I Ate an Icelandic Sheep’s Head and I Liked It

I had a long list of things I wanted to do last time I visited Iceland. Swim in the Blue Lagoon, see the northern lights, go on a road trip and make a special trip to the penis museum. Lucky for me, I managed to tick most things of my itinerary during Round One. One lone bullet point lingered on my list, taunting me:

  • Consume an Icelandic Sheep’s Head

I was possessed by this desire and determined to see it come to fruition. So I marked the date in my mental calendar: on the 21st of March, 2015 I would find and destroy an Icelandic Sheep’s Head.

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Despite being a traditional Icelandic dish, the sheep’s head or Svið in Icelandic is rather hard to track down, at least in Reykjavik. We had to hike out to the BSI Terminal – the bus terminal, which was about a fifteen minute walk from the centre of the city.

The place was deserted. I marched up to the counter and ordered the sheep’s head, which was advertised as being 1990 kroner with free refills of soft drink!

“Would you like it served hot or cold?” The cashier enquired.

I panicked.

“Um, not sure, what is better?” I stammered, while thinking ‘Cold sheep’s head? ERGH!’

“We recommend hot,” she said. Thank goodness! I nodded.

“Sounds good to me.”

After what really wasn’t much of a wait, my dish was served. I went to the counter to collect it. There it was. One surprisingly small sheep’s head, served with a side of pureed potato and squash.

I took it to the table, then sat and stared at it for a bit. I wasn’t quite sure of where to start. Should I carve up the cheek? Nibble at the chin? Dive straight in and start munching on its’ eye? (Which according to locals, is the best bit!) I opted for the cheek in the end, grabbing a chunk with my fork and tentatively placed it in my mouth. My friend R, who had come along for the show, looked at me expectantly.

“How is it?”

“…Tasty,” I replied, truthfully. It was, in actual fact, delicious. The meat tasted like, well, sheep, which is definitely a wonderfully flavoured type of meat. The skin was akin to that of a chicken’s, but fattier, juicier. The tongue was a little tougher than the meat on the face, but equally as appetising. I devoured it, eagerly. Finally, all there was left to eat was the eye.

I paused. Up until this point, it had been all fun and games. Yet here I was, about to consume the actual eye of an actual animal.

I dug my fork in and accidentally pulled the iris straight out. Trying not to think too hard about what I was doing, I shoved it straight into my mouth. It was very salty and fatty tasting and pretty much slid down my throat. I immediately went for the rest of it, stopping only to put some on the plate for the equally as curious R to sample.

Then, I was done. The skull of the sheep I had eaten lay before me. I was not disgusted, nor did I regret my actions. It was absolutely delicious and there’s something satisfying in consuming a part of an animal that usually gets tossed aside as waste.

All in all, it was definitely something worth trying. Maybe one day I will return for seconds! (This is definitely going to happen.)

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LC

LC can often be found nursing a cup of green tea, with her head in a book. She is a writer, video editor and professional cheese eater. Her life's aspiration is to one day live on a farm in Tasmania with 11 dogs, a Shetland pony and several pygmy goats.

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