Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Seinäjoen Aaltokeskus - Aalto Center of Seinäjoki

This example of a planned administrative, cultural, and religious city center is by architect Alvar Aalto, who is known for his functionalist architectural stylings, his design items such as the Savoy vase, and for his almost impossible to use lavatory facilities and horribly uncomfortable lecure halls located in C Building at the University of Jyväskylä.

A side note concerning the aforementioned lecture halls - either Aalto forgot to include clocks in his design or perhaps he secretly hated clocks, whatever the reason, the lecture halls do not have clocks. Taking an exam without knowing how much time you have left (if you aren't a watch-wearing person) can be a real pain in the ass. Instructors have been know to bring their own clocks in on exam days. Since Aalto is the holy cow of Finnish architecture his creations are not allowed to be modified, no matter how small and insignifigant and useful that modification might happen to be.

Starting with the construction of the Lakeuden Risti (Cross of the Plain) church in 1960, the construction ended with the completion of the Teatteritalo (City Theater) in 1987. Other buildings in the group include the City Hall, the regional library, the parish center, and Valtion virastotalo (a State Office Building, home to the bureaucratic machinery necessary to keep this part of Finland running smoothly).

From left to right: The Cross of the Plain bell tower, the church itself, the parish center, the library and City Hall

The bell tower, the church, and the parish center. Aalto's original plans called for the church and the tower to be clad in black granite which apparently was too cost-inhibitive at the time of construction.

The front of City Hall.

The church and the parish center

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Finnish Cultural Assimilation Lesson # 23.6 - Decoding Finnish potato bags

If you have recently moved to Finland you will have noticed that most Finnish supermarkets carry a wide variety of potatoes. They are either sold loose or prepackaged in color-coded plastic bags.

If you don't speak Finnish yet you may have a hard time cracking the code which determines which bag of potatoes is most suitable for your purposes. With a bit of work on your part, this lesson will assist you with all of your potato shopping needs.

There is a Finnish standard potato bag color code which is in use by Finnish grocery retailers. The colors used in this system are green, yellow, and red.

Chart describing (In Finnish and Swedish) the 3 basic Finnish potato categories

Potatoes found in a green bag are kiinteä, in other words, they are more firm. This basically means that they have less starch than the potatoes that are packaged in yellow or red bags. Potatoes classified as kiinteä are suitable for salads, boiling, for use in soups where you would like them to keep from breaking down, and also for pan frying. You can also use them in casseroles and they can be grated and fried if you want to make hash browns. Popular varieties of kiinteä potatoes in Finland are Siikli, Hankkijan Timo, and Nicola.

Potatoes found in the red bag are jauhoinen, which means that they are less firm than kiinteä potatoes when cooked. They have a higher starch content, which makes them desirable to use when preparing mashed potatoes,puréed soups, and baked potatoes. They also work well for baking recipes that require potatoes. Popular varieties of jauhoinen potatoes sold in Finland are Pito, Puikula, and Rosamunda.

Potatoes in the yellow bag are described in Finnish as Yleisperuna, meaning that they are a good potato for general use. They have a higher starch content than kiinteä, but not as high as jauhoinen potatoes have. They can be boiled, used in soups, casseroles, and baked as wedges. They can also be used for hashbrowns and baked potatoes. Common yleisperuna varieties in Finland are Van Gogh, Amazone, and Matilda.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Graavisiika ja friteerattu muikku - salt-cured whitefish and fried vendace

In my previous post I was excited about the prospect of a fish market coming to our neighborhood. As of yesterday Kalaliike Mäkinen is open for business at Kauppakatu 6 in Jyväskylä.

To celebrate the occasion I bought some graavisiika. Graavisiika is prepared much in the same way as gravlax, but with whitefish instead of salmon. Eat it by itself or with a nice rye bread, some butter, and a sprig of dill.


I also bought some fried muikku (vendace), a delicious snack served warm or cold.

Fried vendace aka muikku

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kalaliike Mäkinen - Mäkinen's fish market

It doesn't take much for me to get excited. In this case, the excitement is coming from the fact that a new business is moving to our neighborhood.

Kalaliike Mäkinen will be a welcome addition to the Yläkaupunki neighborhood of Jyväskylä. When Divari Kangas closed up shop, a lot of us were afraid that our street would be blessed with yet another beauty shop, real estate agent, or pizza-kebab joint. Luckily, a fish market is moving in, and they promise to be open by Christmas.

Coming soon to Kauppakatu 8 in Jyäskylä - Kalaliike Mäkinen!


There are quite a few different types of pulla (a sweet cardamom bread), but my favorite pulla variety is voisilmäpulla. Voisilmä is quite literally "butter eye". The "eye" in voisilmäpulla is a mixture of butter and sugar which melt into the pulla and caramelize.

Voisilmäpulla and espresso at Cafe Voca, which is located on Vapaudenkatu in the Forum shopping center.

A recipe for pulla can be found here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Private Finnish lessons in Jyväskylä

For private Finnish lessons in Jyväskylä with an instructor who is flexible concerning teaching and learning styles, I recommend Suomea kahdestaan. The instructor has been teaching Finnish as a second language since 2001.

I should also add that the instructor and her family would be willing to relocate to a tropical location if enough students were in need of instruction.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A great weekend for music and culture and Vakiopaine

It was a great weekend for music and culture at Vakiopaine. On Friday night Matti Perälä and Kvartetti Q gave a fantastic performance of classic Finnish iskelmä and tango.

Matti handled the vocals and Kvartetti Q provided the strings. Kvartetti Q is: Marjukka Manner -viola, Pauliin Raninen - violin, Iida Hirvola - cello, and Sanna Sandås - violin

Here's a video (sorry for the poor sound quality) of Perälä and Q performing Kolmatta linjaa takaisin, a Finnish version of Beautiful in the Rain by Little Pattie. The Finnish version was originally recorded by 70's pop star Fredi.

Saturday night brought us the traditional La Sega del Canto Christmas concert.

La Sega del Canto is a duo consisting of Joppe Salo and M. Pulkkinen. They always put on a great show, with no shortage of good humor and fun.

Here is a video I recorded during their Christmas concert last year, an excellent version of Hava Nagilah. Sitting in on this session is the legendary 3rd member of the duo, Aleks, who is one of Russia's finest ambient balalaika virtuosos.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

J.V. Snellman

I took this photo a few weeks back in Kuopio. It got to me thinking about J.V. Snellman. I knew he was an important statesman from Finnish history, but I couldn't recall much more. In other words, time for a bit of a refresher.

Johan Vilhelm Snellman was a highly popular lecturer at the University of Helsinki in the 1830s. His ideas ultimately clashed with the agenda of the imperial government and he was removed from his position.

Eventually he took up a post as a headmaster of a school in Kuopio and began to publish fiercely pro-Finnish language periodicals. Among other things he felt that the nobles and upper classes had a duty to use Finnish - the language of 85% of the population.

These opinions once again cost him his job. In 1856 the political climate had relaxed enough for Snellman to be granted a professorship at the University of Helsinki.

In 1863 he became Senator and was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. He helped to establish a language decree that gave the Finnish language a position equal to Swedish in government. He also helped to reestablish the Finnish parliament, and helped to create an official currency for Finland - the now defunct Markka.

Snellman's popularity began to wane. The age gap between himself and the new generation of opposition, his inflexibility, and his reputation as an old agitator didn't help much. He was forced to resign from the Senate in 1868.