Finland, Finland, Finland: It’s the country for me

Vodka, rye bread, a quiet night in with a book — what could be better

Everyone loves Finland. Santa lives there, it has the youngest world leader, Monty Python sing about it, and Finnish People are the happiest in the world. But why is this freezing cold land of reindeers so damn appealing? Well it certainly isn’t their national dish, Karelian pie, a rye dough pastry stuffed with rice porridge, which is named after the part of Finland that Russia Annexed in 1940 and has never given back. I ate Karelian pie for breakfast in Finland a few years ago and decided I wouldn’t spend my time trying to cook a vegan version at home. Instead I went for mustikkapiirakka, an incredible blueberry pie that took the family by storm — it even looked good! I paired it with perunarieska, a potato flatbread, which was tasteless but edible and, much more excitingly, janssonin kiusaus in which you cook potatoes in cream! It was delicious, I simply swapped the anchovies for capers (in fact always do this) and the cream for oat cream. It is RICH though, so pair it with something tasteless, like a perunarieska, and something that cuts through fat, like Finlandia vodka, which can be transformed into a Finnish Long drink with the simple addition of lemon juice, cranberry juice and grapefruit soda. It is full of fruit so it is technically good for you — perfect!

I made that. I am a proud father.

A had a few of these beverages throughout the week to help me get through my chosen book The Year of the Hare, a sort of surrealish tale of a man who befriends a hare and leaves his hum drum world behind to travel through Finland getting into various scrapes. It’s hard to describe, but it felt like the kind of thing people read in the 1970s when being zany was enough to get you published. It paled in comparison to the only other Finnish book I remember reading (other than Moomins of course), Kari Hotakainen’s The Human Part, which tells the tale of an author whose lost his muse and so buys a elderly woman’s life to try to replace it.

I also made this. I am not SO proud of this one.

The Human Part has, in fact, also been made into a film, but I chose not to watch it, even though the films I did tackle were so enjoyable I ended up watching three! I love the way they tell their stories slowly and calmly as if they have all the time in the world. They also tackled tricky subjects like madness, the aftereffects of war and the appalling way homosexuals were treated in Finland, but still managed to be relaxing and enjoyable to watch. The first was, Love and Fury, the story of the punk writing movement and the love between a working class and an upper class exponents of the genre. She thrives, he doesn’t and we get to enjoy the feeling of living in Helsinki in the 1980s. The second Land of Hope tells the story of an upper class woman falling in love with her brother’s friend when he comes home to tell them her brother has died in the war. There are in fact lots of similarities as once more, the woman is strong and looks after the man as his health fails and we get to enjoy the feeling of living in the Finnish countryside in the 1950s (spoiler, it is cold). Finally I watched Tom of Finland, the story of one of the world’s best homoerotic artists and how he came to create unforgettable drawings of bulky men dressed in tight, tight leather. It puts pay to the belief that Finland has always been a kind of forward thinking place and Touko Valio Laaksonen (Tom’s real name) ends up having to head to Germany and then the USA to get himself known. There he meets many leather men of his dreams, but the man of his dreams is found much closer to home…

This I loved! I am aware I could make it look more appealing…

And so, to music! Monty Python may insist that Finland has it all, but I had a bit of trouble finding a large number of songs for my playlist (which of course includes Sibelius), I therefore reached out to my death metal correspondent who suggested bands like Korpiklaani (folk-metal — who sing of their love of vodka) and Apocalyptica (symphonic metal — they do gentle covers of Metallica). But even with the inclusion of metal, I didn’t quite find an hour of songs, whereas next week’s French playlist is already 8 hours long… so I must be missing something, please let me know what!

I am not sure I have ever been happier.
Potato bread. It may not be worth your time giving it a go…

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Armchair traveller

Zero carbon lockdown travel through books, drinks, food, films, music and the magic of living in multicultural #Birmingham.