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The menu at Thorrablot—a nauseating list of whey-soaked meats and near-rotten fish—explains how early Icelanders made it through the grim homestretch of winter. They squirreled away the dregs of the fall harvest, buried shark meat underground, and when spring still felt like a far-off dream, swallowed them down. It’s some of the worst food in the history of eating.

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Pamela Erens is the author of the novels Eleven Hours (Tin House, 2016); The Virgins (Tin House, 2013), a New York Times Editors’ Choice and finalist for the John Gardner Fiction Book Award; and The Understory (Ironweed, 2007), a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing.

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Books by VQR Contributors

Recent books of reporting, memoir, fiction, and poetry that include work from our pages.