[Sca-cooks] honey/sweeteners in Iceland?

Gretchen Beck grm at andrew.cmu.edu
Mon Aug 4 13:14:31 PDT 2008

--On Monday, August 04, 2008 3:00 PM -0500 Stefan li Rous 
<StefanliRous at austin.rr.com> wrote:

> I've been talking to this lady about food in Iceland since she is looking
> for background info on an historical novel she is writing based in 10th
> century Iceland. I pointed her to Nanna's book. For those who weren't on
> this list a while back, Nanna is an Icelander who has written several
> books on Icelandic food. The one in English is:
>> Icelandic Food and Cookery
>> Nanna Rognvaldardottir
>> ISBN: 0-7818-0878-2
>> Hippocrene Books, New York
>> 220 pages
>> 2001
> Anyway she recently asked this question:
> <<<<
> When Norse immigrants arrived in Iceland, were there bees ... what did
> they have to add a sweetener to their food in the 9th and 10th century?
> Pauline Kulseth
> pkulseth at rconnect.com
>  >>>>
> My feeling is that they would not have had sugar and even honey is
> questionable. I don't know if they brought bees with them, nor am I sure
> whether honey bees would even survive in Iceland. Trade was scarce
> between Iceland and Scandinavia even at first and got more so as the
> mini-Ice-Age developed, so I'm not sure it was imported or not.
> Anyone have any comments on this? Please remember that Pauline is not on
> this list and copy her on your message just in case I don't see it to
> forward it.

Cleasby-Vigfusson, An Icelandic-English Dictionary (and excellent resource 
for things Icelandic) has these things to say about "honey"

HUNANG, n. [A. S. hunig; Engl. honey; Germ. honig; Dan. honing; Ulf. 
renders GREEK by miliþ] :-- honey, Gþl. 491, Bs. i. 103, 433, Eg. 69, 79, 
469, Fms. vii. 173, viii. 258, Stj. 309, 411. COMPDS: hunang-bakaðr, part. 
baked honey, Stj. 193. hunangs-dögg, f. honey dew, Pr. 401. hunangs-fall, 
n. honey dew, Edda 12. hunangs-fljótandi, part. flowing with honey, Stj. 
642, Eluc. hunangs-ilmr, m. a smell of honey, Landn. 140. hunangs-lækr, m. 
a stream of honey, Fas. iii. 669. hunangs-seimr, m. [Germ. honig-seim = 
virgin honey], a honeycomb, Stj. 210, N. T. hunang-sætr, adj. sweet as 
honey. UNCERTAIN In olden times and throughout the Middle Ages, honey was 
one of the chief exports from England to Scandinavia (Norway and Iceland), 
see the passages above; as sugar was then unknown, the export of honey far 
exceeded that of the present day.

. skógar-hunang, n. wild honey, (literally "wood honey")

milska, u, f. [A.S. milisc = honeyed; Ulf. miliþ = honey; cp. Lat. 
mellitus] :-- mead, a kind of honeyed beverage, Ht. R. 26; milsku drykkr, 
Gd. 71, Clar. 134 (Fr.)

The word "hunang" occurs one in the Icelandic Book of Settlements (as part 
of a compound, hunangsilmur, which I can't find a translation for), and 
"milska" does not appear at all.

toodles, margaret

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