GOOD food is more than just macronutrients and flavours. It is something that nourishes our emotional wellbeing and connects us to our identity, our community and to Mother Earth. In these 3 stories from our global Slow Food network, you’ll hear about various aspects of GOOD food and how it brings taste, local culture and social change together.

Gísli Matthías Auðunsson (Iceland)

I can’t say I have a favorite dish. I love and choose my ingredients and recipes with a sense of belonging. For me, a food is good when it’s unique. True luxury is being able to eat something that only exists in that place and at that time of the year. I’m not really interested in expensive foods that you can find all over the world.

Food is culture, an important part of our history, identity, consciousness. If we were to lose our gastronomic tradition, we’d be giving up on a part of ourselves. A good food, sure, is a delicious food that satisfies our senses, but to be good has to have meaning. It’s good if it doesn’t damage nature, if it’s seasonal, if (and only if) it respects both consumers and producers.

My name is Gísli Matthías Auðunsson, I’m a cook living and working in Heimaey, a small island of herders and fishers to the south of Iceland, in the remote Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. Here, perhaps more than elsewhere, nature has a profound impact on our daily lives. We’re surrounded by the sea: it’s natural to use its fruits in the kitchen. For example, dulse seaweed, called söl in Icelandic, a red seaweed with a salty, spicy flavor, which is little known and underrated. Another food that represents Iceland and in particular this archipelago is harðfiskur, a fish dried in the winter winds: it’s hung up in special huts, protected from the snow but open to the wind. We eat it with bread and butter, a simple dish with a long history. I have a lot of respect for the sea and its fruits; we eat the whole fish, there’s a recipe for every part.

Anyone who comes here will taste strictly local and seasonal products; they certainly won’t find caviar or truffles, or other “luxury” foods. Because they can be bought anywhere in the world, but it’s only here that you can taste the skin or the head of a codfish frosted with honey and wild herbs, or our seaweed that I harvest in the summer personally and leave to dry in the sun. My menu speaks of Iceland and it’s connected to my small island. It changes every week: the availability of ingredients dictates the menu, not vice versa. We make great use of wild herbs; I’ve learned to know them well. When we opened the restaurant we gathered four or five types of aromatic herbs to use in our kitchen; today we use at least 50. Over time we’ve learned what grows on the island and then, gathered stories and recipes that detail the use of each herb, which are all known to be medicinal. I’ve learnt by doing. Yes, I’ve attended a cooking school, but at school you don’t learn local traditions. And I’d like to learn more about our culinary traditions.

I don’t think it makes much sense that in our cooking schools we learn about French cuisine, for example, but not our own. There’s nothing wrong with learning the techniques and the histories of great international cuisines, of course. But you can learn this in every corner of the world. Nobody will tell the story – if not we ourselves – of the story of Icelandic gastronomy. And that’s what I try to do every day.”

More about Gísli’s work at:

www.instagram.com/gislimatt