September 14, 2005

Iceland Woos America With Lamb and Skyr

"People are really screaming for more knowledge of where the food comes from," said Baldvin Jonsson, the pleasantly emphatic Iceland-born consultant who is leading the country's food invasion. "You tell them fish comes from the ocean, and they ask, 'What kind of ocean? Is it a very polluted ocean or is it from a third-world country where people aren't getting paid enough to live for fishing?' "

With the help of Icelandair's cheap fares to Europe and the country's mix of quirky nightlife, socialist sensibility and ancient culture, Iceland became a must-have passport stamp for hip travelers in the late 1990's. Four years ago, Icelandic tourism officials began a food festival, flying in chefs from around the world to cook for a week filled with wine and lamb.

Mr. Jonsson argues that Iceland was the first sustainable country in the world, and it remains one of the purest places from which to eat.

Certainly, the sheep stock hasn't been cross-bred or fed much differently from when Viking settlers first brought the animals to the island 1,100 years ago. The North Atlantic waters that feed the cod industry is free of industrial pollution, at least of any that has originated from Iceland's shores. Vegetables are grown in greenhouses warmed by volcanic vents and the country's biggest city is heated by geothermal energy.

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