Puffin at the westernmost point in EuropeI photographed this puffin two years ago at Latrabjarg, Iceland, which is the westernmost point in Europe. Puffins, as the photo makes clear, are cute. Too cute to live, apparently, because the Icelandic people eat them. The puffin population isn’t in any danger due to this, because the taking of puffins is controlled, and there are plenty of them.

We were talking at a dinner party the other night about the odd contradictions in the way many of us respond to food. I was a good example. I won’t eat rabbit, for instance, for which there is no rational explanation. I would eat game birds that I have not ever tasted – say, pheasant – but I wouldn’t eat a pigeon. Well, for me, puffins fall into that category.

So it didn’t set well with me to read that a visual artist named Curver Thoroddsen has opened a pizza restaurant in a lighthouse near the cliff where I took this picture, and that one of the most popular items on the menu is puffin pizza. Thoroddsen said he was inspired to open the restaurant – which he pointed out is as close as one can get to the United States and still be in Europe – while he was doing graduate work in New York, where there is a pizza joint on every block. I wonder if, while he was in the city, he took advantage of the abundant supply of pigeons.


Hipster doofus cuisine

May 21, 2009

pizzaWhat country has the greatest number of Domino pizza restaurants per capita?

That’s right! Iceland!

Oh, that wasn’t your guess? Well it wouldn’t have been mine either, but them’s the facts, at least according to a blogger on IcelandReview.com.

There are relatively few fast-food chains in Iceland, as we Americans know and love them, so we have noticed the Domino restaurants when we’ve been there, but only as an anomaly. Frankly, eating pizza never has occurred to us in Iceland and, even if it did, we wouldn’t have eaten Domino’s pizza there any more than we would eat it here.

The blogger, Aina Fuller, who is writing from Italy, not from Iceland, is musing over where she has had the best pizza of her life. I don’t have to think about that; it was the pizza my grandmother made, but there’s no point in dwelling on the unattainable. Fuller’s journal includes this observation:

But the glaring memory of the best in my mind, pulsing with Icelandic enthusiasm, is a mixed cheese pizza I had from a tiny restaurant in Saudárkrókur, where we shamelessly dipped bite after bite in home-made jam.
(For the foreign contingent, I know what you’re thinking. Pizza and jam might sound like trying to play a violin with a chicken feather, but don’t knock it ‘til you try it—and inevitably start doing it with a lot more strange combinations than pizza.)  




Call me a stick-in-the-mud, but I won’t be trying that. I have to go along with Poppie, who told Cosmo Kramer that if you let people put anything they want – including cucumbers – on pizza, pretty soon you can no longer call it pizza.  

Fuller mentioned salted cod as a favorite home-grown topping for Icelandic pizza, and she accurately pointed out that it isn’t so far afield of the anchovies Italians like. In fact, even though I normally don’t eat anchovies, I would inhale the pizzas my grandmother made with anchovies, garlic and wild mushrooms. I was surprised – maybe I should say relieved – that Fuller didn’t report that Icelanders like to top their pizzas with the rancid shark meat that is supposed to be such a delicacy up there. 

Her blog is a lot of fun. It’s at this link:



Say it ain’t so!

March 15, 2009

totonnoThere was a near miss at Totonno’s pizza joint on Coney Island. A fire – apparently originating in the coal used to fire the oven – has shut the place down, but word is that it will reopen. This place has been in the same location and operated by the same family since 1924. It’s the only pizza place in the States that can make that claim. The family has a few more locations, but this is the original. We went there last year, just before Memorial Day. It’s a kick. You can’t park around there when the beach is busy – as it was that day – and when you finally do arrive, you have to wait outside until someone tells you to come in. It’s that small; it can accommodate only a few people at a time. The interior looks as it should. In other words, nothing has changed there since the first Coolidge administration. The pizza is out of this world, and I don’t say that about most pizza. It’s at least as important that this place has lasted all this time, that it’s a tourist attraction but also a mainstay of its neighborhood. A story like Totonno’s can be told more and more rarely in this country. Having grown up frequenting such institutions – Doc Pawlek’s drug store, Izzy Kaufman’s appliance store, Old Mr. Birkmeier’s delicatessen, Louie Grossi’s shoe repair shop, and my own grandfather’s grocery store, virtually all of which are long gone – I treasure such spots where I can find still find them. Va bene, Totonno!