MEALS AND CUSTOMS
Finns wake up to a morning coffee, pulla (braided yeast bread), or
open-face sandwiches of cheese and meats. Many Finns prefer coffee only
and save their appetites for a lunch of puuroa (cooked cereal) or,
in the country, a heartier meal of meat or fish with potatoes and gravy,
bread and butter, and cheese. Not long after the noon meal comes a break
when coffee, breads, and cookies or sometimes open-face sandwiches are
served. The evening meal is likely to be a baked casserole of meat and
cereal, or potatoes, bread and butter, all served with fruit preserves,
beets, and cucumbers. Later in the evening coffee will again be
accompanied by yeast breads and cookies.
Voileipapoyta is the name given to the traditional Finn "sandwich
table." In Sweden this is called smorgasbord; in Denmark it is
called smorbrod; and in Norway it is known as koltbord. The
basis of them all is bread and butter and upon this is built the rest of
the meal - usually lunch, but occasionally a simplified version serves as
breakfast. The Finn sandwich table is similar but differs with the
inclusion of more freshwater fish dishes which abound in Finland, and
small, hot, stuffed pastries. The ritual of the sandwich table requires
that the smoked and salted fish (usually herring dishes) are eaten first,
then a fresh plate taken for other fish dishes and cold roasted, smoked,
or cured meats and jellied meat loaves. Still another fresh plate is taken
for the variety of hot dishes. Fresh fruit or a compote of fruits with
cheeses form the dessert. Coffee is served later, sometimes accompanied by
simple yeast cakes and cookies.
The other Finn standby is the "coffee table," the favorite break of the
day, anytime in the afternoon or evening, and the popular way to entertain
guests. Although usually just a simple serving of yeast cake (pulla) and
cookies with excellent coffee, it can be more elaborated for special
occasions or special guests. In the latter case, the fare will likely
include pulla glazed with egg and crusted with almonds and sugar, un-iced
poundcake, several types of cookies, and a layered filled cake. Fine china
coffee cups and a bread-and-butter plate will be placed before each guest
and it will be expected that not only many cups of coffee, but also a
generous helping of each of the cakes and breads, will also be consumed.
Not to have tasted each of the baked goods (together with as many cups of
coffee as needed) would be considered an insult. And while the plain cakes
and cookies alternate with the cups of coffee, somehow room must be saved
to enjoy a generous helping of the rich layered cake as the finale!
The roles of mother and father in Finn life are well defined. The rural
woman considers not only the housecleaning and weekly baking as part of
her work, but also the daily meal preparation and barn chores as part of
her share, while the men do the heavy work in fields and forests. Urban
women also accept a heavy workload of daily meals, weekly (usually
Saturday) housecleaning, baking, as well as shopping. Most city people
live in apartments.
FOODS COMMONLY USED
Breads and cooked grains form a part of
almost every Finn meal and are often accompanied with herring, potatoes,
or dairy products. Milk and cheeses are used generously. Because of the
short growing season, fruits and vegetables are prized especially in
season and accompany meats and fish in the form of preserves, pickles, and
stewed dried fruits during winter. Meats and fish are used frugally, with
nothing wasted. The staple fish is herring, prepared in many ways and used
as appetizer or main dish. The Finns do not consume much concentrated
sweets, preferring snacks of sandwiches or very plain cakes and cookies.
Coffee is the national beverage, but beer, vodka, cognac, and strong tea
have their place as well.