About the food of Finland

This past Saturday, while at a baby dance class – in between pretending to be a turtle and an elephant, I met a woman. Her name is Ruby and she’s half Finnish. To be fair, I had no idea she was Finnish and it isn’t why I started talking to her.

Of course, once I found out her origins, I immediately took her home to cook with me. Mr Picky was okay with it – as long as he got to eat.

While we cooked, Ruby told me lots of neat things about Finland (did you know they are one of the healthiest countries in the world?), but she didn’t tell me that it is home to the world’s largest ice castle. Or about Rudolph. You know, that cute glow-nosed creature from your childhood? Well, head to Finland and you just might meet him – on your plate. This arctic country has made an art out of reindeer stew, served piping hot with a bit of lingonberry jam on the side. Perhaps Ruby didn’t share this tidbit out of fear that I’d be squeamish – and she might be right.Β No bother – if reindeer isn’t your thing, we’ll find something else.

So, c’mon – get out your row boat and put on your fuzziest winter coat. Most of Finland lies north of the article circle where her approximate 188,000 lakes are sure to be icy much of the year (though the summers do heat up nicely).

That’s a lot of cold lakes. Brrr.

With so many fresh lakes and an enviable coastline, Finland happily celebrates fish – grilled, smoked, stewed, and roasted. Salmon and herring are two of the most popular fish, and are often enjoyed with a dollop of spicy mustard dill sauce [Recipe]. Ruby says to use lots of dill, for authenticity purposes.

She also says that the milk in Finland tastes better than any milk she’s ever had. The same goes for the cheeses. Something about the fresh air and limitless nature agrees with the cows and makes for fantastic flavor. Fins drink everything from buttermilk, yogurt, and fruity milks – made with fresh strawberries and blueberries [Recipe]. They pour the fruity milk over fresh fruit and cereal, for a nutrient packed meal.

Of course, not everything in Finland is perfectly good for you – although most of it tastes perfectly good. Take, for example, pulla, Finland’s sweet cardamom bread. Not nearly as sweet as western breads, Pulla is still rich and addicting [Recipe]. Twist and pull it into almost any shape – a roll, a knot, a loaf, a braid – you name it. Fins enjoy pulla with a cup of coffee in the morning, often dunking it. In Ruby’s family they like to add a bit of a cardamom filling – sweetened with brown sugar and butter. Others might add jam, cream, or plain sugar fillings.

Comfort food abounds in this cold climate – Fins love a good potato or, better yet, try rutabaga cooked with a bit of maple syrup [Recipe].

With a motto like “eat well, feel good” Β there’s no limit to the good food.

Photos: A. Norppa,Β Sean Biehle,Β Plenz, Miika Silfverberg, Ximonic


  1. Collette Lemons says

    Thay are not always fighting with everyone too so it would be a safe place to visit… I would go there.

  2. Jessica Bennett says

    You seem to have a knack for meeting people from countries right when you’re about to cook their cuisine.

    • Sasha Martin says

      I know! It kind of creeps me out, but I’m not sure why… it is a great omen, after all. Plus, I’m making progress – the gal from Belarus never showed, but Ruby was over that same afternoon. We had a blast πŸ™‚

      • Jessica Bennett says

        Didn’t you also meet a boy from Belarus during that same week?

        • Sasha Martin says

          You mean Nick? πŸ™‚ He was the one my mom mentioned who was going door to door selling children’s books. That was a crazy coincidence. Who comes to Tulsa, Oklahoma all the way from Belarus to sell children’s books for their summer job??

          • Jessica Bennett says

            Yeah, him. I didn’t realize he was just there for a summer job. That is odd. Did you find out how that happened?

            • Sasha Martin says

              No, I’m not sure. I know he had come the summer before. He was a college kid, so maybe it was advertised at his university.

  3. …and don’t forget the man selling children’s books when I was visiting last July….

    Oh! The language of Finland has Arabic origins…Hungarian Language is from the Finnish/Arabic…

    • It belongs to Finno-Ugric group of languages and it eveolved somewhere in Siberia πŸ™‚ It is quite funny language it you think – Finns don’t have future tense πŸ™‚ Also weird is that they don’t have he/she form, everything is it, what is particulalry confusing when hearing the discussion about a person one has never met πŸ˜‰

      • Sasha Martin says

        I didn’t know that! How neat… I bet it would be confusing!

      • Finnish doesn’t have Arabic origins… and it didn’t evolve in Siberia. And there is a separate word for both s/he and it. It isn’t at all confusing, the gender of a person doesn’t mean that much. Though when speaking about people most tend to used “it” because that’s just the way we speak. But we usually refer to our pets as s/he.

    • Sasha Martin says

      Keith tells me we are due to be in the 30’s again this weekend. :/

  4. Ruby says

    I really did enjoy myself at your place last Sat. It is interesting that you had read an article about someone doing something different during lent- another spiritual food connection- and that is one of the reasons you approached me. I must tell the UNA about you and hopefully you can come present on your wonderful adventure sometime. Food and music are definitely universal and help build bridges for global understanding.
    Ja, I could have gone on about Finland and thewonderful characteristics of Finnish people, and the word han,instead of s/he, in Finnish language is often very convinient.
    I am looking forward to being a part of the rest of your global food adventure. Good luck.
    Thanks again for a trip down memory lane to part of my culture.
    – Ruby.

    • Sasha Martin says

      Ruby, I’m so glad I ran into you – this week’s posts will be so much more fun because of it. Did you get my text with the pic of the second batch of pulla? I think I gained 15 pounds. πŸ™‚ Talk to you soon.

  5. I’m very curious about Finnish food. My partner trekked Finland and loved it. Food wise he recalls mainly two things: being eaten by mosquitoes as soon as he stopped, and a breakfast roll, looking sweet, but actually filled with herring. Not his ideal fare with the renowed milk first thing in the morning.

    • Sasha Martin says

      Fish for breakfast – that could be an entire blog. There are several cultures that enjoy fish first thing in the morning. It seems so foreign to me, but if entire countries do it, it can’t be that bad πŸ˜‰

  6. No Onion Please: Siberia checks out = origin of Mongolians => Hungarians (Attila the Hun). Sasha’s grandfather spoke fluent Hungarian….I never learned it what with the dominance of our mother’s Italian side and the reticence of my Navy career Dad to acknowledge anything other than being “American”. The language does indeed sound complicated and the written word is nuts – like Greek.

  7. Ruby says

    Just fyi, when you think of Finland you think of sauna. Even if a Finn lives in Africa or Asia, in a sorching hot country, they will make a sauna. It is just that important to them.

    • elisa says

      I knew there was a reason why I LOVE sauna’s!!!! I love those nordic countries and everything they stand for!!! Yay! I think this is my favorite country on global table yet!

      • Ruby says

        That is so sweet, wonder what Sasha’s country so far is, I know she has her food favorite section, think others agree with your choice of favorite country as on the next site we mentioned how it is the top of so many lists. Love the fact also that the Nordic countries are so globally conscious as well, trying hard to be good to the environment-Sweden will be completely off fossil fuel by 2020 if not sooner- and all four countries in the region are involved heavily in development work around the world.
        Appreciate that Sasha is highlighting countries and talking about everybody’s favorite thing-Food!

  8. Magnificent website. Plenty of useful info here.
    I am sending it to a few friends ans additionally sharing in
    delicious. And of course, thank you for your

  9. Wonderful post! Just finished your book and having never read the blog I had to check out my mother’s native land of Finland. I am half Finnish and everything you say in this post is SO true. We love our pulla! Can’t wait to check out the other countries! I’m from Canada… interested to see what you came up with for us! πŸ˜‰

  10. Hello Sasha, just saw your book being advertised in a Nat’l Geog newsletter and came to this website to find out more about you and the book. As to Finland’s geographical position, take a closer look at the map you provided: most of Finland does not lie north of the Arctic Circle πŸ™‚

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