and can be reached via his Twitter account @culverlake.

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