We continue our ‘Symposiasts at Work’ series by introducing Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir, our reigning maven of Icelandic cookery.
Nanna, would you tell us a bit about your background, and how you became interested in food and food history?
My name, Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir, means ‘Nanna, daughter of Rögnvaldur’. I was born in the Skagafjörður region of northern Iceland in 1957 and grew up on a farm called Djúpidalur, where my family had lived since 1733. As a child, I took part in the work on the farm, and learned age-old food and cooking traditions from my mother and other relatives. Resources were limited, for instance there were almost no vegetables and we got apples and oranges only at Christmas, but I was always reading about exotic things I had never seen, like asparagus or eggplants or fresh pineapple, and trying to imagine what they looked and tasted like. My parents later moved to a fishing village in the region, and I worked as a teenager there in a fish processing plant. I can’t ever remember not being interested in food and cooking and often did cooking experiments at home. Many of them were spectacular failures, frequently because I was trying to recreate dishes I had only read about and had neither a recipe nor the correct ingredients.