AROUND LA WITH AVA – SAVORING SUMMER (SUOMI ON OUR MINDS)

Ava Anttila

Is your Christmas tree up yet?  Have your presents been wrapped?  Are the children tucked all snug in their beds?  No?

Costco has put out Christmas goods for sale already! Hyvänen aika !!

The schoolchildren in Finland have been back to school for almost a month!

Finnish school children

What are you waiting for??

Here in LA, after the usual “May gray”, Summer got into full swing with that “June gloom” thing that keeps us from feeling like it is really is Summer until July.  Then, the days are lazy and hot but, come evening, the place to be is outside for what Hoagie Carmichael sang about in the ‘30’s “…in the cool, cool, cool of the evening” to feel the soft air that comes from the ocean and pushes back gently sending the heat over the San Bernardino mountains to the desert.  The sky becomes beautifully pink and white.  Backyards are ready for action!  But, then again, this is California so what is the big deal?

Pacific Palisades, CA

Can you really think about Winter when it is Summer all year long???

Things to Ponder:  While August is prime time to enjoy the beautiful countryside with the best possible weather and lake-life in Finland (and the fewest mosquitoes), normal study and work life have begun again in earnest in our homeland.  No wonder Finnish children and the educational system are the best in the world.  The ‘eager-beavers’ and their Sisu move on with what needs to be done—they caught their breath in July.

The greatest joy of Summer in Finland on the lake is hearing the squeals of delight of the little ones playing in the water, catching fish, and having fun –all of that is all gone by August.  The big cities like Helsinki are back to life with business, government, and culture.  If any grownups are still at their Summer homes, the big events are the crayfish parties.

crayfish with dill

Rapu-juhlat:

The proper stoic Finns let it all hang out on those luminous velvet nights by the lakesides when the water is still liquid.  They are armed with special knives and bibs.  Joy is eating a raucous, messy meal of cold, boiled crayfish.  There is a limited time fresh crayfish are available. The ones in Finland are about 3 inches in length and the skillfully extracted, succulent meat is enjoyed on toasted bread [best accompanied by chilled vodka].  

A beautiful/artistic food sight is a ‘sunburst of crayfish’ displayed in a circle on a large beautiful Finnish blue platter with sprigs of fresh dill as garnish.  ‘Toasts’ to the homeland and a sing-along are best complimented by candlelight as the early evening darkness foretells the pending Fall.

Why tease with this traditional ritual description when we are in L.A?   Because, in this land of dreams, we can create the next best thing—sans the azure lake and pending frost!!  It just so happens that this time of year you can get the necessities for a crayfish party right here –at   IKEA.  Hats, decorations, and frozen crayfish are available at the Burbank store.  Paper hats and decorations are a great DYI craft project. [Crayfish in frozen form are usually available year-round at Santa Monica Seafood on Wilshire in Santa Monica—and I have found real, live ‘wigglies’ on occasion.  The later are more fun because the ‘kids’ can have crayfish races on the kitchen floor before ‘bath time’!]  Whether from Scandinavia or the Bayou, I love to have some extra crayfish in my freezer because they make the most adorable garnishes when served ‘propped up’ on a first course seafood mousse or another seafood appetizer!

As a purist of Finnish tradition and cuisine, I go for the Scandinavian crayfish and Finlandia schnapps.

Traditional American crayfish boils can serve as a ‘next best thing’, but they feature “crawdads” with different accoutrements –corn, okra, potatoes, and ‘white lightning’ aka “corn likker”.  [Careful–the later is even more potent than Koskenkorva!!].  Actually, a very cool happening in LA is the Sunday night “all you can eat” crawfish boils at the Foundry on Melrose.  On Sunday between 5:30 and 8:00 p.m. for $25 you can get a crayfish boil and are treated to live zydeko music.

When Not in Finland—Find a Lake Somewhere:

My resolve to create memories of joyous Finnish Summers for my little grandchildren had to be postponed again this year.  While the deferment was soundly based and necessary, the ‘clock’ does not stop.  Something else fills the time—and the memory bank. 

Lake view from Satasarvinen hill, Muuratsalo, Jyväskylä, Finland

I cannot wait until next year to introduce the little ones to life in Finland—picking wild berries in the woods, fishing, saunas every night, swimming in the lake, rowing around aimlessly as the sun is frozen in the sky providing a mirror surface for oars to pierce.  I want them to experience the most sensory exhilaration of skimming from cove to island to shore with nothing but God’s nature to intrude.  Days will be filled with trips to the local farms or markets, language and baking lessons like “pih-Mummi” [my paternal grandmother] provided in my youth—pulla as the end result reward. 

While my Finnish lake trip was a delayed dream this year, we all make our own world and we can find a way to express our Finnishness where we are.  I suppose that is why so many in our local community make the drive north to Hauli Huvila to stay in cabins and to be in a lovely Finnish setting on weekends.

Hauli Huvila

As a first generation immigrant who ended up in California, I was always interested in the immigrants who established communities and their lives in other places in the U.S..  I have expressed my admiration for the late Dr. Varpu Lindstrom who made a scholarly career of tracing those lives, customs, adventures, and histories.  Having spent some time in the Upper Peninsula as a member of an advisory board for Finlandia University [Hancock, Michigan—between Lakes Superior and Michigan], I learned and came to appreciate some of the different ways and means Finns used to find their place in this strange [USA] land.  It was amazing how similar the topography is to Finland: the lakes, the trees, the flowers….

My ‘memory’ trip this Summer was to Minnesota where one of my sons and his family moved recently.   The lakes in the center of Minneapolis could easily pass for a boat-filled yacht harbor in Espoo.  

A Lake in Downtown Minneapolis

A fun touch of Finland was a visit to none other than The Finnish Bistro in nearby St. Paul. The charming café/bakery serves Americanized brunch fare and wonderful Finnish baked goods—but no “real” rye bread. I was amused by the amuse-bouche at another restaurant, La Belle Vie, that featured a tiny muikku (smelt).

The Finnish Bistro in Minnesota

The Finnish Bistro in Minnesota

With the abundance of peaches, plums, and nectarines this time of year in California, a fruit tart is the perfect dessert.  Strawberries and rhubarb, apples and other berries work.  This recipe was taught to me by my Aunt Heljä in Finland.  It is simple and brilliantly easy.  Something similar is in most Finns’ culinary repertoires.  [To give it a more “Finnish flavor”, I use European butter and Wondra flour.]

Aunt Heljä’s Tart

Aunt Heljä’s Tart

3 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 stick of butter

1 egg

 4-5 cups sliced fruit

Mix flour, sugar, and butter in bowl or food processor. Take out [reserve] 1 cup of mixture for topping.  Add egg to remaining mixture.  Blend well and pat into an ovenproof tart pan. Place fruit on crust.  Sprinkle reserved mix on top.  Bake at 415 degrees F for 25 minutes.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Click on image above to view it in high resolution

Happenings Around Town:

Tourists love to see the paparazzi assembled because that sometimes means that a ‘celebrity’ sighting may occur sometime soon.  That same ‘sighting’ can spell trouble if you arrive at the same time and the same place for an important appointment, however.

The TV news vans were out in force and lined up around the downtown Los Angeles County Courthouse the other week. The guardianship proceeding for Michael Jackson’s children happened to be in front of the same Judge, and in the same small courtroom, where I was to appear on another Probate matter.  The Court’s interior hallway was filled with familiar faces of the local news media, all with computers and cell phones. No cameras or pictures are permitted.  Security guards and Sheriff’s deputies paced the halls as the teams of attorneys for the case huddled in their respective groups for strategy sessions.  [One of those attorneys stopped to say hello and to enquire about a mutual lawyer friend—Jerryl Cohen and I worked together on another case a few years ago.]  ‘Groupies’ suddenly appear and are easy to spot even though there is no official ‘uniform’.

TV news vans were out in force and lined up around the downtown Los Angeles County Courthouse

It is easy to become a ‘spectator’ to the day’s news until you realize that if you do not get a seat in that tiny Courtroom, the Judge can dismiss your Petition for ‘non-appearance’!  Time to get to work.

Seeing our legal system in operation is something everyone can and should do.  Courtrooms are open to the public in Courthouses all over the city.  Anyone can walk in and watch all kinds of hearings, trials, and cases–criminal and civil.  The only requirement is to be respectful and quiet.  

TV news vans were out in force and lined up around the downtown Los Angeles County Courthouse

Each Courtroom posts a daily schedule just outside their door which will tell you ‘approximately’ what will happen when.  Some of the schedule is in code, but you can figure out most of what you need to know.  Court starts at 8:30 AM, usually promptly, but it is often possible to enter ‘quietly’ even if the Judge is on the bench. 

You will see how the justice system really happens, not the often incorrectly portrayed proceedings shown in television and movie dramas.  It is interesting, but rarely ‘dramatic’.  For a lawyer, it is often hard to watch entertainment programs without ‘talking back’ to the television while thinking “…they can’t do that!”  So, take some time to go be a “Court watcher” and enjoy the air conditioning during this muggy, hot, end of Summer.

Another Time Available Recommendation:  The Getty Center is free!  The parking does cost $15 if you drive right to the ‘door’, however.  Public transportation can take you to the entrance.  So will a walk from the surrounding neighborhoods [around Moraga Drive] if you know where to park.  Be sure to look at the parking restriction signs which are enforced.  As you get on the Getty tram that takes you up to the Museum, be sure to look east. You will see the grape vine plantings on the hillside of the only winery in Bel Air.  You have passed it on your way to the Finnish Consular Residence, but may not have seen the vineyard because it sits on the hill on the south side of Moraga.  The winery is appropriately named Moraga.  Now, if you have saved your parking money and care to have a taste of the famous and pricey wine, it is served in the restaurant by the glass ($20).

Moraga’s vineyards in Bel Air

Not Free—But Almost:

A most beloved Summer institution in our City of Angels is the Hollywood Bowl.  From the most exclusive boxes frequented by generations of elite Angelenos with candelabras, fine china, and catered gourmet fare below to the ‘starving students’ with ‘brown bag and beer’ fare in the back,  bench seating section, everyone is happy in this wonderful venue.

Hollywood Bowl

They actually have $1 concert seats!!!  What a fun thing to do with a group.  The FACC used to have an annual event in one of the back corner sections.  We would pick a night where either Sibelius was being performed or when Esa-Pekka was conducting and have a Finnish night. Though there are only several weeks left in the current season, the programs offer many options.

So, take a Marimekko tablecloth to lay on the bench, a tiny tea candle to light, a rye bread Finlandia cheese sandwich, a bowl of fresh blueberries [or a Heljä tart], a hand-knit wrap [or a warm loved one], and stretch out under the stars to enjoy a bit of Heaven on earth.  [Just ignore the ‘herbal fumes’ you may notice at that ‘altitude’!]  Remember to bring a thermos of strong coffee to sip thorough the performance. For a Finn, this is LA Summer at its best!!!

Finnish [and other] High Tech Entrepreneurs Feted at the  Consul Residence:  The UCLA Anderson School of Business GAP program and its participants were recently feted at the Finnish Consular residence.  Finnish Consuls General have provided great leadership for this cooperative venture which has successfully involved well over 100 Finnish companies through the years.  The fact that tiny Finland has provided 12 of the 53 companies from around the world in this year’s prestigious program certainly validates the good judgment of the Finnish government in maintaining our Consulate in Los Angeles.  [Please see Tomi Hinkkanen’s interesting and comprehensive article in Finntimes.]    

Heikki Ketola, Christel Pauli and friend Natalie

Chef Sirpa Welch overseeing Dessert Buffet at GAP Event

 Hail and Farewell:  The Finnish Church in Van Nuys permanently closed its doors in Van Nuys with Rueben Perttula’s last sermon on Sunday August 19, 2012.  Among many others attending were Seppo and Seija Hurme and Ari Anttila.

The Finnish Church in Van Nuys

P.S.:

Don’t forget to hang the mistletoe before you sip the Moraga!!!!

P.P.S:

Yessss, that is $20 per glass—not per bottle!

 

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