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Archive for April, 2018

Viili

My mother was 100% Swedish, and very proud of her heritage. Her ancestors came from Finland and were known as Swede-Finns, and since she was from immigrant parents and only the first generation born here, we ate a lot of traditional foods of both Sweden and Finland. It didn’t matter to me, as Dad was 50% Finn with the rest of his genetic make-up being Norwegian and Danish. Yes, that meant lutefisk for Christmas Eve dinner, not that I ate any. One of my favorite heritage foods has always been Viili, aka Viilia (pronounced feelia), aka filibunke, a mesophilic Finnish yogurt, which means that it needs no heat to culture. In other words, you just add a spoonful of it to a bowl, stir in milk, leave it at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours, and voilĂ ! Yogurt! Yes, I know that voilĂ  is French but unfortunately, my Finnish language skills are limited to a somewhat skewed version of “holy cow” and words not appropriate to a family-friendly publication. After years of searching for a Viili starter, I was finally gifted one by friends and fellow Finns, the Salmelas, and have been in heaven ever since. I gave my sister a starter, but she prefers her homemade Greek yogurt, which is admittedly, pretty awesome. I tried to share the starter with other Finnish friends, most of whom remembered their mothers or grandmothers serving it, who turned me down flat. The flavor of Viili is mild and not at all sour, and although very smooth, the texture has been described more than once as kind of like mucous. I like it plain, while others eat it with fruit and sweetened with honey or maple syrup. Although I can’t find raw milk to make it exactly as my mother did, it is still good when made with organic whole milk. Funny thing about heritage, though. I recently got my DNA results back, and surprisingly, this blue-eyed former blonde Scandinavian Viili slurper is 1% African and 48% Finn. If you do the math, and my father is 50%, with the rest of my genetics matching his as expected, that must mean that my proud flag-carrying 100% Swedish mother, whose parents and grandparents lived in Finland, must have been part Finn. Being the storyteller that I am, I think that perhaps a young Swedish beauty went to the neighboring farm to borrow a cup of Viili, and the rest is history. My history, to be exact. Holy cow.

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The Photographs

I have spent part of a long winter cleaning out cupboards, nooks, and crannies, and have come to the conclusion that I am a hoarder. I come by this naturally, being the product of parents who lived through the depression years. My genetics are a mixture of a woman who saved every plastic container and reused her foil to a man who seemingly never threw ANYTHING away, squirreling it away in attic and basement. I know this to be a fact, as I did a lot of the cleaning out and sorting after they passed away. Admittedly, much of it ended up in my house. After sorting through an old dresser, I dug out shiny metal belt and a celluloid framed picture of my dad’s Aunt Jennie, wearing the same belt with a purple skirt, circa 1940. Since I can’t seem to throw anything away either, I remembered and found an old photo of me wearing the same skirt for my sixth grade operetta, The King’s Sneezes, circa 1970. If memory serves me right, I wore the belt under the costume’s apron. My mother managed to hit the camera shutter just at the moment I closed my eyes. In 1970, when it came to pictures, you got what you got. That, along with a hundred other bad photographs of me in various albums is the story of my life. I like to look back on these, so I’m not ready to throw them away, although after I’m gone, I hope someone tosses the least photogenic pictures in the fireplace and keeps the rest. That means there will only be about five, but I sure will look good. I don’t know whatever happened to that purple skirt. It would have been nice to hang on to and store it along with the belt and two photographs: One of an educated, world traveller who was ahead of her time and who viewed the world with her eyes wide open; the other a gawky twelve-year-old who learned to open her eyes and travel a very different road with the prayers and the strength of the women who came before her.

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The Silver Spoon

They dined on mince and slices of quince, which they ate with a runcible spoon; and hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, they danced by the light of the moon.” ~Edward Lear

My mother kept a small silver spoon in the back of her silverware drawer. I don’t remember that we ever used it, and I hardly paid attention until she died and we were cleaning out her apartment. There it was: That little spoon, which I now noted had the name “Anna” engraved on the handle. Now I know why she saved it, so I saved it too, for no other reason than Anna was the grandmother I never met. After admiring and running my fingers over the engraving, I tossed it in the back of my silverware drawer. Like mother, like daughter. I have no idea what the spoon was used for. Although it is small, it is too big to be an old-fashioned salt spoon, so by my best guess, it is either for sugar or jelly. I don’t eat sugar, and HIS favorite jelly is grape and gets squirted out of a plastic bottle, so needless to say, it hasn’t been used. After falling asleep and regretfully missing last night’s rare blue moon, I got up early this morning to make deviled eggs for the family Easter dinner. I was rummaging through the kitchen drawers trying to find a spoon small enough to stuff the eggs. Some of you might think that because I am a Farm Woman who writes a weekly blog, I must make picture-perfect deviled eggs by using a time-honored family recipe, putting the stuffing in a plastic bag, snipping off a corner, and piping perfect dollops of egg yolk into the white. Wrong. I don’t use a recipe. I just add yolks, not too much mayonnaise, a bit of mustard, a dash of this and a splash of that until it tastes right. I make extra eggs just for the tasting, by the way. I once tried the plastic bag method and ended up not dolloping but squirting yolk all over the place. It was a hot mess. Now, I just needed a spoon that was not too small and not too big, and it was 6:00 a.m., which is not unusual for bunnies or church musicians on any given Easter morning, even an Easter morning that follows a blue moon and lands on April Fool’s Day. My fingers landed on Anna’s spoon. Perfect. It was a little tarnished, but so is Anna’s granddaughter, so I shrugged, rinsed it off, and finished the job in no time with only a little bit of a mess, which I licked off my fingers, because it was six in the morning and nobody was watching.

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