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What is the Deal with Icelanders and Their Hot Dogs?

|April 28, 2017
Finance educated, mountain and glacier loving, imaginary ski extraordinary and current resident of Reykjavik.

You may have already heard about this phenomenon, The Icelandic Hot Dog, has gained worldwide stardom, it has sparked curiosity, conversation, intrigue, and doubt. But what’s all the fuss about, is it all a hype or does The Icelandic Hot Dog have a real place in Icelandic culture?

The Icelandic Hot Dog

When I was just shy of my first birthday my dad and I were left alone for a couple of days. This was an exciting time in my life, as most toddlers I was starting to explore food. On this particular night my dad, that probably wasn’t in much of a mood to cook, threw a pot filled with water on the stove and dumped some hot dogs in there.

I sat and waited and a few minutes later dinner was served. This was my first time eating hot dogs, and it was immediate love. I wasn’t just going to eat one, I wanted to eat all of them! If I remember the story right, after hot dog number four, and threatening a coup if there was the slightest supply delay, my dad called a friend to get some advice on how many hot dogs you could safely feed a one-year-old.

It’s a bright summer day in Reykjavik and time to go soak up some vitamin-D at one of the many neighborhood swimming pools.  The pools are such a wonderful place on this often cold island, thankfully for all of us, there is no shortage of hot water, making the pool trips a year around activity. They are as wonderful on a winter night, where if you are lucky you’ll get to experience the Northern Lights, as they are when you risk turning red in the glaring midsummer sun (don’t underestimate it, I once had some Australian friends visit that got the worst sunburn of their life at the Blue Lagoon).  You can swim, play or sit back in one of the many hot tubs and listen to people discuss everything from God and politics to who did what at the bar last night. But swimming isn’t a stand-alone activity, no matter what it is that you do at the pool, there is something about being outside submerged in water that is going to make you hungry and that is where the hot dogs make their grand entrance. Going to a pool on a nice summer day isn’t much of a pool day unless the trip is followed by a quick stop at a hot dog stand, “one with everything” and kókmjólk will ensure that you’ll be able to walk back home without fainting.

A young Icelandic girl is about to hike the Laugavegur Trail for the first time in her life. It’s quite a big feat for only a seven-year-old and for it to be enjoyable you’ll need stories, lots of stops, some flower picking, and bird spotting and of course snacks. She has been hiking with her granddad for a couple of hours when they come to a bubbling hot spring and decide to take a break. Granddad puts down his pack, gives the girl some water, and starts looking for a stick. After he has found a stick, he starts digging through his backpack and up come the hot dogs. Using the stick as a pole, granddad now boils the hot dogs in a bubbling hot spring. They sit there happy as can be, eating hot dogs with a view of Landmannalaugar, years later the girl does the exact same thing on her first Laugavegur Hike with her own kids.

Tryggvagata is our current location, a street in Reykjavik just a block away from the harbor. It’s four o’clock in the morning and starting to get bright, tomorrow is the first day of summer. In front of a tiny little shed people are queuing up, most a little drunk, a little cold but for some reason all determined to wait it out, whatever it is that they are waiting for. The shed is Bæjarins Beztu, Iceland superstar hot dog stand, where the Clintons and Kardashians and all the rest of us have stopped by for a quick bite. The line moves fast, and before we know it we have a hot dog in each hand and a coke in a glass bottle. It’s the first day of summer already and with that, it’s time to jump in a taxi and head home.

Be it summer barbecues, days at the pool, nights when the party goes on a little longer than it should, awkward first dates, celebrating the nation’s independence, a kids birthday or adventure hikes in the highlands there is no doubt that eating a hot dog will bring back good memories. It turns out the Icelandic Hot Dog is not just a hype, there is never a bad time for it and it has a very real place in the nation’s culture and hearts.

Have you ever tried one?

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