Culture was so different

From our January 2013 issue

By Sylvia Wur – Saskatoon, Sask.

Visiting a schoolmate’s home for a weekend was quite a treat in the late 1930s, so when my sister, aged 13 and I, aged eight, were asked to these Icelandic kids’ place one winter weekend, we were thrilled.

One girl was the same age as my sister, another girl was a year younger than me, and one was the same age as me. We went to the same country school but lived on farms about six miles apart.

We went home from school with them on a Friday. We enjoyed playing outdoors and seeing all their pets and also helping with their assigned chores.

We also had fun indoors, a nice supper, and then some games. Everyone in the household seemed to know how to knit.

Even the little kids could knit scarves, while the older ones knit socks and mittens.

My big surprise was at bedtime. I knew that some kids had undergarments made out of flour or sugar sacks and in our family, fleece underwear, even the purple flecked kind from Eaton’s was worn in winter, but these girls had hand-knit vests, knit underpants, and knit stockings up to their thighs.

‘Scare’ for breakfast?

No wonder they were toasty warm on the playground while the rest of us were shivering!

Another surprise came the next morning. At breakfast we were served big bowls of something white called ‘skyr’.

The name didn’t appeal to me as it sounded like ‘scare’ and I am sure my sister’s and my expression was noticed by the mother who promptly went to the cupboard and produced a box of cornflakes and a pitcher of milk.

Next was the blood sausage, which we did try although we weren’t enthused with the word ‘blood’.

Another thing we noticed was that when their mother made coffee she added eggshells. We, of course, didn’t have coffee but the men folk seemed to like it.

They would put a lump of sugar between their teeth and sip the coffee through it.

It was at their home, too, that we had our first taste of ‘Vinertarta’, a lovely prune and cardamom spiced cake of many thin layers.

We played Saturday morning after the kids’ chores were completed and then their father drove us to town to meet our father who was to take us home.

We had so much to tell our mother about these Icelandic people whose culture was so different from ours.