Friday, April 04, 2008

Saisinko salmiakkia?

Every so often I start to miss Finland more than just the constant light tug at my heart. Finland is home, just as much as New Mexico is home. The decision to leave there 11 years ago was difficult, and the desire to move back always present.

Quantifying why I adore Finland is tough; there's much to love and most of it is rather abstract. But for the sake of a concrete forum like a blog, I will attempt to write a few of the great things about Finland down.

Paukku's Top Ten Finland List

1. Suomalaiset (Finns)
Of course Finns top the list. Despite the fact that typically Finns are sullen, introverted and often have serious difficulties in expressing their feelings, once you get to know them - and more importantly they get to know you - they are generous, compassionate and a lot of fun to be around! Heck! I married one, after all.

2. Salmiakki (salt liquorice)
Not really salty per se since it doesn't have any sodium chloride in it, Salmiakki is a liquorice candy that contains a relatively large amount of ammonium chloride, which tastes a bit like salt. The Latin term for ammonium chloride is sal ammoniac - you see the connexion! (Those Finns are a literal bunch most of the time...) It is an acquired taste that, once acquired, is an addiction! I've yet to meet a Finn who does not love it. And with rare exception, I have yet to give it to an American who doesn't want to spit it out about 1.5 seconds after tasting it.

3. Siideri (cider)
And not just Linda's. Even people who are maddened by the habitually untalkative Finns, disgusted with salmiakki, offended by blood pancakes and think it's just too damn dark in Finland in the winter love Finnish cider. We don't have anything really like siideri here in the States. It is a bit like Smirnoff Ice but really not the same; siideri is not as sweet and there's just more FLAVOUR. I just found out that this spring Golden Cap will be releasing two new flavors: Golden Cap Puolukka (lingonberry) and Golden Cap Lime (citrus). Maybe it IS time to move back!

4. Sauna
Naked Finns love their saunas, and I love naked Finns. Enough said.

5. Koskenkorva viina
Koskenkorva is one of the symbols of Finnishness. It is a grain (barley) alcohol (high-purity industrial ethanol - yes, ethanol!) that is then diluted with spring water and a very small amount of sugar. Never heard of it? No doubt. The Finns don't export it. It is smooth. And will knock you under the table.

6. Summer cabins
Rowing or canoing on a lake, heating up a wood-heated sauna in the (still light) evenings and then having your fill of makara (knackwurst) on the grilli, swimming, eating wild berries in the forest, playing games with the kids, fishing...

7. Ruis leipa (rye bread)
In Finland rye and bread made from rye are as ubiquitous as Wonderbread here - and oh so much better! Rye bread is an essential part of the family diet, with round, flat loaves with a hole in the middle made from rye by a fermentation process. Whenever we travel to Finland for a visit we stock up on ruis leipa. And I make it here.

8. Public transportation
Finland spoiled me. I rarely drove while in Finland because I almost never had a need to do so. The buses and trains are spectacular, both in punctuality and cleanliness. It is what inspired me to use public transportation here.

9. Kauppatori (Market Square in Helisinki)
Finnish food isn't only about doing shocking things with bread and fish (Thank all that is good and holy!). Finland has great street food. Summer is certainly the most vibrant time in Finland and the open-air markets teem with culture and really, really good food. From the fresh-picked berries to the fresh-caught fish. YUM!

10. Finnish
I mean the language. I miss hearing it. I'm some-what and kind-a-sorta literate in Finnish. And despite my sometimes-frustrations with trying to go from an American with "passable" Finnish to the coveted "fluent as a native speaker" title, I really love the sound of Finnish. You just don't hear things like "Aja hiljaa sillalla" or "Kokko, kokoo kokoon koko kokko!" around New Mexico.

Sigh. I miss Suomi.
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Kristen Martinez said...

Aw, you make me want to miss Finland. Maybe someday :).

Paula polakka said...

Hei Paukku, I love your writing style; you've got some of that Finnish wit. I found your blog looking for a hapanleipa recipe. Next summer when I go there to visit my sister, I'm going to do your top ten list. For now, I'm going for the bread. Kiitti paljon.

Paul-Baptiste Baca said...

Hei, Paula! Thanks for the kind comments! Hopefully in your search for a hapanleipa recipe you discovered my other blog, Zegedines and Bellytimber. I actually have a recipe for hapanleipa on that blog! Here's a link: