Fancy going out for dinner in good company? If not, you could rather look at the less common, and somewhat nouveau option of dining in with locals in Iceland. Yes, it’s done regularly and it’s a blast. Although not a common practice there are a few individuals who open up their homes for strangers and offer a dining experience whose depth of personal involvement goes unrivalled. Opera singer Bergþór Pálsson and chef Albert Eiríksson teach their guests a course in etiquette and table manners. And then how to forget all about it and just have fun!
When the phone rang and a complete stranger asked Bergþór Pálsson if he and his partner Albert Eiríksson, could host a dinner party, he was convinced it was a prank phone call made by a radio station. “Why us?” was the first question that came to mind. The second question was: “No, seriously? Why us?”
The request turned out to be genuine and for curiosity’s sake, and because the idea sounded so ridiculously far-fetched, Bergþór said yes.
“This first time, as well as all the other times we have hosted an all-strangers dinner party, turned out to be first and foremost a lot of fun,” Bergþór recalls.
Sadly Bergþór notes he doesn’t have a lot of time to host these dinners anymore, as his stage career and opera teaching takes up most of his time.
“Given the circumstances these parties started, the greatest learning experience I associate with them is that I used to think people in my own field were the most fun and entertaining personalities around. All these actors and singers. But hosting these parties has given me the opportunity to be in contact with people from many different fields and I realized there are many fantastic entertainers all over the place,” Bergþór proclaims. “And it’s so interesting that the people who come to these dinners are so wonderfully determined to have fun, which makes my role so easy and enjoyable.”
There was a bit of a social uproar a little while back in Iceland, when the police closed down a cake charity sales stall. The reason: the organizers didn’t have a proper government license and the muffins weren’t baked in an officially sanctioned kitchen. Bergþór and Albert reacted to that, just to be on the safe side.
“We realized that big brother might oppose what we were doing, so we decided to call the dinners “A Course in Etiquette and Table Manners,” Bergþór says laughing. “So I give out a few tips in the beginning of the evening, that’s the official course, then the dinner comes as a compliment. After all, people remember the laughs and jokes, not how Margrét or Siggi held their vine glasses or forks.”
As Bergþór mentioned earlier the groups they receive are very diverse. They have even had an American family wanting to spend a whole day with an Icelandic household to see first hand how Icelandic natives live.
“We even went shopping. First to Sandholt bakery and then to the super-market,” Bergþór says grinning. “It’s always something you don’t expect that leaves the greatest impression. In this case it was the walk in freezer in Bónus. It blew their mind.”
If interested in a mini-course in etiquettes, free dinner included, you can seek out Albert Eiríksson on Facebook.