How Iceland Does Mardi Gras
When you think Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, you think parades, music, dancing, drinking, and all sorts of indulgences but in Iceland, things are a little different.
Instead of Mardi Gras we have Sprengidagur. The weather this time of year in Iceland doesn't allow for big parades. Still, it's perfect for eating bowls of saltkjöt (salted meat) and baunir (yellow split pea) soup until you burst.
Sprengidagur in Icelandic translates as "exploding day" or "blast day." In the tradition of eating as much as possible to prepare for fasting during lent, Icelanders fill up on salted lamb meat and pea soup. Not many people follow through with their fasting, but who will turn down an opportunity to eat until they can't eat anymore?
Saltkjöt og baunir
Saltkjöt, salt-cured lamb–usually made with less expensive cuts–and peas are cooked together with vegetables into a soup known simply as saltkjöt og baunir. And on Sprengidagur, you will find it served not only in homes but in restaurants, schools, and workplace cafeterias all over the country. There is even a call-and-response saying associated with the day and dish. Just take "Shave and a haircut, two bits" and replace it with "Saltkjöt og baunir, túkall," which literally translates to "salted meat and peas, two kronur (or bits)." This one is popular with Icelandic fathers and kids, even if they won't admit it
I'm so sad I could spring
Needless to say, by the end of Sprengidagur, everyone will have had enough saltkjöt og baunir to last until the following year. You might even hear some Icelander's murmur, in a Sprengidagur-induced food coma, "Ég er svo saddur að ég gæti sprungið" which to the English-speaking ear may sound like, "I'm so sad I could spring" but actually means, "I'm so full I could burst!"