The Icelandic Association of Utah held their first Þorrablót (Thorrablot) in the spring of 1998. I had been working with a reporter in Iceland, sending him information about the Icelandic Settlement in Utah, when he asked me what we do for Thorrablot. This was the first I had heard of Thorrablot. I brought it up at a board meeting, and the board of directors voted to try this Icelandic event. Oli Olafsson was at the board meeting and made arrangements for the thorramatur to be brought in from Iceland. Emil Emilsson was the chef for our first Thorrablot with Oli at his side.
Saturday 25 February 2012 the Utah Icelanders held their 15th annual Thorrablot. The menu has changed in those fifteen years. The first Thorrablot was a meal with all the food brought in from Iceland. It includes such things as shark meat, smoked, salted and pickled lamb, and dried fish. This year there was no food from Iceland, partly due to the difficulty of importing the food from Iceland and the fact that not many find this food pleasing to the palate. It is a tradition that I truly missed.
This year was a sold out event with a menu of roasted lamb and baked battered haddock, salad, potatoes, red cabbage and a variety of traditional American deserts. The event was catered by The Copper Grill.
Jack Tobiasson, Assistant Thorrablot Chairperson was the MC for the evening. His goal for the evening was for guests to get a little taste of Iceland and leaving a little bit more Icelandic than when they arrived. Guests were entertained by an Iceland Barnakór (Children’s Choir) with speakers Michelle Curtin, Snorri 2011 Participant and Dr. Fred E. Woods, Professor Brigham Young University.
Michelle went to Iceland in 2011 as a Snorri Program participant, which gives young people of Icelandic origin ages 18 to 28 living in the United States or Canada an opportunity to tour Iceland and reconnect with their family living in the country. While in Iceland, Michelle lived with her distant cousins for three weeks and worked on their farm herding and milking cows. Michelle kept a daily bog while in Iceland you can visit her blog just click hear. Michelle is my cousin we both have the same Icelandic ancestors that emigrated from Iceland to Utah in the 1880’s, Eyjólfur Eiríksson and Jarþrúður Runólfsdóttir, which we are both grateful for.
museum project in Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland. The permanent exhibit on display at the Vestmannaeyjar Folk Museum is titled "Icelandic Heritage Among the Mormons" and honors those Icelanders who embraced Mormonism and gathered in Utah. The exhibit opened last summer. Fred and Icelander Kari Bjarnason are continuing to work to gather images and documents about the Icelanders that settled in Utah.
To Run or Not to Run
President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson called a press conference at his residence Bessastaðir 27 February 2012, after being handed a petition signed by more than 30,000 people asking the president to run for his fifth four-year term. In his New Year’s speech, President Grímsson indicated that he would step down and not run for office again. The Saga continues.
The Majesty of Esja
Esja is Reykjavík’s mountainous jewel in the crown. Spectacularly dominating the skyline it flanks the north of Europe’s most northern capital, providing a stunning display of color, light and rock.
One feature that often takes visitors by surprise when they visit Reykjavík is its proximity to nature. It is a rare treat to have a capital city with all its modern facilities immediately at hand and yet be able to enjoy the spoils of raw, untouched nature within minutes of leaving the city. Perhaps the jewel in the crown of the countryside surrounding Reykjavík is Esja, the extensive, monolithic mountain range that stretches itself out beyond the north of Reykjavík from the edges of the Atlantic towards Thingvellir National Park in the west.
The name ‘Esja’ is said to have come from the time of the settlement of Iceland and from the saga Kjalnesingasaga which tells of a farm called Esjuberg in Kjalarnes. The story goes that a wealthy Irish widow called Esja was amongst a group of Irish immigrants who traveled to Iceland by ship. However, as is often the case regarding historic folklore, there is some debate about this story and it’s been said that the woman’s name comes from the mountain and not the other way round.
As a mountain range 914 meters high, Esja boasts some impressive statistics. To start with, to say she has been around for a while is a gross understatement, with the western part of the mountain range being the oldest, dating back approximately 3.2 million years, and the eastern part being comparatively ‘young’, having only chalked up approximately 1.8 million years. Approaching Reykjavík by sea, Esja has a magnetic majesty humbling even the biggest cruise liner by the colossal hunk of stone that stretches across the land. One can only imagine the jaw-dropping awe that the first settlers experienced centuries ago as they approached their new homeland.
Today, Esja means many things to many people. On a practical level, views of the mountains have had a marked influence on property prices in recent times; some say they can predict the weather depending on the ever-changing palette of colors the mountain range offers; and it’s a testimony to how such a natural environment has been protected that there are no high-rise hotels or fun fairs nearby, swamping and spoiling the mountain range’s beauty.
It is perhaps this natural beauty that draws visitors to it again and again. A walk at sunset by the North Atlantic Bay in the Reykjavík suburb of Grafarvogur can be quite a special experience with the backdrop of Esja rivaling any rose-tinted Hollywood sunset. At times, she can appear ethereal and enigmatic whilst at other times she can be threatening and ominous with mist creeping tenuously down the inky, black rocks. Consequently, as an artists’ muse and inspiration Esja is a paradise. In the summer months, the mountain is covered in a soft, mossy green and on the bluest, brightest and coldest mornings in winter you can almost feel the pure, chilling air that hangs over the summit.
Emigrant of the Month
Gudrun was born 12 January 1865 at Onundarstadir, Kross, Rangarvalla. Her parents are Jon Ingimundarson, born 31 May 1829, died 28 August 1891 at Spanish Fork, Utah; and Thordis Thorbjornsdottir, born 18 April 1836, died 28 March 1928 in Ivins, Idaho. Gudrun immigrated to Spanish Fork, Utah with her father in May of 1886.
Gudrun married Jon Thorgeirsson, born 12 June 1848 at Eystri Dalbaer, Kirkjubarjarklastur, Vestur Skaftafell. They were married 20 March 1888; this marriage ended in divorce about 1895. Gudrun and Jon had four children; two died in infancy. Gudrun took her two boys, John and David, and moved to Idaho to live with her brothers and mother. She never remarried. She died May 1906 in Ivins, Idaho and is buried there. She was known in America as Gudrun Johnson.