A Finnish Feast, Finally!

I was hoping that after sipping on this “country wine”, all of our boys would grow comparable moustaches to this jolly fellow. Unfortunately, the wine doesn’t appear to have any impact on their ability to grow facial hair.

Anyway! Last night we had a more delicious meal than usual, thanks to Dick and Judy’s generosity. Our benefactors had considered taking us out to dinner here in Rovaniemi to sample Lappish cuisine, but in the end it seemed like the cheaper, and more fun, option was to buy the ingredients ourselves and cook up our own feast. So that’s what we did.

Grocery shopping was a lot of fun. Dick and Judy took us girls with them and we spent at least an hour, it felt like, browsing every aisle of the “Citymarket” and finding all sorts of treats. Then, we came home and started cooking them up.

We started with appetizers. Three kinds of Finnish flatbread: a soft, white one; tougher, dark brown bread; and hard crackers. Three kinds of pickled herring: mustard, dill, and something with carrots in it that was nonetheless kind of purple in appearance. The mustard (sinapi) was my favorite, and the herring was overall much more delicious than the cheap canned variety we had tried earlier in the trip. Then, three kinds of cheese, including a soft, herbed one, something hard with a brown rind, and a huge, flat round of “squeaky” cheese which we heated up in a frying pan. It didn’t exactly taste like much, but when warm, it was completely delicious on the soft white flatbread. We had lingonberry jam as well as plain, unsweetened lingonberries, both of which were delicious. To top it off, we had an entire smoked salmon.

Why get a fillet when you can buy the whole fish? The outside was leathery and looked really cool. We had Dick carve it up for us, and the meat inside was incredibly delicious – much better than most vacuum-sealed fillets you can pick up. There was a lot of it, too. What a treat.

We wouldn’t have guessed this at the outset, but we had eaten so many appetizers that we barely had room for dinner. Dinner was delicious, too, though, so we just continued stuffing ourselves silly. Hannah had made nice rye bread, and we had mashed potatoes and roasted root vegetables: golden beets, parsnips, turnips, celeriac, carrots, onions, and garlic. The real show-stopper, though, was reindeer! We got some very thin fillets, and cut them into even smaller strips, then pan-cooked them with onions and wild mushrooms. It was beyond delicious. I think in a way I had almost been hoping that reindeer wouldn’t be that good, because then I wouldn’t have to live with the disappointment of not eating it more often. Well, at least if it’s cooked how Judy did it… I am sad not to eat that every day! But that’s what treats are, something you get to enjoy only on special occasions.

By the time we were done with dinner, we were complete stuffed and exhausted. We’d also been sipping a couple of local “wines” which turned out to be more like fruit liqueurs, or, frankly, Smirnoff Ice. They tasted like fruit juice and vodka, I’m not even kidding. With a ton of sugar and 15% alcohol, even a small glass gave us that sleepy feeling in combination with the ridiculous amount of food we had just consumed.

But we couldn’t stop. I had made cheesecake, using some frozen cloudberries, which are a bit like orange raspberries but taste completely different and unusual. I was nervous about the cheesecake because I’d made exactly one in my entire life and was all of a sudden throwing this together with no recipe, no measuring cups, and generally no idea what I was doing, but it turned out fine. I made the crust out of toasted hazelnuts and ground up digestive biscuits, and the cake out of a mixture of quark and mascarpone, with eggs, sugar, lemon juice, and cloudberries. I also made one of the cakes with only quark, which Ollie can kind of eat, unlike mascarpone, which wreaks havoc on his lactose-intolerant system. I also made a cloudberry sauce to go on top, but I liked the cloudberries much better in the cake than on their own.

Well. That about did it. We were useless and falling asleep for the rest of the night, content in our food comas.

Thanks, Dick and Judy, for allowing us to have an incredible feast!

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