Iceland Mag

3 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Popularity of the traditional delicacy fermented skate is slipping, worrying some Icelanders

By Staff

  • Preparing the skate Fermented skate has a pungent flavour, and a curious taste, but once you get past the initial impulse to run away holding your nose, it's actually pretty good. Photo/Pjetur Sigurðsson.

According to a new poll by the polling firm mmr the popularity of one of the more pungent Icelandic Christmas traditions, eating fermented skate on “Þorláksmessa”, the mass of St. Thorlak on 23 December, continues to slip.

Read more: Reykjavík will stink of fermented skate on 23 December

According to the poll only 35.8% of Icelanders plan on eating skate today. Five years ago more than 40% of Icelanders were planning on observing this tradition. The poll found that skate is more popular among men than women, with 42.9% of men planning on eating skate, but only 28.4% of women. Predictably, the tradition is also more popular as we move up the age pyramid. Only 19.8% of those under 29 were planning on eating skate today, but 58.1% of those older than 68.

Read more: Fermented skate is a delicacy like no other (it has been described as eating rotten fish)

The local news site Bæjarins Besta, which specializes in news from the Westfjords, points out that the poll bears the “ominous news that skate-lovers are set to decrease in numbers in the coming years.” The skate-eating tradition has historically been strongest in the Westfjords.

If you are interested in participating in this tradition and thus experience a key element of traditional Icelandic Christmas you can find skate served at numerous restaurants. Finding these is usually pretty simple: Just follow the smell!

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