The Imatra Sling

imatra sling.JPGThe Imatra Sling. Photo by Living in FIN

“Supreme Court rules in favor of baker who would not make wedding cake for gay couple.”

That is why they call it the Supreme Court, because, historically and episodically, it has reinforced racial, class, gender and sexual supremacy in the so-called United States.

Incidentally, I would never eat a cake made by a baker who would not make a wedding cake for a gay couple, not for political reasons, but because a cook or baker who has so much hatred in his soul inevitably infuses his dishes, cakes, pies, and cupcakes with the same hatred.

So, I have never understood the appeal of televised cooking competition programs in which hatred, anger, jealousy, and the spirit of cutthroat rivalry prevail. Having watched Gordon Ramsay in his calmer moments, I realize he actually is a terrific cook, but the atmosphere he cultivates in most of the TV programs he presents seems bound to produce tasteless, even harmful food.

I just made the first chicken mole in my life. I cannot even remember how exactly I made it and what I put in the mole sauce. I was winging it. But it turned out tasty, because I enjoyed making it, and I always enjoy improvising.

It was improvisation that led me to invent the cocktail I have dubbed the Imatra Sling, which consists of lots of ice in a tumbler glass, a heaping helping of ginger beer poured over the ice, whatever garnishes come to hand (tonight, it was a fresh basil leaf and an orange slice), and three-star Finnish jaloviina, a so-called cut brandy that has its own peculiar history, dating back to the two wars Finland fought against the Soviet Union in the 1940s.

Since I have tested the Imatra Sling on actual people who like alcoholic cocktails, I know it is a winner, but for the time being I won’t be going public with my profoundly random chicken mole sauce.

The happiest place I have ever been in my life was the café next to the flat where my longtime friend K. lived in the Castro after graduating from college and moving to San Francisco. Every morning, the cafe was chockablock with beautiful, happy gay men living in a community where it would have been unthinkable to hate them. In fact, it was easy to love so many handsome, happy men.

This post is going in way too many directions, just like my mole sauce, but I wanted to say the so-called United States will not have much of a future if its highest court reverts to the low road of defending the New Jim Crow, segregation, and homophobia. I thought we had been through all that pure evil before, at great cost to our country and a great loss of life, but, apparently, we will have to go through it all over again. // LIF

Jorma Etto, “The Boys”

purple swirl

Pojat

Naapuri löysi unohdetun helmen, sika sen söi,
jonkun sanottiin tavanneen aarteita arkun.
Me pojat kynsimme kepillä multaa,
siinä oli siemenen ja lannan haju.
Me pojat emme uskoneet taruihin
joita emme keksineet itse.

*****

The Boys

A neighbor found a forgotten pearl. A pig ate it.
They said someone had discovered a coffin’s treasures.
We boys ploughed the dirt with a stick.
It smelled of seed and manure.
We boys did not believe in tales
We did not concoct ourselves.

Source: Jorma Etto, Ajastaikaa (Porvoo & Helsinki: WSOY, 1964), p. 37. Photo and translation by Thomas H. Campbell

Tuomas Timonen, “You Had Vanished Utterly”

kaupunkitalo pysäköinti

olit kokonaan kadonnut,
pelkkä rehevä, kukikas, kivinen valo

valkoisella liinalla
musta pallo, musta

viiva, musta torni
valkoisella liinalla

tuulee, myrsky
tekee tuloaan, sälekaihtimet

helkkävät, ikkunat
paukahtelevat ja

on kuin
ja niin on, syksyllä

vien sinut Sipooseen
keräämään mustikoita

*****

you had vanished utterly,
nothing but a flowery, lush, flinty light

in a white cloth
a black ball, a black

line, a black tower
in a white cloth

the wind blows, the storm
makes its way, the blinds

jangle, the windows
rattle, and

so on
and so, in the autumn,

I take you to Sipoo
to pick bilberries

Source: Tuomas Timonen, Asetelmia (Helsinki: Teos, 2013), p. 51. Translation and photo by Thomas H. Campbell

Pasha

In Finland, both Lutherans and Greek Catholics celebrate Easter on the same day, and this year that day was this past Sunday, April 1. But Russian Orthodox Easter will be celebrated this coming Sunday, April 8.

No Orthodox Easter meal, whether in Finland or Russia, would be complete without pasha (in Russian, пасха; the same word also enotes the holiday itself). To my mind, it is the most delicious sweet treat I have ever tasted, and it is all the better that purists, like my boon companion, make it only once a year for serving on Easter Day itself and finishing off in the days following Christianity’s most important feast day.

My sweetheart makes pasha the old-fashioned Russian way, which takes a few days. First, she makes Russia творог (quark, curd, cottage cheese, farmer cheese) from fresh milk before mixing the homemade curd with the other ingredients and pouring the thick liquidy mixture thus produced into traditional wooden molds, lined with gauze.

The molds are turned upside down and drained for 24 hours before being placed in the refrigerator to set up. On Easter Day, the molds and gauze lining their insides are carefully removed, revealing tiny pyramid-like mounds of pasha in all their delectable glory, impressed with the Cyrillic letters ХВ (standing for Христов воскрес! or “Christ has risen!) on one side, and the Orthodox cross on the opposite side.

The recipe I have translated, below, is a quick, easy Finnish variation on its hardcore, time-consuming Russian cousin.

One year, my true love and I found ourself celebrating Easter in Finland. We brought our wooden molds along with us, but we used a Finnish recipe much like this one, whose mainstay is the Finnish variety of quark/farmer cheese/curd/tvorog, known as rakha. Rakha can be bought readymade and packaged in any grocery store. As we discovered, it makes an excellent pasha, and is generally less watery than tvorog, homemade or bought at the market, meaning it drains and sets up more quickly, and is thus much less of a hassle to work with.

Make sure to watch the video, below the recipe, for a great tip on how to turn your pasha into a pyramid with using the Russian wooden molds.

Pasha

Ingredients

    • 100 g creamery butter
    • dl sugar
    • 2 packages (250 g each) quark
    • dl whipping cream (double cream)
    • egg
    • fresh-squeezed juice of half an orange
    • tsp vanilla sugar
    • 1/2 dl chopped almonds
    • 1/2 dl raisins
    • 1/2 dl succade (chopped bits of candied fruit)
Directions
  1. Whip the cream. Whip the butter and sugar until frothy. Add the quark, eggs, flavorings, and whipped cream. Pour the quark mixture into a gauze-lined pasha mold or colander to drain. You can also used a coffee filter lined with filter paper. Let the mixture drain in a cool place (i.e., a refrigerator) overnight.
  2. Flip the pasha over the next day onto a serving dish and garnish with slices of fresh fruit if desired. Serve as a dessert or at coffee time with other Easter goodies.

Source: K-ruoka.fi. Translated by Living in FIN

 

Aperol Spritz Cheesecake

This dessert combines cheesecake and my favorite cocktail, Aperol Spritz. The cheesecake contains alcohol, so you should be careful to whom you serve it. Alternately, the ingredients containing alcohol can be boiled, whereupon the alcohol evaporates.

The cheesecake’s bottom crust consists of minced Jaffa Orange Biscuits, which are perfect for it. The combination of the biscuit’s pastry crust, orange marmelade, and chocolate form a solid, tasty base for the cheesecake. The cheesecake itself is fashioned from orange-flavored cream cheese and orange juice, so you are in for a rather orangey treat.

The top layer is a refreshing mixture of Aperol and mineral water. I think it produces a gorgeous color and constitues the core of the entire cheesecake tastewise. It is topped with “ice cubes” made from chilled Prosecco mixed with gelatin sheets: a pretty fun imitation that looks like real ice.

This cheesecake can be recommended to all lovers of Aperol Spritz and anyone else who wants to try something new. Aperol Spritz Cheesecake can also be made in a springform pan, in which case the recipe should be doubled. A pan twenty centimeters in diameter should probably do for this purpose.

aperol-0288-1

Aperol Spritz Cheesecake

Ingredients (two servings)

Crust
100 g Jaffa Orange Biscuits

Cream Cheese Filling
2 gelatin sheets
200 g orange-flavored cream cheese
1/2 dl orange juice

Aperol Jello
1 dl Aperol
1/2 dl mineral water
1 tbsp sugar
2 gelatin sheets

“Ice Cubes”
2 dl sparkling wine (Prosecco)
3 gelatin sheets

Prep time: 1 h 30 min

Cooking Directions

Chop the Jaffa Orange Biscuits into tiny bits with a knife and place at the bottom of the serving dishes. Press the crust down a bit into the dishes.

Place seven gelatin sheets in cold water and soak for at least five minutes.

Prepare the cream cheese filling by mixing the orange-flavored cream cheese and orange juice. Melt two gelatin sheets in the microwave for approximately ten seconds (remove the sheets from the water and place in a small bowl without squeezing out the excess water) and stir into the cream cheese mixture. Divide the mixture evenly among the serving dishes. Refrigerate until jelled.

Prepare the top layer by mixing the Aperol, mineral water, and sugar. Melt two gelatin sheets in the microwave for approximately ten seconds (remove the sheets from the water and place in a small bowl without squeezing out the excess water) and stir into the Aperol mixture. Pour the mixture on top of the cheesecake mixture. Refrigerate.

Prepare the “ice cubes” by melting three gelatin sheets in the microwave for approximately ten seconds. (Remove the sheets from the water and place in a small bowl without squeezing out the excess water.) Stir the melted gelatin sheets into the sparkling wine. Pour the mixture into a container, approximately fifteen centimeters square, in which clingwrap has been placed on the bottom. Refrigerate until set, approximately one hour.

Cut the sparkling wine jello into cubes and top the serving dishes with them. Garnish with a slice of orange at your discretion.

Source: Meillakotona.fi. Translated by Living in FIN

Easy Finnish, Lesson Five: Getting Home on the Slang Bus

One of the most dismaying things you discover if you study Finnish long enough is that the extremely morphologically complex and otherwise utterly alien-sounding language you have been melting your brains to get a tenuous grip on is, in fact, textbook Finnish, the literary language or standard language (kirjakieli) used in newspapers, magazines, and books, and spoken, as it were, by TV and radio presenters, politicians, schoolteachers and other professionals, and government clerks.

In real life, Finns speak bewildering combinations of conversational Finnish (puhekieli) and regional dialects (murteet). In Helsinki, the local dialect or argo is stadi (the word itself is a Finnish take on the Swedish for “city,” stad), a mind-numbing melange of Swedish, German, Russian, and English loanwords embedded in a Finnish grammatical, syntactial, and morphological matrix.

When I run head on into something that looks like slang or conversational Finnish, I often turn to the website Urbaani Sanakirja (“Urban Dictionary”). One of the things I like about the online dictionary is that it almost always provides down-to-earth examples of usage.

The website also features a Päivän sana (“Word of the day”), helpful for building and reinforcing your Finnish slang vocabulary.

Today’s word of the day is a personal favorite of mine, dösä, “bus.”

dösä

Although Finns also often use the word bussi (“busÄ), it is a colloquialism; the word for “bus” in standard textboox Finnish is linja-auto, the very same word Urbaani Sanakirja uses to define dösä.

The example it supplies—Tulin eilen dösällä himaan (“Yesterday I got home by bus”)—contains another slang word, hima.

hima

Hima means koti (“home”) in standard Finnish. “Translated” into book Finnish, then, the entire sentence would read, “Tulin eilen bussilla kotiin.” That is a far cry, lexically, from our original sentence, “Tulin eilen dösällä himaan.”

What does the sample sentence supplied for hima (“Nauran heittereille matkan himast pankkiin”) mean?

“I laugh at the haters all the way from home to the bank.”

That is a slightly obscure sentence (at least, to this non-Finn: is it a peculiar Finnish way of saying, “I’m laughing all the way to the bank”? Who are the “haters”?), so let’s look at the second example provided. It, on the contrary, is a perfectly clear and typical specimen of conversational Finnish with a bit of slang tossed in for good measure.

hima-2

“Mun pitäs varmaa jo lähtee himaa” means “I should probably go home already.” Translated into standard Finnish, it would read, “Minun pitäisi varmaa jo lähteä kotiin.”

If you find this confusing, you’re not alone. In conversations with actual Finns, I rarely venture beyond the bounds of my still quite shaky kirjakieli, although often as not what I hear in return is conversational Finnish or the Karelian dialect of Finnish, spoken in parts of southeast Finland (where I hang out) and once spoken in Finland’s former second city, Viipuri (Vyborg), and the area to the south of it, known in Finnish as the Karjalankannas (Karelian Isthmus), but usually called simply Kannas or “the Isthmus” by Finns.

For obvious reasons, Kannas is a charged word in Finland, but that is a topic for another, less frivolous post.

Sweet Potato Curry

 

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Sweet Potato Curry

Ingredients

4 servings

    • (600 g) sweet potato
    • (100 g) onion
    • cloves garlic
    • tbsp oil
    • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
    • tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp black pepper
    • dl water
    • tin (approx. 230 g) chickpeas
    • 1 bag (approx. 65 g) baby leaf spinach
    • 2 tbsp tandoori curry paste
    • carton (2.5 dlcoconut cream
    • tsp lemon juice

Cooking Directions

Prep time: 30–60 minutes

  • Peel and cube the sweet potato. Chop the onion and garlic finely.
  • Sauté the sweet potato, onion, and garlic in oil in a saucepan for about five minutes. Season with the cumin, salt, and pepper. Add the water to the saucepan and simmer with the lid on another ten minutes.
  • Use a colander to rinse and drain the chickpeas. Add the chickpeas, spinch, and tandoori curry paste to the saucepan. Add the coconut cream and bring to a boil. Finally, season with the lemon juice. Check the taste. Serve the sweet potato curry with basmatic rice and naan bread.

Source: k-ruoka.fi. Translated by Living in FIN