May’s destination for our “Around the World in 12 Dishes” series is Finland! Let’s learn about Finland: a Nordic country, which means “Northern Lands,” and bordered by Sweden, Norway (way in the north), Russia to the east, and the Baltic Sea to the south and west. Finns speak Finnish and learn Swedish in school, and Sami is spoken in the northern, Lapland regions. Finland is covered by majestic, green forests, and almost 200,000 icy blue lakes- a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and winter sport athletes!
Before having kids, my husband and I lived in London for a couple of years and were able to travel quite a bit- we spent a couple of weeks in Helsinki, Finland in December (including the shortest day of the year!). It didn’t matter if it was cold, or dark- Finns of all ages were outside walking around, visiting the Christmas markets, playing in the snow, and sitting at open air cafes. I didn’t own a winter coat at the time, but I put on layers, topped by a windbreaker and reveled in the festive atmosphere.
Once back in our hotel, we would warm up in the sauna- did you know there are 2.2 million saunas in Finland (1 for every 2.5 people)? Saunas are an essential part of Finnish life. In fact, sauna is a Finnish word, and the Finns built their first saunas in the 5th century! We were told that some Finns liked to roll in the snow or dip in a frozen lake after being in the sauna- but we weren’t that brave to try it:).
Even more impressive and noteworthy, the Finnish educational system is consistently ranked as one of the best in the world. Its forward-thinking practices (such as no standardized testing in elementary school) differentiate it from other Western cultures, and inspire educators around the world.
Recently I became friends (virtual friends!) with Annika, a mom from Helsinki who runs the web site Be Bilingual. Her 11 year old daughter Emma recently sent us a package through the Worldwide Culture Swap, all about Finland! She told us about The Moomins (funny animated characters), Angry Birds, their favorite sport of hockey, and Santa’s village.
Here are some of the typical dishes found in Finland: artisan breads, especially made from rye, barley, oats and wheat; locally picked mushrooms and berries such as lingonberries (see picture above), wild strawberries, and blueberries; locally caught fish, such as salmon, or pickled herring; different sweet breads such as Karelian pies.
Annika shared with me the recipe for a Finnish Macaroni Casserole: Suomen Makaronilaatikko. This simple, yet hearty macaroni dish reminds me of comfort food from the US, and I imagine a kid coming home from school, or playing outside in the snow, and then eating this for dinner. It’s been a little hot here where we are, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying this ground beef, macaroni, cheese, and custard casserole in our pajamas and at our picnic table:
This is the third post in the new season of “Around the World in 12 Dishes.” This year we have chosen the following countries:
We are inviting our readers to participate in our culinary adventure.
For each country, there’s coloring placemat and a four page passport with lots of fun information, questions, a spot for a photo of you and your dish and space to put your own recipe, so you and your children can really explore and it will be a nice keepsake! You can find the placemats and passports on our Facebook page and our Google+ community page. Each country will also have its own linky, where you can link up your own related posts- we would love to see your posts!
Participating blogs: Adventures In Mommydom, Creative Family Fun, Domestic Goddesque, Enchanted Homeschooling Mom, Glittering Muffins, Here Come The Girls, Juggling with Kids, Kid World Citizen, Kitchen Counter Chronicles, Little Artists, Mermaids’ Makings, Montessori Tidbits, Mummymummymum and The Educators’ Spin On It.
Visit the following links to see how other families are learning about Finland, and please share your adventures learning about Finland here: