Remember when horsemeat was discovered in Ikea’s meatballs? The furniture giant withdrew the product from sale in 14 countries after traces of horse meat... Thousands of meatballs were recalled and thousands of Ikea customers were upset. But being upset over horsemeat in food is nothing new. In the recently published cookbook “An Early Meal—A Viking Age Cookbook & Culinary Odyssey,” food archaeologist Daniel Serra and food consultant Hanna Tunberg reveal that the Vikings too had horsemeat scandals. “We ate horsemeat here as part of a religious meal, which was frowned upon when Christianity took over and therefore there’s a strong social taboo still in effect,” says Serra. The idea behind the book is to tell about the Vikings in a way that based on what they ate, and the authors challenge some of our myths of Viking food.

“It’s not as much meat as expected,” says Serra. “No roast boars.” Through archaeological finds and culinary experiments, the authors present 42 recipes inspired by Vikings from all over Scandinavia: everything from porridge dishes to fish. One of the more exciting recipes is the mythical horse stew, which at the time was a dish with political seasoning. When Christianity entered, horsemeat became taboo.

“In Norway there were laws put up against horsemeat, since it was connected with pagan rituals,” Serra explains. And because of the dish’s political connotations, it gave rise to the horsemeat scandals of the Viking Age. When the Christian King Hakon of Norway visits his heathen subjects he insults his hosts by refusing their horse stew. An insult that gave rise to the rattling of weapons. “It all ended with a sour note,” concludes Serra. “The compromise was that the king at least breathe the fumes of the stew. Nobody was happy.”
“An Early Meal—A Viking Age Cookbook & Culinary Odyssey” by Serra and Tunberg/ ISNB: 978-91-981056-0-5 (European). For more info: