I met my friend Kim at a cooking contest in 1987. The contest required the use of Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese and had four winners in different categories. I was in appetizers and Kim was in desserts. We became fast friends and have kept in touch for almost 25 years. Not long ago, Kim mailed me this small paperback cookbook published in 1985, filled with amazing recipes, and facts about the Finnish people. Within the book I found post-it notes with delightful comments from Kim on the recipes used by her Finnish Grandmother. In the bread section a note says, “I remember my grandmother cracking open all the cardamom pods to make this pulla bread every Christmas. We loved it hot from the oven.” Finns love herrings, and she wrote how her grandmother loved herring salad. Kim added that she didn’t appreciate its fine flavor as a kid, but she did love her Grandmother’s prune tarts. One recipe Kim still makes is the Finnish oven pancake, which I also make for my Finn husband. It’s called “kropsu” and is a pancake-like batter poured into pre-heated heavy pan and baked until it puffs up and browns. We serve it with lingonberries, but some prefer raspberry jam or maple syrup.
The book is edited by well-known Finnish cookbook author, Beatrice Ojakangas. The front of the book contains very interesting reading about the country’s history, traditions, famous Finns, museums, architecture, and of course, food and recipes. Finns love soup and breads. The breads are usually very hearty like rye, but the sweet breads and coffee cakes are equally delicious.
Since one doesn’t see a Finnish restaurant around every corner, many people are not familiar with the cuisine. Much of it is actually what is popular at the moment on the food scene, which is sustainable, local, and fresh, as is most Scandinavian cuisine. Marcus Samuelsson, one of the “Top Chef Master” contestants currently competing on the popular show was born in Africa, but adopted and raised by Swedish parents. His award-winning Aquavit restaurant in New York City is based on the cuisine of Sweden.
Kim and I share the love of Finnish food and cooking, and we both also have daughters who enjoy it as well. When we first met, my girls were very young, and her three darling girls were not even born yet! We have exchanged pictures of our girls every year and watched them grow up together. It will never cease to amaze me how the joy of food brings people together.