Here’s your Eldhús Cookhouse: How will you cook, wash the wool, hang the lamb to smoke and make the Vínarterta without it?
Imagine it’s 1875 in the your Eldhús (Cookhouse = Kitchen) and you’re considering what your new kitchen will be like in North America. At Glaumbaer, Skagafjörður, at the ancestral home of Guðriður Þorbjarnardóttir in Iceland this summer I pondered just that. On the wall is a guide to the room:
“Here the food was cooked. The hearth, built around 1750, is the only open fireplace in the farmhouse. Here are the water barrels. While cooking the house was full of smoke and in the old days raw meat was hung up to the rafters to dry and store and became smoked (Hangikjöt).
Along the wall on the left is a bathtub. A scoop is hanging over water barrel. Next to the water barrel is a pot to boil water for washing clothes and wool. The wooden box on the floor contains a pot. When meat, potatoes or pudding had been cooked for a while it was taken from the fire and put into the box where it continued to cook. This was done to save fuel.
Three irons are kept on the hearth, the largest made in Iceland. To heat them they were put on a stone on the fire or in the fire. On the hearth are a variety of utensils that are associated with cooking. Including saucepans, pots, kettles, tripods, ladles, lids, pothooks and scrapers. The hooks were used to move the pots on the fire and the scrapers to clean the inside of the pots.
On the wall to the right of the hearth is a coffee bean roaster, as used in the hearth. Hanging on the wall to the right are a waffle iron, bread iron, and coal tongs. The brush is made from shrubs and was used to sweep the floors.
On the chest are washing utensils as the Cookhouse was used to heat water fro both the laundry and bathing. In the washing tub is a washing bat, used to pound the clothes and loosen the dirt. Next to this is a wooden trough with slatted sides used as a wool strainer to rinse the wool when it was washed.
Fuel used for the fire is found on the floor to the right, this includes sticks, wood, peat and dung and a dung cutter.”
The admiration I have for my great great Amma and the generations of Amma’s before her has no bounds.