About St. Thorlak's Day
Today is the Feast of Saint Thorlak, and in Iceland, it’s a national holiday. Saint Thorlak Thorhallsson is the patron saint of Iceland. He was bishop of Skálholt from 1178 until his death.
This holiday is typically celebrated by eating putrefied skate, though a 2020 poll from Market and Media Research shows that about 30% of respondents intend to dine on skate, down from 42% in 2011.
The preparation of skate for this holiday is marked by lengthy fermentation in a sealed environment, after which it is usually steamed or boiled.
The smell can be so pervasive and overpowering, in fact, that even property owners take strong exception with cooking it in apartment buildings. Sigurður Helgi Guðjónsson, the director of the Homeowners’ Association, spared no words in discussing the matter with RÚV.
“Commonly, the general rule about consideration and tolerance should be followed, but there is no consideration shown in flushing this kind of stench over innocent people,” he said, referring to people who cook skate in their apartment. “It’s like a terrorist attack on the taste buds. This isn’t food; this is spoiled material and is classified as trash by any definition. This is a barbaric feast and just horrifying, the smell sticks inside the building well into spring.”