Icelandic postcard of chef Francis Fons from Pézilla-la-Rivière

Now retired, the chef likes to come back to his village.

During the polar night, it is only daylight from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in this end-of-year period. A particular effervescence reigns in the Icelandic cottages to prepare for Christmas and New Year’s Day. In his villa in Hafnarfjordur, a town located about ten kilometers from the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, Francis Fons actively prepares traditional Christmas dishes for his family.

Coming from a well-known Pézillanaise family in a family of eight children, this chef trained on the job from the age of 14, alternating with working the land, made his mark in the cookware of the Savoy and in great French restaurants in London for 3 years. It was there that he met an Icelander, Hrönn (foam of the waves) who became his wife in 1972 and with whom they had two children. Deciding to settle in Iceland, he became chef at the Saga hotel in Reykjavik, allowing himself a 3-year interlude in a restaurant in Argelès-sur-Mer, before settling down.

By cooking in particular for Vigdis Finnbogadóttir, president from 1980 to 1996, her diplomatic meetings allowed her to rub shoulders with the greats of this world: Chancellor Helmut Schmitt, Presidents Georges Bush, François Mitterrand or even Pope John Paul II and all heads crowned Nordic countries. “I had four bodyguards in the kitchens”, he remembers. He revisited the classics of gastronomy with local sauce, the rarity of certain products obliges.

He had a rich and eventful career in many prestigious establishments, as diverse as a rehabilitation center in Akranes where he cooked vegetarian or even the restaurant of the Navy school. He won a bronze medal at the Olympic Cooking Games in Frankfurt in 1992 for the Icelandic team.

Behind his stove, like every Christmas, Francis cooked the hangikjot (see box). Every December 23, it celebrates the thorlaksmesse tasting cod and ammonia-laced ray with a detonating olfactory flavor, with butter or melted lamb fat that all the restaurants serve that day.

The trees and exteriors are adorned with illuminations and the decorations of the interiors of the houses without shutters accentuate the enchantment of the place. To pay homage to the deceased, as for a French Toussaint, the graves are lit.

For New Year’s Eve, everyone celebrates. At midnight, as if to compete with the aurora borealis, each dwelling puts on its wild fireworks display giving a striking spectacle.

So many traditions that do not forget the myths and legends of the region. Icelanders search the city for Christmas guards, Huldufolk (hidden people) or elves, the named Skyrgàmur, Stufur or even Kattarvali. It would seem that even the Pézillanais have discreetly sent a representative on a mission, the chief Francislenskur (Francislandais in French), who sends them this exotic Christmas and end-of-year 2021 postcard, while waiting to see him again in the village.

The Icelandic postcard of chef Francis Fons PART2

CONTINUATION AND END OF The Icelandic postcard of chef Francis Fons PART1

IN ICELANDIC TRADITIONS

So behind his stove, like every Christmas, Francis cooked hangikjot (see box). Every December 23, he will celebrate the “thorlaksmesse” by tasting cod and ammoniated ray with an explosive smell, with butter or melted lamb fat that all the restaurants serve on that day. The trees and exteriors are adorned with Christmas lights, and the decorations of the interiors of the houses without shutters accentuate the enchantment of the place. To pay homage to the deceased, as for a French Toussaint, the graves are lit.

For New Year’s Eve everyone celebrates differently, but at midnight, as if to compete with the aurora borealis, each dwelling puts on its wild fireworks display giving a striking spectacle when you are on Heights.

So many traditions that do not forget the myths and legends of the region. Thus the Icelanders seek in the city the guards of Christmas, Huldufólk (hidden people) or elves of which there is a museum in Reykjavik, named Skyrgàmur, Stufur or Kattarvali. It would seem that even the Pézillanais have discreetly sent a representative on a mission, the chief Francislenskur (Francislandais in French), who sends them this exotic postcard of Christmas and the end of the year 2021, while waiting to see him again soon in the village.

Pierre Miffre

BOX

On the Christmas table

Hangikjot, a traditional dish that all Icelanders put on the Christmas table, is a peat-smoked leg or shoulder of lamb cooked in a casserole dish, often eaten cold and served with boiled potatoes bathed in a slightly sweet béchamel sauce, canned peas, red cabbage cooked with sugar and vinegar, carrots. To wash it all down, a drink of malt and orange soda mixed, and for dessert a cake similar to bunyete but with small holes and salt.

Hangikjot, a traditional dish that all Icelanders put on the Christmas table, is a peat-smoked leg or shoulder of lamb cooked in a casserole dish, often eaten cold and served with boiled potatoes bathed in a slightly sweet béchamel sauce, canned peas, red cabbage cooked with sugar and vinegar, carrots. To wash it all down, a drink of malt and orange soda mixed, and for dessert a cake similar to a bunyete, salty with small holes.

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