Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

What frightened me and my friends the most during our stay in Finland was the prices. Especially the food prices, because compared with our Polish currency, euro is strong and that makes Finland a rather expensive country. However, we certainly would regret, if we didn’t try any of the Finnish traditional dishes, so we spent our last evening in Helsinki in a restaurant run by a Polish-Finnish marriage. What a lovely coincidence, isn’t it?

I have a suspicion that it was prearranged by our guide-friend.

Loving Polish kitchen isn’t an easy job – the food is very fatty and stodgy in comparison with, for example, light Mediterranean dishes full of vegetables. But it has an undoubtedly great taste – well-prepared Polish dish is proportionately spiked with seasoning.

Most famous dish? Pierogi I think. Dumplings filled with cabbage, mushrooms, quark, potatoes . . . . Or maybe kotlety schabowe: flat chops made from the pork loin. Some people even say that you can’t consider yourself as a patriot if you don’t like them.

So, the first thing that surprised me in traditional Finnish kitchen (oh boy, my whole stay in Finland was a never-ending sequence of surprises) was their approach to seasoning. It is limited to the absolute minimum, the taste of everything is very mild. This reveals the true, natural taste of separate ingredients. Apparently, when it comes to the kitchen, Finns are very faithful to their Northern roots.

Meat, fish, rye breadstuff, lingonberries and cranberries found in the forest were often found on our plate, too. This makes me think about the prehistoric times when men hunted while women stayed in caves. By the way, those little forest fruits mentioned previously are often the topping on dishes – sauce made of them can be added even to meat.

What I loved the most? Of course, karjalanpiirakat (Karelian pirogs) – baked, half-opened rye dumplings with rice or vegetable stuffing. This is something I really miss about Finland, they were in every shop and every bakery. Also, a creamy salmon soup called lohikeitto suited me – I am a big fan of fish, especially salmon which is rather expensive in Poland, unfortunately.

Lappish cuisine found a straight path to my culinary heart. I’ve also tried reindeer meat, not without concern . . . . I decided I’d rather continue admiring them in nature, not on plates.

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