In the book Culture Shock! Finland, I came across this personal story, “In the States, an elderly woman saw me sitting on a bench and said to me “Your shoes are so cute! I was taken aback and thought she was so rude. Why should this complete stranger have the right to make value judgements about my dress, and why should she think I’d care? After all, I liked my shoes (that’s why I was wearing them) and why should anyone else’s comments matter to me?” I think I would get along well in this culture.
According to the lady who wrote this book in 2001, Finns like to keep to themselves and think privacy is important. Apparently they don’t like small talk and don’t smile much or meet people’s eyes. Here’s a joke from the same book. “Juha meets Johanna at a dance. They leave together and he says, ‘Your place or mine?’ She replies, ‘Why are you talking so much?'”
Some other very Finnish things – a majority of them have cabins that they go to on holiday. Just about everyone has a sauna. A sauna is a wooden room that is heated up to a dry heat of about 160-170F. To encourage good circulation they beat themselves or others with small branches. When the heat gets to be too much, the best option is to go outside, cut a hole in the ice and jump in for a quick swim. Then you can go back in the sauna!
A short history of Finland is that people moved into the area when the glaciers receded from the last ice age around 8500 BCE. In the modern era, the country has been largely dominated by Sweden to west and Russia to the east. Finland was under the Swedish monarchy for about 600 years. In the 1800s they were conquered by the Russian empire. At that time Russian rule was still the tsars. During this time, there were a number of nationalistic movements by the Finns. When the Socialist Revolution happened in 1917 in Russia, the Finns decided that they had enough. They definitely didn’t want their country run by the Soviets. Luckily due to the unrest in the USSR, the Finns were able to fight and win their freedom. So essentially Finland is a very young country with a long history. What makes them very interesting is for so much of their history, the Finns were the lower class people in their own country. That must influence their national identity even to today. According the Culture Shock! book, they have a good relationship with the Swedes but still don’t really care for the Russians.
So on to the food! I made a couple different things this week. Last Sunday I made Laskiaispulla which are sweet cardamom buns (pulla) with strawberry jam and whipped cream. I’ve always had trouble with yeasted foods rising enough but I think this recipe could be easily adapted for the dough setting with the bread machine. Here’s the recipe I used, the English version is at the bottom.
I would highly recommend this recipe if you were to make any from this series. For the ground cardamom, I visited Penzey’s Spices for the first time. I could spend way too much money there… It looked like a Pier One for spices. At any rate, they are not super sweet buns but I will increase the cardamom in them next time because I really love the flavor.
So how does mushy rice in a rye crust sound as a snack? I was a little worried about making this next item because honestly I thought it would be super bland or gross. Karelian pasties are a snack that’s popular in Karelia. Part of Karelia is now southeastern Finland, the remainder is the land around Lake Ladoga down to St. Petersburg in Russia. This dish is made with a rye crust. Rye is one of the more common grains in Scandinavia and Russia. The crust is rolled very thin and then rice cooked in milk until it is like a rice pudding is dished onto the crust. The crust is pinched up and the pasties are baked until the crust is crunchy. Then the pasties are eaten with hardboiled egg mixed with butter. Finns really love their dairy. Surprisingly, these things are very tasty!
They are quite small, only about palm sized. In the bottom picture, the left is without egg and the right is with egg. Here’s the recipe. They are very easy to make!
The last item I made this week is a blueberry pie. I don’t think this recipe is necessarily authentically Finnish but it was delicious and literally took me 10 minutes to throw together. This recipe is completely out of season because berry pies would usually be made when the fruit is in season during the summer. However, the weather was horrible here in Indiana so a summer pie sounded very nice. Plus I had frozen berries in the fridge! Finland has a large variety of berries. Foraging is also protected under law so any Finn can go out berry picking or mushroom picking just about anywhere! Some of the many berry varieties grown in Finland include: cloudberries, bilberries, strawberries, blueberries, cranberries and lingonberries. I would LOVE to taste a cloudberry but I don’t know where to get them in Indiana! Surprisingly, there are no Scandinavian groceries in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky or Ohio. But if I ever made it up to Minnesota where there is a large population of Swedes, I could probably find some there!
Looks like a mess but was very delicious! The crust is more cookie like – not a flaky crust.
Well that’s all for this week. I only have 2 recipes left and then I need to move on from Finland. I’ve been really enjoying the food! I hope you get a chance to try some of these recipes. They have all been delicious!