We’re just back from a “tour de force” at the food festival Terra Madre, Salone del Gusto di Torino, (September 22-26), and we are more and more convinced that the approaching winter will be all about Finland. That’s because a stay in this snowy land stretching from the Baltic sea to Norway is much more than a slightly unusual skiing adventure. It is not really ideal for downhill skiing: the only downhill slope is 2 km long and boasts a drop of only 600 meters. But Finland is the main destination for cross-country skiing and snow walking, and both are growing in popularity thanks to their eco-trendy character.
Skiers can close each day with a sauna – traditional or in ice like in Ruka, one of the most prestigious locations. Or they can explore all the new gourmet restaurants, whose chefs with and without stars are ready to move pots and pans to allow Italians to taste Northern-style cooking: like Jarmo Pitkänen, chef at the famous ‘studio-restaurant’ Tundra in Kuusamo and established potter His dishes are rich of scents and natural ingredients, gathered in an untouched environment and extremely pure.
Forget Ikea meatballs (also because they’re Swedish, not Finnish – it would be like looking for Tyrolean canederli in Naples): maybe inspired by Danish René Redzepi and his birch wood soup, young Finnish chefs will surely try to seduce foreign palates with their “berry power”. Berries are everywhere, like wild strawberries (ahomansikka eli metsa mansikka or fragaria vesca), blueberries (mustikka), cranberries (puolukka or vaccinium vitis-idaea), black crowberry (varikssemarja,variksen), arctic raspberry (mesimarja), currant (viinimarja), cloudberry (lakka – it gives a delicious aromatic liqueur).
It is not surprising this is the place where berries are sold by the litre (one litre of wild strawberries for example is about 4 kg): there are so many berries that tons of them are left on the plants every year. But that’s the past: today these gifts from nature, so rich of vitamin C and precious antioxidants and flavonoids, are the jewel of a new cooking school. And this new tradition definitely has a place in the healthy trend. So let’s be ready for the arrival in our shops of sauces, marinades, drinks (alcoholic and not) desserts, bars, cookies, powders and various supplements (unmissable in our smoothies, both at breakfast and for a break on the slopes). But also chutneys and various berry-rich delicacies. Healthy and surprisingly tasty!
Another pleasure that Finland offers its visitors is tranquillity: it is quiet here, far from gossip and the smart set. Finns are discreet, not curious, not into fashion; happy followers of “live and let live”. Their meeting places are saunas and the table, where silence is usual: silence is a privilege to share and after the parties and noises of our New Year’s celebrations this can be a pleasant detox experience of berries, birch trees and silence. Where nobody will mind if we spend our time on the phone because it is a national habit here – curiously, it is normal for customers in a bar to call the bartender to place their orders.
Barbara Ronchi della Rocca firstname.lastname@example.org