This week has been rainy. We are out on summer vacation and have had to resort to indoors activities, which means museums and libraries. Good thing we are at a location with an abundant offering in both of these two categories. The other day, we did the recently reopened maritime museum and the (best ever) local library. We took our time, its raining, we are on vacation, so what's the rush?
from both places I picked up some interesting new insights on food and
we ended the rainy afternoon in the "ecological bistro" Palsternackan-
loaded with information on organic food (although I asked myself how
ecological the smoked salmon I chewed really was, or the cheese on the
lamb-burger on hubby's plate...didn't ask the waitress, didn't want to
ruin it all... but the owner is apparently half-Chilean, small world).
maritime museum gave me food for thoughts on how international trade
was organized less than one hundred years ago. I'll tell you, based on
what I learned, there was not much space for inexpensive stuff being
irrationally shipped from point A to point B to point C and then finally
back to point A (check logistics of polished (!) apples or fish filets
for further details on today's international food logistics). Sailing
ships were expensive to build, dangerous to navigate and whatever
transported on board had a looong delivery times. I guess the old
pesticide free avocados or bananas would not make it to Europe in time
for ripening... No, these ships were used to transport important stuff
such as nitrates, cupper, and coffee and sugar. Which meant that the
local communities up north had to rely on locally produced foods for
survival (I do not count coffee, and most certainly not sugar, to
survival foods, there might be those of you who have a different
Which leads me to the topic discovered at the
libarary. You see, one of the books that I picked up at the library
explained the local food culture in detail. A book published in 1991 by
the Martha Association on the Finnish Swedish Food Culture across
times and across regions (Finlandssvenska Matboken, Finlands Svenska
Marthaförbund). The book had many interesting details on how people got
food on their table in old times (going back to even 16th Centrury). The
book also explains the difficulties in having enough food storage for
the long winter, especially at times of war or when the weather
conditions led to unsuccessful crops. Fatty foods were mixed with grain
based boods. Long storage time was key for crops so that food would be
available ... Food at that time was not healthy based on any standards -
not the LCHF or the Low-cholesterol principles - it was high in fat,
high in carbs and end of story.
I have been intrigued by foods from ancient times for a long
time. I've been thinking of what is discussed in the paleo community on
hunter gatherer eating habits and I've been thinking of just basic
foods, preindustrial, preprocessed foods in the agrarian societies. This
book gave me many answers and one of the most important one was that
food some 100-300 years back was mostly just fuel. It was not about
enjoying a nice meal - it was about survival, getting the most out
whatever available so that you could carry on with your life. And life
was a little bit different at that time. More muscle mass needed and
never sure if there would be enough food throughout the winter, better
fatten up, better store energy in the body, whenever available.
Therefore: both creamy sauses and grain-based dishes highly desirable...
But did you know that there was an intense potatoe propaganda to
get people to abandon their beloved "rova" (yellow typical Nordic root,
used today mostly in soups) in Ostrobotnia in the 18th Century?
Interesting. I'm just thinking of how people later on were convinced to
replace butter with margarine - kind of same story there...
did you know that our grain dominant countryside landscape is not a
product of latitudes? Nope, it was the easiest way for the Swedish king
to collect taxes... predictable and measurable harvest every fall... so
now we know why our food culture is mostly grain-based and why we eat so
much bread - blame it on the King!!! And ironically you could say some
400-500 years later, no wonder the state has no interest in restricting
the use of all these grains (nowadays I guess the money flows in
opposite direction though, from EU to the farmers) ... they have to be
consumed in some way.
I've also read another book called "Stefans Lilla Gröna"
(Stefan's Small Green), written by a Swedish musician on his attempts
to become selfsufficient. This book was just a master piece, irony and
severity mixed into one. I loved it! It also gave me inspiration to
think what our countryside could look like if there wasn't powerful
(potatoe) propaganda and state intervention (subsidies) on grain
Sweet dreams my friends, sweet dreams...