Chefs of Finland’s diplomatic missions have been practising the Finland 100 –menu this week in Helsinki. Traditional Finnish dishes are served, as necessary, with an exotic tinge.
A special menu has been designed in honour of Finland’s centenary celebration to be served in the diplomatic missions of Finland during the jubilee year 2017. The purpose of the menu is to bring people together to share a meal and take the message of Finnish food and drink culture abroad.
Some twenty chefs working in Finland’s diplomatic missions in different corners of the world have come to Helsinki this week to learn to prepare the festive menu.
The menu has been designed by chefs Kim Palhus and Arto Rastas. In planning the menu, they made sure that our country’s long food and drink culture and Finnish flavours are represented.
"We have learned a lot during the week. We have practised handling of salmon, for example, as well as preparing cabbage rolls. I have acquired many ideas that I intend to use in the future," says David Mbuzi, who works at the Embassy of Finland in Lusaka.
The festive menu was planned so that it can be prepared in diverse cultural environments where the availability of the ingredients may be difficult. Mbuzi knows from experience that Finnish ingredients are not necessarily available in Zambia.
"Reindeer meat, rye flour, salmon, cardamom and parchment paper. These are the most common ingredients and items needed in the kitchen that cannot be found in Zambia. Ingredients for different events, such as the Independence Day reception, are imported from Finland but we have also developed local versions of traditional Finnish foods."
Mbuzi tells that if necessary, reindeer meat can be replaced by beef or impala, which is local antelope meat. For fish dishes, pomfret can be used. Its pink colour is similar to that of Finnish salmon.
According to Kim Palhus, a service will be opened soon on the Foreign Ministry's intranet where chefs working in the Diplomatic Service can order rarer ingredients for festive events organised by the embassies. However, Palhus underlines that the festive menu that was now published is a suitable foundation that local chefs can adapt to the local needs.
"In many cases, foreign guests appreciate a notion of their own food culture in a Finnish dish."
Carelian pies or cinnamon buns can thus serve as a form of food diplomacy.
The writer works as a trainee in the Unit for Current Affairs of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.