Arto Lappi: Five Tanka


Varpunen kävi
koputtamassa lasiin
ja minun oli
juostava ulos heittämään
muutama kuperkeikka.

A sparrow strutted
while tap-tapping on a glass,
and I was supposed
to run out, launching myself
into several somersaults.

aloitta kosintansa
ja sirkuttaa kuin
järkensä menettänyt:
Sammakko loikkaa lampeen.

A great tit commences
its mating and marriage dance.
It chirps and twitters
as if it has lost its wits.
A frog leaps into a pond.

Isketään hanskat
kottikärryjen sarviin,
kottarainen on
ehtinyt jo rakentaa
betoninmyllyyn pesän.

Work gloves are slapped down
on a wheelbarrow’s antlers.
A starling has found
the time to build a nest in
the concrete cement mixer.

Kuka jännittää
jousen, josta pääskyset
noin mutkaisesti
singahtelevat aina
kuitenkin maaliin osuen.

Who bends back the bow,
sending the swallows hurtling
in such crooks and curves,
nonetheless always hitting
the target straight on the mark?

Turha miettiä,
matka on jo alkanut:
parasta pitää
hatusta kiini, kyllä
tuuli aukaisee takin.

It’s pointless to think:
the trip’s already begun.
It’s best to hang on
to your hat, since all the same
the wind will open your coat.

Source: Arto Lappi, Kukko puusa (Turku: Sammakko, 2002), pp. 9–11, 13, 29

Translation and photograph by Living in FIN

Finnish Almond Date Bread


This coffee cake or quick bread has been a festive season favorite of my boon companion and me ever since I clipped the recipe from a December issue of the Finnish home design and food magazine Koti ja keittiö several years ago and gave it a try. Since then I have baked it something like a dozen times.

It is incredibly easy to bake and tastes great, especially with a cup of tea or coffee or cocoa amid the now nearly perpetual gloom of the slushy southern Finnish winter.

I am glad I clipped the recipe way back then, because the magazine’s website doesn’t seem to have a recipes archive. Fortunately, a smart looking blog entitled has preserved the recipe for posterity in Finnish.

I have englished it, below, using standard English measures as well, rather than the metric measures used in Finnish recipes and cookbooks.

Finnish Festive Season Almond Date Bread


Approx. 1 2/3 cups White baking flour
1 ½ tsp Baking powder
6 Tbsp Sugar or fructose
1 tsp Coriander powder
Zest Lemon (one whole)
Approx. 1 ½ cups Dates, fresh, pitted, chopped
Approx. 1 cup Almonds, flaked (NB. This is my substitution.)
½ cup Butter or margarine
½ cup Milk
2 Eggs
2 or 3 pats Butter or margarine, for greasing bread pan

1. Measure the flour, baking powder, and spices, including the lemon zest, into a large mixing bowl and mix them lightly but thoroughly.

2. Chop and pit the dates if you have not already done it. It is up to you to decide how finely you want to chop the dates. I leave the almonds flakes whole, as they come out of the packapge, but you might want to give them a rough chop as well. In any case, set aside a small amount of the chopped dates and almond flakes for sprinkling on top of the bread just before it goes into the oven.

3. Melt the butter or margarine that goes into the bread dough. Add it and the milk to the mixture in the mixing bowl. Finally, add the eggs and mix the whole kit and caboodle until you have a smooth dough.

4. Grease a small rectangular bread pan. Spoon the dough into the pan and spread it around more or less evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle the surface with the dates and almond flakes you set aside earlier.

5. Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for around 45 minutes to an hour. When the bread is done, let it cool for a while before serving.


Freely translated, tested, and photographed by Living in FIN

Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, “School Encourages the Imagination”


Koulu tukee mielikuvitusta,
meidät kävelytetään museoon.
Maalauksissa naiset kampaavat alasti ja selkä kyyryssä
keltaisessa huoneessa. Teema on toistuva.
Pellot lämpiävät lanteilla, auringonkukat
kiertyvät henkensä kaupalla kohti sineä, himon silmää.
Taivaalla kultaiset, raskaat kehykset.

Simpukkasuu kääntyy ja kuiskii pienin hengenvedoin:
Kuolenko mä kun mä en saa unta?
Jossain käynnistetään sirkkeli
ja ajattelen terää joka viiltää nopeasti ja syvään.
Joku sanoo hys ja simpukkasuu lopettaa:
Ei mulla muuta moi.

Menemme museon myymälään ja alan etsiaä julistetta seinälle.
Simpukkasuun sormet ovat hikiset sipulinvarret
ja hänen kaulansa ulottuu joka hetki ylemmäs,
puut, metsät enää vain kukkakeppejä, niin korkealle hän venyy.
Ajattelen terää joka viiltäisi niin nopeasti ja syvään,
että kaikki muu tuntuisi sillä hetkellä yhdentekevältä.
Enkä minä julistetta täältä löydä, myöhemmin vasta,
vuosien päästä kun se on valmis.


School encourages the imagination.
They walk us over to the museum.
In paintings, naked women comb their hair, backs hunched,
In a yellow room. The subject is recurrent.
Hips warm the fields, the sunflowers
turn their breath in spades towards the blue, the eye of lust.
The heavens are chockablock with heavy golden frames.

The clamshell turns and whispers, slightly gasping,
“Do I die when I cannot sleep?”
Sometimes a circular saw kicks in,
and I think of a blade that slashes quickly and deeply.
Someone says “Hush!” and the clamshell wraps it up,
“I haven’t got anything else. Cheers.”

We go to the museum store, and I look for a wall poster.
The clamshell’s fingers are sweaty onion stalks,
and her neck extends higher each instant.
The trees and forests are mere beanstalks, she stretches so high.
I think of a blade that slashes so quickly and deeply
everyone else would feel indifferent at that moment.
Nor do I find a poster there. Only later,
after years of its being ready.

—Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, Sakset kädessä ei saa juosta (WSOY, 2004), p. 45. Translation and photo by Living in FIN. Dedicated, belatedly, to Alexander Skidan on his birthday.

Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, “In Finnish Class”

DSCN2106 (2)

Äidinkielen tunnilla luetaan AI, YÖ, UI.
Ei siitä viisaaksi tule, mutta valitettavasti ei hulluksikaan.
Luistinradan takana on tilaa tapella.
Niitä kiusataan, jotka uskovat liikaa
sekä Mari-Orvokkia.

Näkinkenkärintainen tyttö kutsuu jäälle paritanssiin.
Tirsk tirsk sahaamme samaan suuntaan piirin poikki.
Äidinkielen tunnilla käännetään sivu.

Koulun jälkeen kävelemme pakkasessa kanalaan,
kuljetamme kananmunan huopien välissä patjan alle
ja sidomme viiden villahuivin sisään.
Jonain päivänä tapahtuu: kuori kopsahtaa rikki
ja linnunpoika rääkäisee ensimmäisen kerran.


In Finnish class, we read ouch, night, swim.
It won’t make you smart, but unfortunately it won’t make you crazy.
There’s a place for fighting behind the skating rink.
They bully Mari-Orvokki
and the ones who believe too much.

A seashell-chested girl invites me on the ice for a pairs dance.
Giggle, giggle, we saw across the circle in the same direction.
We translate a page in Finnish class.
Oh no, oldsquaw, cannot.

After school, we walk to the henhouse in the cold.
We carry an egg between blankets and put it under a mattress
wrapping it in five wool scarves.
Someday it will happen: the shell smashed to smithereens,
the chick will let loose its first squawk.

—Vilja-Tuulia Huotarinen, Sakset kädessä ei saa juosta (WSOY, 2004), p. 41. Translation and photo by Living in FIN

Adding Insult to Injury


The urban planning geniuses who run Imatra, South Karelia, have re-purposed the former Prisma supermarket in the town’s Linnala (Mansikkala) neighborhood. They have given it over to the mysterious tribe of sub-artists known as taggers. Soon, I expect, the building will be entirely blanketed with these cryptic spray-painted runes, signifying nothing except the onset of urban decay and the collapse of public order.

Unless I am terribly mistaken, neither the building’s owners nor city officials have plans for doing anything more ambitious with the ex-store, yet another huge slab of empty commercial space. Imatra is now chockablock with such vacated stores and offices.

Currently being tagged into oblivion by young people who fancy themselves rebels but are among the dullest conformists on earth, the old Prisma store is smack dab across the street from the new Prisma hypermarket, which was built for Russian shopping tourists, not for local residents, whose peace of mind and quality of life dropped through the floorboards during the two or three years it took to build the gigantic consumerist palazzo, the city’s largest chunk of commercial real estate.


But it was all worth it. Anything giant construction companies, urban planners, and semi-monopolies (e.g., the S Group, which owns the Prisma chain and approximately fifty percent of all other chain stores, restaurants, and hotels in Finland) wants to do, wherever it wants to do it, and whatever its impact on the people living in the vicinity, it is always worth it.

And you should see the improvements to the neighborhood occasioned by the S Group’s flat-roofed ziggurat!

Do you know the expression “adding insult to injury”?


That seems to have been the principle guiding the hackwork done by subcontractors and the City of Imatra when they beautified, so to speak, the wave of mutilation that had just rolled over the neighborhood.

First, they made it triply difficult for pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate their old haunts by constructing an impossible maze of new roads, footpaths, and roundabouts in the emerging shopping mecca. (Since the new Prisma opened, chain stores Tokmanni and Jysk got in on the act, closing their old stores in other parts of town and building new outlets in the once spacious but now crowded neighborhood, thus joining the nonstop shopping party started eight or so years ago by K City Market, Lidl, Raja Market, and Prisma).

To put it crudely, they made life easier for motorists at the expense of non-motorists. Or they forgot about non-motorists altogether, which is more likely.

Planners also dotted the environs with sickly little trees, some of them resembling nothing so much as unattractive sticks, stuck maliciously into the dirt by angry taggers or other vandals, or the pathetic Christmas tree that Charlie Brown and Snoopy buy in the cartoon A Charlie Brown Christmas, which immediately sheds all its needles when they bring it home.

This so-called greenery will never grow into anything verdant and flourishing, because that might block the view of the stunning big box the S Group plopped down in the middle of what used to be a grassy meadow and grove of tall trees where old folks and children would ski in the winters. That is, before the City of Imatra decided that attracting Russian shoppers was its only real mission and it could safely turn its back on its own pedestrians, cyclists, children, old people, and poor people.

Photos by Living in FIN

Finnish Butternut Squash Casserole


Finnish Butternut Squash Casserole

No Finnish holiday table would be complete without several casseroles (laatikoita), made from carrots, rutabagas, potatoes, liver, squash, and other gifts of the harsh Finnish soil and dogged agricultural labor.


2 Butternut squash
1 ½ cups Water
1 cup Light cream (10%)
2 tsp Fennel seeds
1 Egg
1 Orange
1 ½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Black pepper (ground)
2/3 cup French baguette (crumbled into tiny croutons)
1-2 tsp Rosemary (fresh, finely chopped)
2 Tablespoons Butter


1. Cut the squashes in half, removing the seeds and the innards. Remove the outer rind and chop the squashes into smallish cubes. Put the squash cubes and water into a pot. Heat the pot and simmer with lid on for around 30 minutes or until the squash cubes are soft. Stir occasionally. When the squash cubes are soft, remove them from the water with a ladle and put them into a mixing bowl. Puree them with a mixer or potato masher.

2. After the squash puree has a cooled slightly, mix in the cream and egg.

3. After washing the orange thoroughly, grate ½ teaspoon of zest from the rind and squeeze 3 tablespoons of juice. Crush the fennel seeds using a mortar and pestle. Mix the zest, juice, crushed fennel, salt, and pepper into the puree.

4. Pour the puree into a buttered ovenproof casserole or baking dish. Sprinkle the bread crumbs and finely chopped fresh rosemary over the top. Add a few pats of butter.

5. Bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for one to one and a half hours. In the final few minutes of baking, you can raise the temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit if you want the croutons to get more color.

Estimated overall preparation and cooking time: 60 minutes.

Source of text and photo: Translated and tested by Living in FIN