Here We Go A’Musselling

So last weekend, just the day after after hobnobbing with writer-types and heads-of-state, we went and did something really awesome: we gathered mussels in Hvalfjörður (which you’ll remember as our favorite relaxication locale) and made ourselves an epic mussel feast. We had long known that people gathered mussels in this fjord—had even eaten them in restaurants—but weren’t sure when/where to go do the gathering ourselves.

Luckily, we have two new friends who are not only experts in finding cool activities, but also are socially-open enough to actually join in groups and outings and such. And nice enough to bring us along. Yippee! These excellent friends, Mike and Kevin, found out that the Icelandic Touring Association was caravaning out to Hvalfjörður to collect mussels (for a…you’ll like this vocab…Kræklingaferð [Mussel Journey]) and that anyone could join them free of charge. So we got together some pots, some giant reusable grocery bags (we felt very optimistic about our mussel-collecting skillz), some borrowed gardening gloves, a plastic shovel, and some boots, and headed to the fjord.

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Now, although we thought we had prepared ourselves admirably for this outing, it turns out that we didn’t totally have the right gear. Namely, some everyday kitchen gloves would have been awesome (I think maybe with a pair of gloves on underneath, actually). Because while there were a kazillion mussels and they honestly weren’t too hard to gather when you got the hang of it (they sort of clump together under rocks and seaweed and then you just have to pry them free), your hands get extraordinarily cold when you are plunging them into icy Icelandic fjord water over and over. Also, it hurts to scrape rocks and sand away from the shells, especially when your hands are cold.

As per usual, the Icelanders all had much better gear than we did—little rakes and spades and these knee-high rubber boots and wader pants that really would have made digging around in the mud flats a lot easier—but when it comes to outdoor activities in Iceland, you just have to accept the fact that no matter how well-prepared you think you are, the Icelanders are always going to be better prepared. And have a lot more stamina. And get a lot less dirty in the process of whatever outdoor activity you are participating in. As a general rule, they are just better at (Icelandic) nature than everyone else and you can’t let this get you down, you just have to admire it and then lumber along after them.

And we did pretty great—in fact, we came away with what can only be described as a truckload of mussels. Then we went and got ourselves some feast-fixings and reconvened later that evening for a repast of epic proportions—made all the better because we had actually gathered our meal (at least the mussel part of it) ourselves. (In the interval between musselling and feasting, I should add that Mark diligently scraped and cleaned and debearded about a million mussels and that the internet also taught us some useful and unexpected things about cleaning and storing them, like don’t soak them in (fresh) water or you will kill them…now we know)

It was a fantastically satisfying outing and hopefully, it won’t be our last of the kind.

Some photos I took of the outing itself:

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And some photos that Mike took of the feasting segment of the afternoon:

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