A year ago I was reading a book (Keskiajan maut by Satu Hovi, Art House, 2015) on medieval flavours in Finland, that is, ca 1150 – 1500’s. It’s a fascinating book. What did food taste like? What did ordinary people eat? How did different seasons influence what you ate? Food’s position in society, who ate what, how food was used as means of paying your taxes. How food was prepared, what did the utensils look like, how was food preserved. The utensils pictured in the book look just like my grandmother’s old wooden spoons and whisk she used for cooking. Those are my grannie's utensils.
By chance I found Charlotte Mendelson’s book Rhapsody in Green; a novelist, an obsession, a laughably small excuse for a vegetable garden. Thank you Country Living UK Nov 2018. The book starts in late winter. I read it in early winter, in the dark, cold, rainy days of November. The perfect book for this time of the year! A real feel-good book.
Throughout the book I was laughing at myself. I found myself on many of those pages. The seed bags I find when looking for something completely different, the nasturtium seeds I planned to pickle as an experiment, the plans on what to do with the huge harvest of a) runner beans (didn’t even grow), b) gherkins (one; tasty and crunchy, but just the one), c) courgettes (three, four per year) d) tomatoes (five to about 50, depending on whether I grew the plant from seed or bought it), e) etc; both at the cottage and on my balcony. Collecting jars, looking for recipes. And going to the supermarket for the goods.
I need my espresso with frothed milk in the mornings. After porridge. Over the years I’ve had several different kinds of frothers. There are the battery operated ones and the ones you operate by hand. Finding a manual one small enough for just one cup, or two, is also a challenge. In shops these tend to come in a practical 0,9 litre size. Fine for a family but a big cup for one person.
The battery operated ones make a great froth as long as there’s enough power in the batteries. As the batteries get tired so does the froth. You have to find the right recycling place for batteries. In the end the frothers just die on you even if the batteries are fresh. And the dead gadget is electric waste and, again, you need to find the right recycling place.
I tried to use re-chargeable batteries but the ones I had were just teeny weeny bit too fat so that didn’t work.
I had been washing windows all day. The pollen season was over and the chap checking and mending the cladding and making a lot of dust had moved to the next building. I had also been making sourdough bread, now resting and proving in the fridge. I got lazy about my evening meal.
I came across this recipe for porridge. With a twist. Cooked in white wine.
This, my friends, is what the perfect springwinter day looks like. Not a cloud in sight, temperature somewhere well below freezing, zillions of little diamonds on the snow. They are elusive, very difficult to catch on film. Well, ”film”. The cold period has now been long enough for the sea to have frozen properly, thick enough to carry walkers and skiiers safely.
The second hand on my watch had become loose. It was moving around under the glass and every once in a while got stuck with the hour and minute hands and stopped the passage of time completely. I like to support local businesses, so I first went to a watch shop not far from here. That guy sells Expensive Designer Watches and apparently was very busy. He recommended a clocksmiths’ workshop on Hämeentie. He said I could get my watch fixed for 10-20 euros over there, best value for my money, he said.
I finished a book last night and wondered where the closest library was. Oh yes, the old main library on Rikhardinkatu. This beautiful building was originally built as a public library in 1881, the first one in the Nordic countries in a specifically designed building, and has always been a library. In the 1920’s an extra floor and a wing were added. It’s an absolutely delightful place with old shelves and furniture and nooks and hush quiet atmosphere. Wonderful for browsing and making discoveries. They say it has been haunted; the restless souls were asked to move on about three years ago.
These past two days have been glorious. A few degrees below zero (Centigrade), brilliant sunshine, just a little wind. Yesterday loads of people out walking, long queues in cafés. Many places are closed – I guess that’s only fair, they need their holidays like the rest of us. One of the buildings in Eiranranta (rather posh and terribly expensive) built about ten years ago is covered in scaffolding. Water damage. What ever happened to quality control??
Today I decided to look for artistic inspiration at the Cable Factory, a multifunctional cultural centre. There is a sales exhibition of graphic art and sculptures, an annual event. There is a similar event for painters earlier in the year. I prefer this one. Much of what is in the painters’ event disappoints me. Much of what’s in the printmakers’ and sculptors’ event delights me.
It’s a nice walking distance away and I fortified myself with coffee and cake at the local gas station. The people who run the place are celebrating their eighth year here. Good chocolate cake, actually.
There was some interesting stencilling on the way.
That pancake pan was the most delightful sculpture. It's a old Skeppshult pan with bronze pancakes by Mika Heinonen, called Kesäilta, Summer Evening. 1300 euro, in case you're interested.
Was I inspired? Yep. Ideas are churning in my head.
I had some gift shopping to do so I went for a stroll. It’s cloudy, the temperature’s about +3C and you could drink that air!
I ended up in a book store, as I tend to. Well, several book stores. One of them was the much criticized Academic Bookstore. Once The Bookstore in Helsinki, one of the leading book stores in Europe, it has lost one floor of books and one floor of stationary etc. The number of languages in the selection has been cut and the magazines section is about the same as the in the kiosk around the corner. Slight exaggeration there, but the whole area taken over by Starbucks used to be for magazines. It used to be the magazine lover’s candy store. It used to be the book lover’s candy store. All these changes because it was sold to a Swedish book publisher and for a while had a director who didn’t come from the book world.
However – dare I even say this – now that the layout is different, now that is a strange place, I see books and authors I didn’t pay attention to earlier. I was listening to a conversation between a client and salesperson. There’s no denying his expertise and deep knowledge of things literary.
The Academic Bookstore may no longer be The Bookstore we grew up with. But it’s still a book store.
I'm Piisa and I will be sharing with you my thoughts on this and that, maybe even on whatever.