This past year was incredibly busy for me! I didn’t have a lot of time to cook dinner so I had to take a break from blogging for a little bit. The New Year encouraged me to start back up on the food trail. For a little more variety I decided to randomize the countries as well as take more time with them. I’m going to spend a month with each country and read their literature, try multiple recipes and just try to understand more about them. This project will takes years! or until I get bored.
My favorite tool in this journey is Pinterest! You can follow my World Foods board where I will be putting up interesting looking recipes I find from around the internet.
By a roll of the dice, I got Finland for January. As a country that extends quite deeply into the arctic circle, it seemed fitting to be cooking Finnish recipes in the winter. I have always been interested in Finland. From an early age, my mom would tell me stories about a Finnish exchange student her family hosted when she was in high school. He is a doctor now and speaks a dozen languages. Studying languages has always been a passion of mine and when I attended the University of Washington for linguistics I learned about the origins of the Finnish language. Finnish is not actually related to more than a couple other languages (like Estonian). Swedish and Norwegian are Germanic languages and not at all close to Finnish. It is also one of the harder languages to learn.
Since Finland is located in the arctic circle in the summer around the solstice there is no night. Yep, 24 hours of sunlight. Conversely around the winter solstice there are days of only darkness. Finland is a republic and the majority of Finns are Lutheran. The capitol and largest city is Helsinki. Finland shares land borders with Norway, Sweden, and Russia and is across a relatively small sea from Estonia. Norway, Sweden and Russia have a very dominant history in the region and much of Finland’s history has been greatly influenced by its neighbors. I’m currently reading some books on the history of the region and will report back!
Famous Finnish people and things include:
- Linus Torvalds – creator of Linux
- Jean Sibelius – composer of Finlandia
- Eero Saarinen – architect
- Esa-Pekka Salonen – another famous architect
- Actual home of Santa Claus
- Angry Birds phone app
- Nokia – cell phone company
- Apocalyptica – 3 words – metal band + cello
- Darude – DJ – everyone knows this song
- salty licorice
Lots of cool things come from Finland except the last – salty licorice – which I’m thinking is similar to natto in Japan or vegemite in Australia. The locals love em, the rest of us hate em.
As I was looking for recipes I came across an interesting article about how the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said that Finnish food was awful. I figured that was an auspicious start to this project. Many countries don’t have quite as much of a culinary history as France or Italy but good eats can be found in every part of the world.
Popular foods in Finland include rye bread, dill, loads of different kinds of fresh berries in the summer, all kinds of fish, meat pasties, cardamom breads, fresh dairy products and Finnish meatballs (similar/same as Swedish meatballs). Normally I’ll post once a week but I’m a bit behind. You get two dishes this time! While rye bread is probably the most famous Finnish food, I don’t really like it so I probably won’t make it.
A few dishes really stood out for me as 1. edible, 2. interesting looking. The first is a nod to the long border with Russia! Blini with smoked salmon (I did not make the pierogi in the picture).
Blinis are a yeasted buckwheat pancake. The recipe I used was from the Joy of Cooking. They are traditionally served with smoked salmon – either plain or gravlax – with sour cream and dill. Normally this is served as an appetizer but I think it makes a delicious meal with pierogi! The dish was great but I miss Pacific Northwest smoked salmon. So much better than Indiana supermarket variety!
Week two was Lohikeitto which is a chowdery potato and salmon soup. This dish was delicious and will be moving into my recipe file.
This dish made a good dinner and even better leftovers! Chunk your salmon small and don’t over cook it! The oat crackers she posts in the blog link above look like a perfect match with the soup but we just ate the soup without biscuits.
Sometime on Sunday I will be making cardamom buns with strawberry filling (Laskiaispulla). The next two week’s dishes include Karelian pasties, blueberry pie, Janssons frestesle and Runeberg’s torte. Key to being satisfied cooking different cultures – also try their desserts!
Here’s some teasers!
Sure looks like there are plenty of tasty things to try in Finland!
If you would like to read along with me as I learn more about Finland, try these books:
- Culture shock! Finland: a survival guide to customs and etiquette
- Finland, cultural lone wolf – Richard Lewis
- The healer – Antti Tuomainen – fiction
- The history of Finland – Jason Lavery
- The Kalevala – compiled by Elias Lonnrot
- Sibelius – Andrew Barnett
- The year of the hare – Arto Paasilinna – fiction
- A brief history of the Vikings – Jonathan Clements
- A history of Scandinavia – T.K. Derry
- A frozen hell: the Russo-Finnish winter war of 1939-1940 – William Trotter
See you later! Or as they say in Finland: nähdään pian!