The following book review was written by Joan Eyolfson Cadham and appeared in the May 3, 2002, issue of the Lögberg–Heimskringla: The Icelandic Weekly.
Book Review: The Culinary Saga of New Iceland

Yes, it's a cookbook, complete with a carefully-crafted index of recipes listed in both English and Icelandic. However, perhaps the cover design provides a clue that there is much more here than cooking tips, recipes for Vínarterta and for Fish Stew, and notes on ingredients. The cover photo has nothing to do with food—there's not a loaf of bread or a festive table in sight. The main cover image is a small sailboat, sails drawing, alone with the wind and the waves. The Culinary Saga of New Iceland is, in fact, as much a saga of Icelandic life in Canada as it is a cookbook, and therin lies its charm and importance.

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"I would also advise emigrants to take with them sufficient Icelandic food, for experience has shown the food people eat along the way to disagree with them, to say nothing of other changes which are inescapable. This food ought to consist especially of hardfish, butter or good mutton, tallow kæfa (a kind of seasoned meat paté), smoked lamb and biscuits; in addition, pure and good sour whey, rock candy, and a little good ákvavíti made from grain." That's Jóhann Briem in "A Few Hints to Icelandic Emigrants", printed in Framfari on January 4, 1878.

Kristin has captured and preserved the tradition of Icelandic cooking. However, she has also captured glimpses of life of the 20,000 Icelanders who elected to find a new life in Canada. As a history of a people, this is a valuable text—too often history is written in kings and generals, in war, in strife, in revolution. Not often enough is it written in the foods, the customs, the hardships and the comforts of everyday people.

Even the recipes have a historical component. "When the Icelanders immigrated to New Iceland (Manitoba's Interlake region) in 1875, it was with a great make-do spirit that the women adapted their recipes and cooking methods to the indigenous ingredients of their new environment...In compiling this book, I selected recipes that would represent current New Icelandic cooking as well as illustrate changes that have taken place since the early settlement days," Kristin says.

The recipes come with their own reviews. Generally named for the contributors, the recipes have been tested by Icelandic descendants and sometimes their non-Icelandic spouses. Many of the comments from the testers are included. Tastes—or available ingredients—have changed since some of the recipes were developed. Comments for a beef stew with dumplings included a suggestion for "the addition of a few herbs, spices and possibly a few more vegetables".

"Regarding the popular traditional recipes (e.g. vínarterta)," says Kristin, "I endeavoured to include the most prevalent variations. I have learned in the process of collecting these recipes that there are as many subtle variations to pönnukökur as there are New Icelandic women."

Whether you are looking for a few moments nostalgia, or some Icelandic–Canadian history, or an opportunity to cook 'Icelandic' for next year's Thorrablót, this book will prove to be a good read as well as a tool for a good feed.

Reviewer's aside: I am going to try the Beef Pot Roast with Prunes with the bison roast that is in my freezer. I will report later on the results.

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