I discovered gourmet Finland

Cristina Bowerman tells us about her experience at Food Camp, surrounded by a still virgin nature

09-09-2015
A group photo at the end of Food Camp, the Finnish

A group photo at the end of Food Camp, the Finnish culinary event that this year had Cristina Bowerman among its protagonists

I have already written about one of my summer trips, to California, rediscovering raw diet. It wasn’t my only interesting experience. A few days after meeting Matthew Kenney I found myself on the other side of the planet, a three-hour drive from Helsinki. Over there I came across a nature that is somehow still virgin, different habits, something new for a person like myself. The sauna ritual, the light lunches, the abundant cereals, the unleavened bread and wild berries I had not seen for decades…

Cristina Bowerman with Suzuko Enomoto, one of the women chefs who participated in Food Camp
Cristina Bowerman with Suzuko Enomoto, one of the women chefs who participated in Food Camp

I was, in other words, at Food Camp in Finland. This festival, in its second edition, was organised by three exceptionally talented people, to say the least, Pekka Terävä, Riikka Kannas and Petri Lukkarinen. This year they invited five women chefs, together with me: Malin Söderström (Sweden), Ylfa Helgadóttir (Iceland), Suzuko Enomoto (Japan), Amandine Chaignot (France) and Jenni Bergström (Finland), on top of Eero Vottonen, the only man, representing the Finnish Bocuse d’Or team. Each one of us cooked a dish in a unique context, in Mäanta, in the middle of the Finnish woods, inside a museum. It was truly extraordinary.

Food Camp gave me the opportunity to discover Finnish cuisine and its products. I found it very peculiar that crayfish was a common and yearned for food (in fact, the hotel where I stayed was called Rapukartano, where rapu stands for crayfish). I was used to taste them in the Cajun way, spicy, with babt potatoes and cobs, sucking the head; I found myself cleaning them – they were so big we would have called them crawdaddies back in Texas – and eating them with bread and a remoulade-like sauce. I tasted fried musk, caught a pike in the lake, which I then used in a dish with dill, lemon juice and zest, smetana (which I had discovered in Russia), pink pepper and fresh herbs.

I found the bread made with cereal flour and mother yeast was fantastic, and the rice and rye pancakes offered me a very interesting view of unleavened dough. Walking in the woods to pick mushrooms, discovering that a few kilometres from there they produce shiitake and that wild chanterelle mushrooms have such an intense aroma was lovely.

What truly impressed me, though, was the number of people participating in Food Camp. Three dinners, over 100 people per night: sold out. Over 200 people at lunchtime for a light version of Finnish fine dining. In the common imagery, at least that of an Italian, there’s no such thing as Finnish gourmands or at least they are not so numerous: in fact I saw them, they have high expectations and are cultured. In other words, Food Camp is an experience I’d repeat right away.


Sections

Female chef's life stories

Women who, for a moment, leave pots and pans to tell us their experience and point of view