Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Finnish Reflections (Part II)...

Finns have a lot of national loyalty, to say the least, when it comes to Finnish products. Sure, everybody's heard of Nokia. Perhaps you've also heard of Iittala, Hackman, Arabia, and Marimekko. But, unless you're Finnish, you've probably never heard of Turun Sinappia. Turun Sinappia is mustard that is made in the Finnish city of Turku.
When I was child growing up in the Chicago suburbs during the 70s, my parents always had Turun Sinappia in the refrigerator. My sister and I called it Suomalaista sinappia (Finnish mustard), and it was a fixture on our backyard picnic table when our dad would grill hamburgers, sausages, etc. Where would my parents procure the "sacred" mustard you ask? At the Finnish bakery/deli in Sudbury, Ontario, of course. Every year, we'd make the twelve-hour drive from Wheeling, Illinois to Sudbury, Ontario to visit my grandparents. And, every year, several tubes of THE mustard would make their way back to good old Wheeling.
Fast-forward some twenty-odd years into the future, and here Mrs. TBF and I are in Helsinki. Included on the must-visit list is Stockmann's Department Store so that I can go to their grocery store and grab some of that Finnish brown gold. Mrs. TBF and I make our way to the condiment aisle, and there on the shelf is not only Turun Sinappia, but also Auran Sinappi. I had never heard of the latter, but I saw that it was also made in Turku, so I bought both brands. Mrs. TBF heads back to Switzerland the next day with the cache, and I head up to Kauhava with my dad. End of story...right? Wrong!
A couple of days later I found out that there is a major mustard controversy in Finland. It turns out that Turun Sinappia has been acquired by Unilever of SWEDEN!!! Which means Finns should no longer purchase that brand. Auran Sinappi is owned by Finns and produced in Finland. Therefore, it is truly Finnish mustard and thus the only mustard Finns should buy. I was told this fact by aunts, uncles, cousins, and...two Finns on the tram in Basel.
That's right! Mrs. TBF and I were on the tram heading into town this past Saturday. I felt an elbow nudging into my ribcage, and I saw that it was Mrs. TBF trying to get my attention. She kind of did that "flick-of-the-head-thing" (that husbands are supposed to somehow interpret) in the direction of two guys standing right next to us with suitcases. When the "flick-thing" didn't register, she whispered out of the corner of her mouth: "Those...guys...are...Finns!" How she's able to detect that people around us are speaking Finnish and I can't will forever remain a mystery to me. This has happened several times around Europe, and it always amazes me. There have actually been times where I've told her "...they're not speaking Finnish," only to find out a couple of seconds later that indeed they are.
But, to try to put an end to this never-ending tome, I started speaking in Finnish with these two guys on the tram (by the way...I've found that it drives the Swiss crazy when you speak a language they can't indentify), and I found out they're from Turku. I said something like "...where they make the mustard," and, of course, they launched into a sermon on how I should only purchase Auran Sinappi.
So, there you have it. The big Finnish mustard controversy. We better use up the "Swedish" mustard fast before any other Finn sees it in our refrigerator.

1 comment:

FJ said...

My mother is from Finland and I enjoyed summers in Finland as a kid. I remember Turun Sinappia on big fat sausages cooked over the campfire - one of my favourite memories.

Over the years my mother would send me Aurun Sinappia and I just figured they had changed the name. I now live in North Carolina, not my birthplace of England, and can't seem to find AS anywhere. I searched Google for places to buy it but wasn't in luck. However, I found your blog! :)