Long ago and far away when I lived in the enchanted land that is Iceland, full of bitchilized public workers/office clerks and the kind of otherworldly strong wind that could knock you on your ass (or face), I baked at least as much as I do now. I used to “entertain” (yes, the quotes are intentional and meaningful. I am not just putting quotation marks around a word the way I see people gratuitously do these days. That is, for example, in this case, if one put quotation marks around “entertain” you would assume that it is meant as a tongue-in-cheek, perhaps euphemistic term that really means something else. That’s how I mean it. But I often see people putting quotes around words when they do actually mean exactly what they are writing. And don’t get me started on the air quotes!) more back then – I was more centrally located and invited people over with relative frequency. I experimented a lot with cookie recipes, making candy and with ingredients in general (since I was taking many stabs in the dark at substituting materials and ingredients I could not find that figured heavily into my recipes). I experimented a lot in general. I suppose if my company were not sweet enough for people, they could turn to all the sugar-laced goods I put on offer.
In baking, the “grunt work” (although all the work that goes into baking could be referred to as grunt work) is the part I really don’t like. What I mean by this is the rolling out dough, choosing cookie cutters and cutting and decorating the cookies. It’s for these reasons that I almost never make things like sugar cookies or anything else that requires rolling and cutting. But back in the old days (ha) in Iceland, I had a trusty assistant in my friend Sarah, who used to come over and do the grunt work and always produced something that was elevated to beauty thanks to her decorating efforts. I recently saw some photos of her decorating cookies with her daughter, and it made all these memories come flooding back.
And it was more than ten years ago! My time in Seltjarnarnes was fairly brief – between 2001 and 2003, and there were so many characters who passed through at that time. Most not particularly important or memorable but some who stick in my mind and heart even now despite the fact that, like most non-Icelanders who live in Iceland, they flew to the four winds – because most non-Icelanders don’t seem to plant permanent roots there. It certainly does make me reflect on the people who do, for whatever reason, cross our paths – how very random it can be, and yet sometimes so full of unexpected coincidences.