Category Archives: Food

Lingonberries are super food, but only for the brave

The Finnish forests are now full of free-for-all superfood! The blueberry season is almost finished, but now it’s the perfect time to go and pick lingonberries for the winter!

This weekend I’m visiting my parents in my dear old hometown Tampere, always relaxed and nice. Also the weather was on our side, so this afternoon we decided to be brave and head to the forests.

Why brave? The challenge of picking lingonberries in the perfect spot that “only” my parents know is that one is not alone there. These hoods are packed with nasty deer flies (in Latin Lipoptena cervi, in Finnish hirvikärpänen), who come there because the forest is also popular among elks.

Someone would think we are exaggerating looking at the preparations below, but covering everything you can and closing your sleeves with some painter’s tape was only a clever and quite necessary precaution before entering the forest… as we immediately found out.

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Super stylish berry picker ;)

A super stylish berry picker… not! 😉

I don’t have photos of our little friends but after we returned to our car after 2 hours in the forest (and with 35 litres of lingonberries, all the buckets full!) we found these flies all over our bodies. Disgusting! Especially my dad seemed to be popular among them, as he’s the biggest one and these flies look for human heat.

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But it was worth it, the forest was beautiful and gave you some special energy. Looking and tasting the lingonberries now makes one feel satisfied. Tomorrow we’ll freeze the berries and enjoy extra vitamins in the winter.

What is a lingonberry? Wikipedia tells that lingonberries are native to boreal forest and Arctic tundra throughout the Northern Hemisphere from Eurasia to North America.

The berries contain many organic acids, vitamin C, A and B (B1, B2, B3), potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. They also contain phytochemicals that are thought to counteract urinary-tract infections, and the seeds are rich in  omega-3.

The amazing fact is that 90 per cent of this super food is left in the forests of Finland. And at the market lingonberries cost about 4 euros per litre. What a waste! Maybe the deer flies are too big a challenge for us.

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Helsinki today: restaurants & a huge fleamarket

Today I got to taste Helsinki the way I really like it: with lots of happy people on the streets and with good weather!

This is not so easy combination that the people living in warmer climate might think… But when Helsinki wants to show its good side, it really is something! There’s a special feeling in the air…

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Today we had decided to take part in a huge fleamarket (in Finnish kirpputori), organised every now and then in different parts of Helsinki.

This time the association of Kallio, Kallio-liike, arranged a very popular street market in the bohemian & hipster Kallio neighbourhood, where everyone could just come and start selling their things – for free.

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The only requirements where to take all your unsold things back home with you and to make sure that the day would be fun & nice for everyone. And it really was! The sun was shining, there were lots of people selling and buying (perhaps more or less we were the same people but anyway) and everything went smoothly.

It’s so great when people quite spontaneously “occupy the urban space” and use it to strengthen the sense of community. The Vaasankatu street was closed to cars (actually it has been like that all the summer). Another good thing,

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However, the fleamarket wasn’t the only event happening in Helsinki today. A lot bigger one was Ravintolapäivä (Restaurant Day), which took place all over the city – and Finland – and internationally!

In short, it’s a food carnival where anyone can open a restaurant for a day – and it’s amazing how many people do it in very creative ways! You just have to take a walk in Esplanadi park, like we did, to get a good glimpse of the variety.

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Their enthusiasm is amazing, as is the fact that one gets to taste the most interesting things… Today I was mostly selling stuff at the fleamarket, but I still tasted typical Maleysian soy bean rolls with shrimps and Vietnamese frittata with cabbage. Or something like that… Unfortunately there are no photos of these delicacies, I was too hungry to think about photos at the moment. 😉

Only the creativity of the chefs is the limit when it comes to the food and locating the pop-up restaurants: they can take place homes, gardens, parks, streets, balconies, shops etc. Naturally now in the summer the most of the restaurants are outside, in the November or January edition of Restaurant Day it’s a bit different…

Thank you for today, Helsinki! Looking forward to seeing more days like this, with the city alive and many smiling people around.

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Post-holiday blues… back to Helsinki

Returning from holidays is a funny thing. You never know what feeling to expect. Sometimes it’s just wonderful to be back home, have a good shower, fill the fridge with your food and lie down on the sofa going through all the photos from the past weeks in the sun. Doing absolutely nothing.

Last night was like this for me, after returning from a wonderful 2-week island hopping tour in Greece.

But this morning I opened my eyes, spent some seconds relocating myself, and when I understood that I was back home in Helsinki and that tomorrow I was to go back to work, I felt a cold shiver going through my body. Even if I like my life, work, home and Helsinki.

Then I almost got into tears while sipping my coffee and thinking that this was it (I tend to be a bit dramatic sometimes, as my boyfriend well knows). I thought it’s goodbye to freedom, sun and warm weather. Welcome another year of routine, coldness and darkness. Days that pass by without leaving a trace. I got scared and sad, just like that.

Of course I rationally know it won’t be like that. Every day brings new and good things, and I have lots of plans. For me, a new year starts in the autumn, not January 1.

I also feel this year will bring positive changes and adventures with it. For a long time, I’ve been up to starting something “to call my own”, apart from the day job. I already work as freelance journalist and do communications projects but this has been very unorganised and casual.

Now I want to concentrate myself on what I really want to do and put my full attention into it, hoping that some day it’ll carry far.. the typical dream, I guess. 🙂

Anyway, for all this and for some unexplainable reason today I felt anxious and sad. My boyfriend understood this and took me for a walk to see something I like: Helsinki with people and action.

An empty city on a Sunday morning is depressing, but luckily we encountered all this…

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One of the best places of Helsinki in summer mornings is Hietsu, the huge kirpputori where people sell things they don’t need  – but someone surely does!

You can make discoveries and the atmosphere is friendly. There’s also the inside markethall Hietalahden kauppahalli, which has reopened its doors after many years. Inside you’ll find fresh (but very expensive) vegetables, nice cafes and restaurants. I recommend Soppakeittiö, which sells big portions of yummy soups, changing daily.20130811-142643.jpg

Another thing that cheers me up are spontaneous ideas that people have to take control of the urban space. Like this note someone had left near Ruttopuisto at Bulevardi:

“Thank you Helsinki for these years and wonderful moments. Rest in joy. I will be back.”

20130811-142650.jpgI love bump into events that I didn’t know about – it gives you a feeling that the city is alive! Today we found a big International Market at Kamppi, where people from all over (well, mostly from Italy, Germany, England and Finland) had come to sell their products. Apart from food you could by clothes, jewellery and typical “festival stuff”. 20130811-142702.jpgAs part of my new, even healthier life that shall start next week, I finally bought something I’ve been recommended many times by my friends.

Arctic Chaga powder (pakurikääpä) is a fungus growing on trees and a superfood that’s becoming more popular in Finland – and abroad. I bought this pack from a nice lady from Lapland who repeated all its health benefits.

Thousands of years of Chinese medicine and many studies can’t be wrong, so I spent 20€ and bought 73 grams of the powder. This small amount should last for a long time. Tonight I’ll try cooking the stuff and tell more about it a bit later!

Enjoy your Sunday, wherever you are! Now I’ll go for a small run: another thing that is guaranteed to perk one up.

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We want local food – but what is it?

Where do you come from, broiler?

Local food is a big thing in Finland these days. It’s truly in fashion, at least the trendy people of Helsinki constantly talk about how they want their food local.

New (expensive) stores selling local products pop-up all around the city. Like this one, Anton&Anton in Töölö.

Of course, the elder generations know better and have been consuming local food all their lives – without making a fuss about it. Still, I think this one is a good trend – as long as it doesn’t make the prices go up too much. And there is another major problem: nobody really knows what actually is local food?

This weekend I’m visiting my parents in Tampere and yesterday the local newspaper Aamulehti published an opinion about local food, which will surely provoke debate.

A guy called Visa Merikoski, the director of MTK Pirkanma, the local division of Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners, claimed that soon even broiler from Brazil will be considered as local product, if the current trend continues.

He says that yes, local food interests the consumers a lot, and this is way so many supermarket chains are now thinking hard how to take the advantage of the trend. They sell images and when it comes to local food, the tendency is to lie – just a little bit.

Why? Because “at its worst” Polish wheat, Danish pork or Brazilian chicken might end up being local food as in most supermarkets one can already find products, whose origins are not announced correctly.

As consumers prefer local food, it seems logical that the main reason for hiding the origins is that they are not from near here… not even from Finland. In the end, the consumer believes he/she’s buying something he isn’t. This could be called cheating, or at least hiding the truth.

The thing is that everyone has the right to define local food from their own point of view. The consumers think that only small-scale production means local and they hate the idea of industrial production. Some connect local food to organic food.

The food production industry thinks that what counts is where the food is made, not from where the ingredients come from.

Then there are the farmers, who want ingredients that arrive from as near as possible – at least from inside Finland.

And the food production workers think that domestic work is very important.

One might guess that all these different ideas cause a mess when it comes to marketing local food.

(Finnish?) rye bread

For example, Mr. Visa tells that in one local supermarket they don’t tell the origins of a pork product, whose name refers to something 100% local (the product in this case was Tapolan ylikypsä kinkku). Probably it had been made right here in Tampere, but not telling it makes one suspicious… naturally.

So why don’t the producers tell the facts, when the information would attract more consumers??

One might also find bread – on the shelf reserved for local food – whose wheat has travelled a long way. The bakers tend to explain that domestic wheat is not always available, so they cannot commit to using it. This is not true: one can always get domestic wheat, it just might not be as cheap as the foreign ones.

In brief, every Finn has encountered products that carry a Finnish flag or other symbol referring to it being national, even if the product might be something totally different.

Does this mean it’s Finnish – really?

If we don’t talk about this openly, the same tendency will continue – and someday we won’t have any means to know from where our bread, salad, fruit, meat, fish or chocolate comes from. No thanks, we have the right to know – and to be able to choose.

Everyone (the politicians, media and food producers) know well what’s going on – so please do something about it!

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Finland – a nation in love with milk

Yesterday I arrived to my parents’ place in Tampere, ready to spend some days without doing anything. Well, anything I don’t feel like doing.

Anyway, being at the parents’ place means that the fridge is always full of good stuff. When I open the door, which I do here a lot, it’s a very different experience than at home as to the variety and quality – my mom is an excellent cook and when the daughter is home so they make sure there’s everything I could ever desire. And I sure enjoy it!

Last evening I accompanied them to do the shopping for the weekend in a huge supermarket called Citymarket. Normally me and my boyfriend do our shopping in a small Alepa or K-supermarket next to our home, so it’s an eye-opening experience to go to these huge places and realize the choice they have – of everything. And in Finland the variety is still quite limited compared to many other countries. Especially in US I always get overwhelmed by the selection of all the products from cheese to sweets. It makes me immediately think do we really need all this stuff? Of course we don’t.

Anyway, this time I focused on the  variety of milk products – Finns love milk and consume a lot of yogurt, “piimä” (kind of sour milk) and “rahka” (kind of quark). Milk is a typical drink for anything: breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, salty, sweet… The speciality of Tampere is a creative combination of “mustamakkara” (blood sausage) with lingonberry jam and a glass of milk. Quite a surprise to my Spanish boyfriend! All in all, I would say milk is our national drink, though younger generations are not so much into it.

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Mustamakkara, the typical dish in Tampere, with lingonberry jam and milk. Here’s also the dessert – a doughnut.

Another thing is that there are as many tastes as there are kinds of milk. Today my parents’ fridge contains 5 different milk packs – all three of us have our milk + some extras. And this is nothing if you think of all the milks you can find in a normal Finnish supermarket.

Moreover, there’s a huge number of Finns who can’t intake milk lactose – for example myself. There’s even a joke that you know when you’ve lived too long in Finland when you become lactose-intolerant. So now they have all the milk products also with little (“hyla” or no lactose (“laktoositon”) And so the variety grows.

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My mom likes her milk semi-skimmed and “hyla” – with only little lactose, as she is a bit lactose-intolerant.

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My boyfriend wants his milk semi-skimmed and normal – as he’s Spanish, no lactose-intolerance involved.

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Today I like soy milk the best even if I drink skimmed low-lactose milk too. Depends of the moment…

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My father drinks normal skimmed milk – he’s not lactose-intolerant but on a diet.

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My brother wants to have his coffee with normal full-fat milk.

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Extras: sour milk – another speciality that is very good and healthy containing a lot of good bacteria.

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My favourite yoghurt – I like it simple, without any artificial taste.

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… and this is the yoghurt of my boyfriend. Danone Strawberry with lots of sugar and stuff.

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Quark – another milk product. I love the sour taste and the fact that it contains so much protein.

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My mom’s favourite. “Viili” is a type of yogurt (a mesophilic fermented milk) that originated in the Nordic countries”, Wikipedia tells.

Actually last year the milk consumption of the Finns went a bit down, as every Finn drank about 129 litres of milk in a year. Still it seems a lot, as not everyone drinks milk at all. Also ice cream was eaten a bit less last year – and Finland is the nation which most ice cream enjoyes in the world! Even if you wouldn’t believe it, as we have are surrounded by ice and snow most of the time  and eating something cold on top of that might not seem wise.

Yoghurt consumption is on the rise, too. Last year every Finn ate 24 kilos of yoghurt. Personally I love natural yoghurt and eat it every morning for breakfast with fruit and seeds.

Anyway, as there’s a very strong low-carb fashion in Finland right now, we consume more and more fat milk and butter (instead of margarine). Also cheese and quark are getting more popular. So I guess we’ll continue heavy consumers of all the white material coming out of a cow – and it’s derivations full of calcium and protein. Not that bad a habit, I guess, even if my vegan friends think it’s crazy to eat “cow’s food”. But even they love soy milk, rice milk, oat milk or coconut milk…

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Juhannus – Finnish Midsummer is special

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The midnight sun. Credit: YLE.

Last weekend we celebrated juhannus, the Finnish Midsummer. It’s an important party here in the Nordic countries, I would say the second after Christmas.

Our Midsummer traditions have pre-Christian origin. Like most of today’s Christian festivities, also Midsummer used to be a pagan holiday. The Christian faith then associated the date with the celebration of the nativity of John the Baptist. That’s practical.

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“Kokko” in Pispala, Tampere. Tens of people came to see the lighting of this bonfire waving Finnish flags. The weather was wonderful, too.

Anyway, some of the old traditions still go strong. For example the bonfires, kokko, which are burnt by the lake or the sea. We also get a couple of young birch trees and place them at the front door – with lots of flowers everywhere!

Midsummer is a night full of magic, so it’s the perfect time for performing some rituals like putting 7 flowers under your pillow for dreaming about your future husband or wife… mostly the tricks are for young maidens seeking suitors and fertility. Probably it’s a high time to update the rituals!

The true star of the party is the midnight sun. This time of the year, the night does not exist. And you don’t really feel like sleeping either, which is both good and bad, of course…

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It’s not midnight sun… but almost. Juhannus in the neighbourhood of Pispala, about 11pm.

During Midsummer, Helsinki becomes a desert city, as everyone heads for the countryside and the summer cottages. Even if every year there are more and more activities also here in the city for those who decide (or have to) stay.

As the idea of renting a cottage felt quite stressful, we chose a “a middle” plan and spent the Midsummer with my parents in Tampere. It’s quite a big city but as my parents live by the lake, it’s almost like being in a cottage (without thousands of mosquitos, which my boyfriend fiercely hates).

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The traditional “ball” grill, pallogrilli, for preparing “makkara”, the Finnish sausage. My parents have one just like this.

It was a perfect choice! My parents were happy and, as many music festivals are organized on the Midsummer, also near my parents’ place there was Pispala Festival that took place on the beach of a lake – with 20 bands performing during two days.

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Sauna inside a tent at Pispala Festival. Cool idea and even better as it’s only 10 meters away from the beach.

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Pispala Festival was organised for the first time this year – and it was a big success!

Pispala is the hippie-punk-alternative-bohemian neighbourhood in Tampere (still, even if there are more and more yuppies moving in) so the place has a vivid alternative culture scene. There’s also a 100-year old public sauna, Rajaportin sauna. I highly recommend it, if you ever go to Tampere!

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Finnish traditions include beating your friends with “vihta”, a bunch of birch boughs tied up in a special way. It’s good for your blood circulation! Credit: http://www.pispala.fi/rajaportinsauna/satavuotta/jutut.html

Barbacoa is the thing to eat for juhannus. My parent’s are not so much into barbacoa, so we only did it once with the typical Finnish makkara that has different flavours. Then we had sauna, where we beat each other with vihta (another tradition) and drank some beer. Well, we drank very little taken into account that heavy drinking is closely associated with juhannus. Actually it’s very sad, as every year we calculate the dead after the party is over. This year at least 15 people got killed, and most of the deaths were related to alcohol: traffic accidents, drowning in the sea or a lake, fires… I wish one day we would learn to drink a bit more moderately. Let’s see what happens the next juhannus…

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Finnish juhannus – theory and practise. There’s a point here, even if this year we had sunshine. 😉 Credit: Naurunappula.

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At a Spanish wedding – Where’s the crisis?

This weekend I’ve been feeling so lazy. Luckily today I got an excuse to stay at the sofa, write and listen to music – thank you, heavy rain.

I also checked the photos I took at the wedding we attended in Spain earlier this week. My boyfriend’s little brother got married in their hometown, Albacete in Castilla-la-Mancha. Our brief visit of 5 days (2 of them travelling) included eating, drinking and meeting lots of family!

This was the first time I attended a wedding in Spain – or abroad. My Finnish friends are not of a marrying kind either, nor myself, so I didn’t know what to wait for.

Spain, with its serious economic problems and unemployment rate of 25% (the rate of young people is a terrifying over 50%!) have filled the headlines also in Finland. So I expected to hear a lot about “la crisis”. I was wrong. Luckily most of my boyfriend’s friends and family are working, so things don’t seem that bad. Still, at some point all the conversations led to the crisis and I could sense that people were very worried about the future.

Some kids hanging on the stairs of the cathedral before the wedding.

In this context, the wedding seemed overwhelming. More than 150 guests gathered at the big cathedral of the city in the evening, dressed up in a fancy way… I heard this is typical for Spanish weddings, while the Finnish ones tend to be a bit more humble. Inside the church the Mexican Catholic priest gave us a long discourse on the marriage and love, the rings were exchanged and the soprano and pianist performed some nice tunes (to keep the audience awake, maybe? 😉

The young happy couple in the process of getting married. The proud parents stand behind. Symbolically, the mother of the groom and the father of the pride.

All in all, the service was quite similar to Finland, which makes me think how globalised we are – or probably it’s the Christian religion with its codes. “Luckily” some details where new. For example, the bride and the groom exchanged coins -as a symbol of sharing their goods! For me, this seemed a little strange even if the marriage is (also) a financial agreement.

After the ceremony, we continued to a restaurant nearby – and started eating! This continued till’ morning and I lost count of the dishes after 10… amazing! Before I thought that we eat a lot in Finnish weddings, but now I know that would be just the tapas. I have no clue how people were able to digest all that food. I had to leave almost half, which was a big pity, as everything was delicious: fine salads, patés, seafood, fish, meat of many kinds… and 3 desserts, of course. After eating it felt good to dance a bit and drink a couple of digestive gin tonics from the free bar. At 6am we went to sleep, but naturally the party went on.

My favourite dish at the wedding – I love seafood and this was of excellent quality.

Next day we continued the eating, drinking and family reunion at the summer house, where more than 50 persons gathered. We enjoyed tapas: an entire jamón serrano and a huge manchego cheese followed by paella and gazpacho manchego. The mother of my boyfriend was a bit upset as people didn’t eat enough – after eating all night and day – in the end more than half of the paella had to be thrown away.

Fruit dessert with special effects.

I always feel very bad when food is wasted, and we talked about this with the family. We asked, why there has to be so me much food then, if everyone knows beforehand that nobody is able to eat it? The answer was that it’s the tradition. As in many countries, it’s important to show that there is a lot of food and things are fine – especially now, when there’s the shadow of the crisis cast over. Anyway, I hope this attitude will change, little by little – at least my boyfriend is now very conscious and doesn’t approve throwing away food.

An entire ham, jamón serrano, was cut and served in front of us. It’s a special process.

This might not look like gazpacho as we know it, but sure it is! It’s gazpacho à la Castilla-la-Mancha with different kinds of meats.

An excellent seafood paella prepared by a bar nearby, it just fit in the car… Unfortunately everyone was too full when the plate arrived.

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Karjalanpiirakka, an amazing Finnish pastry

It’s raining here in Tampere. I wonder if the summer will ever come to Finland. I’m here to visit my parents for the weekend, but for now the best option is to stay on the sofa and read a book.

I’m home alone, because my father just went to bake 500 Karelian pies to be sold tomorrow morning at the market place – they really are a big hit! “We’ll sell them in 5 minutes”, he’s boosting.

My father’s origins are in the Eastern part of Karelia, a region that Russia invaded during the Second World War. All the Finns were “thrown out”, they were given about 24 hours to leave their homes, collect all the belongings they could and escape to what is now Finland. The Karelians were relocated all around Finland, the family of my dad in a town near Tampere, where she met my mother… So there’s something positive in the tragedy.

My dad travels a lot to Russian Karelia. Some people still speak Finnish there and he loves to revisit the familiar places – even if he was very small, when they had to go.

Because of the harsh history, Carelians feel very strong about their culture. Also my father belongs to a Karelian friendship association.

Karelians have a fame to be very hospitable. When we go to visit my Karelian aunt, she always fills the table with an amazing amount of food. So, it’s easy to understand why they have brought many delicacies to the Finnish gastronomy. The most famous food is probably the Karelian pasty or Karelian pie, which are now very popular around Finland.

There are many variations of the recipe depending on the region, village or even the house. Once, when I was taught how to bake these pies by some grandmothers, they almost almost got into a fight on which is the correct way to make the pie.

Anyway, the common recipe includes a thin rye crust with a filling of rice. You normally eat the hot pasties with munavoi, butter mixed with boiled egg. However, the pies can be eaten with almost anything: cheese, ham, salmon, vegetables…

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This is how it looks like! Or should look like. Some delicious, fresh Karelian pies.

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Karelian pies can also be made with mashed potatoes, like here, or with carrot. Credit: Ilta-Sanomat.

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This pie is called “Sultsina”. It’s a fine pie that used to be eaten with special guests. It’s normally filled with rice or semolina porridge. Credit: Yle.

I’ve visited Karelia a couple of times. It feels very special, as part of my roots are there. Here come some photos I took during my trip in 2005 – to get in the Karelian mood. As you can observe, nowadays the region is very poor.

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This is Aunus, a Karelian town on the Russian side. A very typical village path with a very typical grandmother walking on it.

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The Aunus river on a hot summer day. In the winter living here is completely different, very hard.

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The grandmothers in Russia are really something! Strong, wise women who take care of the household and especially of their boys and husbands, who in many cases like vodka a bit too much…

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A typical Karelian wooden house in Aunus region. 

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Sausages, beer, pretzels and castles – you’ll find all this in…


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The typical Bayerian dish - white sausage, beer and pretzel. Served only in the mornings.

This time it’s not about my dear Helsinki but of Munich and Riga!

What’s the (only?) negative thing about spring? It doesn’t offer us workers any considerable holiday breaks. So I try to take advantage of any long weekend and travel around with my boyfriend. For Easter, we went to Munich and spent a night in Riga on the way.

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Riga panorama from a bar in a clock tower. The bar is a bit styless but the view compensates it.

My first ever visit to Riga was nice but brief. We wandered around, visited typical markets and slept in a hostel owned by Australians. Must go back in the summer, as Air Baltic offers very cheap direct flights from Helsinki.

Then Munich. Well, it never was a dream destination for me, but why not (the only cheap flights we could get for those dates with a coupon we had to spend).

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The best of Bayer: Neuschwanstein Castle. We were "lucky" enough to visit it in a middle of a snow storm - in April!

The Bayerian traditions sure are interesting. Like the rypical “breakfast”, white sausages and 1 litre of beer (with prezel, of course). Or the traditional costume dirndl sold everywhere – and people who so happily wear them on the street or in the traditional beer gardens.

Ah, the beer! Normally I’m not a fan of (Finnish) beer, but the Munich versions were excellent! Especially beer with lemon. I could easily drink a litre or two of that.

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The famous Hofbräuhaus Beer Garden in Munich. Here Hitler organized the first publicity and propaganda events in 1920.

Munich is the richest and the most expensive city in Germany, which you really notice. People look wealthy as do their cars. Munich is the home of BMW, and I really got a lesson on car history as we spent some hours in the BMW headquarters and museum – a deal we made with my boyfriend so we would later see some modern art  – well, in the end we skipped it for the lack of time. But instead I got some nice beer with lemon in the park.

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Our hotel remembered us with a bottle of wine. Nice. As my boyfriend doesn't like wine, well, a woman has to do what a woman has to do...

Still, after four days of Munich – and of snowstorms and rain – it was great to come back to the sunny Helsinki. The routine is not that bad when you get away once in a while. Yesterday we took out the bicycles from the winter shelter and tonight we had a great hot sauna. Now it’s just perfect to lay down on the home sofa with a glass of red wine, jamón serrano and picos. Not very Finnish but hey – mixing cultures is the thing of today. 😉

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Jamón ibérico de bellota (the best kind) and picos (Spanish bread snacks) for dinner. Home sweet home - Helsinki.

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Easter the Finnish way – eggs, lamb and mämmi

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Easter decorations. Credit: Kotiliesi

This evening I’m off to Munich for Easter holidays, so I probably won’t get to experience all the Finnish Easter stuff. At least I can write about our Easter traditions – some of them are quite interesting.

Our Easter celebrations started last Sunday. On Palmsunday (Palmusunnuntai) children go from door to door dressed like Easter witches and doing “virpominen” by waving decorated tree-branches and wishing a good year with a rhyme. The kids give the branch away – if they receive sweets or coins in return. A bit like Halloween’s “trick-or-treat”.

I used to love this when I was small. We dressed up with my friends, went around the neighborhood and finally shared our “catch”. Good candies were worth a lot more than “boring” coins. Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs  we liked the most. And I still do, even if now the selection of chocolate eggs is a lot wider.

Unfortunately we didn’t receive any witches at our door last Sunday – well, we didn’t have any candies either – as in the city the entrance doors are locked and the kids can’t get in. 😦

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Little witches doing "virpominen". Credit: Yle

Tomorrow it’ll be Easter Friday. While I’ll be walking around Munich, I know many Finns stay silent at home. When I was a kid, my mom didn’t let me do almost anything this sad, gloomy day – even if my family wasn’t religious. In Finnish the day is called “Long Friday” (Pitkäperjantai) and it really felt so! According to tradition you weren’t even allowed to smile with your teeth this day.

At Easter you decorate your home with twigs and branches and grass you cultivated in jars or tins. You also hide cholocate eggs around the house and then children look for them. Well, my mom still does it for me and a colleague just told me that she hides eggs for his boyfriend. So the tradition goes on.

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Lamb is a typical thing to eat for Easter. Credit: MTV3

Special dishes include eggs in different forms, of course, and lamb – to celebrate the end of what used to be fasting for Easter. And it still is, for some.

A truly special Easter delicacy is “mämmi”. Foreigners normally hate this stuff that reminds closely… poo! If you are brave enough to taste mämmi, you’ll notice that it’s not that bad – with sugar and cream. At least I like it! Once a year, that is.

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Mämmi. You love it - or hate it. But you've got to taste it! Credit: Wikipedia

Another typical dessert comes from Russia, Pasha. This is heavy stuff, so taste it – but not too much. Compared to mämmi, this is a more “normal” thing to eat, I guess. 😉

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Pasha, the Russian contribution to Finnish Easter. Credit: Wikipedia

So, “Hyvää pääsiäistä”, Happy Easter! Have a rest and eat enough chocolate eggs.

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