Edith Salminen │email@example.com
A few days later, I went on another observatory excursion to Helsinki city centre. This time though, I was determined to identify the source of the problem. Having realised that preaching to the converted at the Farmers’ Market hardly made any sense, I went to a rather chic gourmet deli where any Finnish foodie can get his/her hands on all those lovely high quality French and Italian products they’ve savoured during their holidays to Paris and Rome. I went to stand in line at the cashier to have a peak at what Helsinki foodies had selected to buy. Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese, jamón de Serrano, Greek olives, artichokes, sushi, croissants, etc. The only purely Finnish product I saw was fresh pikeperch fillets. The situation was more dramatic than I had expected. And these people call themselves gastronomes! And I called myself a gastronome! Neither them nor I were even close to it.
Being ’food interested’, a foodie, let alone a gastronome, is not just about eating and drinking high quality (foreign) products that are unaffordable to a great deal of people. Neither is it about buying what is globally considered as the most exquisite foods, nor is it about overdoing it every single time. To be a gastronome is to know and be passionate about the entire food chain and all processes related to it. Without a holistic regard to food and gastronomy one cannot truly call oneself a real foodie. The founder of the Slow Food Movement, Mr. Carlo Petrini, talks about “gastronomia idiota della padella”: the overflow of recipes, food shows on television, cooking tips – food pornography. “If those that call themselves gastronomes don’t start to foster reciprocity and locality by reconnecting themselves to their soil, mother earth and the farmers that produce the food that they keep cooking and brilliating about, soon there won’t be any food left, period”.
What we need is a whole new approach to food and gastronomy because you and I, we, who buy the food and love to cook, are no longer simple consumers: we have become co-producers, active entrepreneurs who are able to make a statement and thus affect the food system that we are a part of. Fabulous wine or food gives us sensory pleasure and reflects a certain status, which is true. What we keep forgetting, however, is that it also reflects traditional or innovative production methods. And what we certainly have neglected is that it is an expression of regional culture and history and hence generates wealth, distinctiveness and biodiversity of a given region.
This is the point where it got serious. Six months later, I handed in my thesis and obtained my Master’s Degree with flying colours. Four months later, I enrolled at the University of Gastronomic Sciences to learn more about what I can do to preserve my own native terreir, its biodiversity and culinary distinctiveness.
Ever since I re-established the connection to my culinary heritage, and by so doing found my culinary patriotism and pride, I have had a mission. Whether I find myself in France, where life without food is unheard of, or whether I am in Finland, a country much less known for its distinctive food culture, one thing is certain: good food is everywhere! There’s no place on Earth where one cannot find something delicious, something that only exists in that specific place in the world, something that locals who grew up with it hardly consider a culinary masterpiece.
Let me put out a challenge. Get to know a dish or a raw material that only exists or is only prepared in a certain way in your native country! I encourage you all to appreciate the fruits of your own land and the work of farmers in your hometown. You can be as European or as cosmopolite as you wish, but a tree can’t stand without its root.
If you liked Edith’s article, also read Why I Cry of Happiness Over Delicious Food
Root vegetables have always been present in Finnish cuisine. They grow well in Finnish climate and are a cheep source of nutrition. The various root veggies have recently been making a come back. If the traditional ways of cooking them don’t tingle you taste buds enough, try using them in new and fun ways. I built my own smoker and smoked oven baked parsnips, beetroots and carrots. Delicious!
Edith Salminen, Food Editor
Edith was born in Finland and has been travelling around the world since a young age. Edith obtained her BA in French Philology from Helsinki University and studied Euroculture at the University of Strasbourg. After completing the Euroculture programme she did another Master’s programme, this time in European Studies at Lund University, Sweden. Currently, she is pursuing a career as a food writer and is enrolled at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Bra, Italy. She’s a passionate food lover who fully agrees with Virginia Woolf: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”.