[Historical Fiction Prompt] Write about Food in Iceland

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Hannah Kent BURIAL RIGHTS, Icelandic Food, Icelandic History, Food in Iceland
Fish outside a house in Rejkjavik, so that it can dry for preserving. Engraving by Paul Gaimard, 1835 via Commons.

Iceland – the Nordic country first came to my attention when I read Hannah Kent’s breathtaking novel BURIAL RIGHTS.

It’s the previously untold story of an Icelandic maid, Agnes, who is accused of having murdered two men, and is sentenced to death in 1829. BURIAL RITES captures the thrilling, last few weeks when the condemned woman shares the home of an Icelandic family, while waiting for some final, official papers to arrive. 

Countless scenes describe daily routines, such as washing, sleeping, preparing food and sharing the meal together. Brilliant glimpses into early 19th century life.


Now, I discovered an amazing source with hundreds of historical recipes from Iceland! 

The selection was carefully curated by Icelandic food journalist Nanna RögnvaldardóttirBorn in the 1960s on an Icelandic farm – with no electricity (!) – she has a very special perspective from which she writes about how Icelandic food in general has changed in recent decades. Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir has even researched medieval and early modern recipes, which you will find in her book.


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Your Historical Writing Prompt

Go to Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir’s website, and you will see different eras of Icelandic food history. 

> During the Settlement Period (AD 874-930)
> Medieval Food in Iceland
> Early Modern Times
> 20th Century and today

Choose a time and read Nanna’s section on that particular era for 20 minutes.

Don’t get lost! 😉

Pick ONE dish. Gather ideas for the scene you want to write.



Then write your scene.

Narrate  how an Icelandic woman (young? old?) prepares food for her family (or just for herself?). 

Narrate how she picks the different ingredients, and puts them into the pot to cook them.


Pay special attention to weaving the food preparation in with your ICELANDIC setting.

It definitely shouldn’t be a scene which could just as easily take place in Germany or Spain! Emphasise the use of *local* ingredients.

Utilising the details and background information provided by Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir in her fantastic in-depth articles, you should be able to write this with ease.




>> In need of more background information?

Buy Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir’s book ICELANDIC FOOD AND COOKERY with over 165 (!) recipes and information about local ingredients. It’s the best resource on food in Iceland. Recipes range from late 19th century to today.

>> Look inside Nanna’s Icelandic recipe book 

>> Buy it here


If you write historical fiction, and you need historical background material in order to make this story an authentic (and gripping!) one, subscribe to my weekly prompt series. I am Dr. Barbara, a historical advisor who collaborates with authors, publishers and literary agents. Every Tuesday, I send an article with my latest findings and resources for authors who write about the past.