Somerville, Mass – We don’t get to go to Finland this summer, so we decided we better host our own summer solstice celebration. I wrote to my Finnish family get advice on exactly what this should entail. The Finns wrote back:
“Midsummer party needs barbecue meat, fish and sausage. New potatoes are important, as are new strawberries. And weather must be right… 11°C (52°F), hard wind and heavy rain!”
We may not have the midnight sun, but… there are some advantages to NOT being in Finland in June.
The Finnish festival also includes pagan traditions such as lighting a bonfire and dancing around the midsummer pole. We live in a densely populated urban area, so the best we could do for a bonfire was to light a fire in the chiminea that we borrowed from our neighbors. Not quite as dramatic, but still atmospheric.
I made a midsummer pole from the Christmas tree that has been browning in the backyard since December. The twins really liked my creation, although my guests did not seem impressed. See how my version compares to the real thing.
The menu for Finnish midsummer seemed pretty simple. So simple, in fact, that we decided to fancify it–you know, make it more exotic to impress the guests–and therefore complicate our lives. For example, we served Finnish meatballs, which are normally served at Christmas, not midsummer. Also, they are normally made out of ground beef, but that didn’t seem nearly as interesting as reindeer meatballs. Of course, things like reindeer and specialty Finnish products are not exactly easy to find in the US, so we had to employ a little poetic license.
Smoked mackerel and creme fraiche, on Wasa crackers
“Squeaky” bread cheese with cloudberry jam (we had no luck finding Finnish squeaky cheese; so we used Cypriot Halloumi, which has a similar same texture)
Reindeer meatballs (actually, elk, but close enough), served with lingonberry jam
An assortment of exotic grilled sausages (venison with blueberries!)
Grilled salmon with fresh dill
Roasted new potatoes (apparently the most important part of a midsummer menu)
Field green salad, with Baltic farmers cheese, chopped walnuts, sliced strawberries and balsamic vinaigrette
Lingonberry (er, cranberry) pie with vanilla ice cream
Coffee (Finns drink more coffee per capita than any other country in the world!)
The menu got overwhelmingly positive reviews, even from the next generation. The twins ate just about everything. Twin S devoured the meatballs and he declared the tart cranberry pie to be the best pie ever. Now, I know Finnish cooking is not one of your best loved world cuisines, but I would argue that it’s one of many things about Finland that are underappreciated. (Even Buzzfeed managed to come up with a list of 42 Finnish foods that “you desperately need to try…”)
Finally, I have to admit that we seriously considered showing the Moomins at our dinner party. Don’t worry: we came to our senses and decided that it would not be good form to force our guests to watch Finnish cartoons. But we did use our miniature Moomin House for a centerpiece. (This was lost on the guests, but the twins appreciated it!)