AROUND LA WITH AVA: “ASK NOT…”

AROUND LA WITH AVA: “ASK NOT…”
by Ava Anttila

Fifty years ago President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated.

President-Kennedy

President John Kennedy with daughter Caroline.

There was a time when I thought History was something that happened to other people in another era. Now, I know that History is but a record of lives lived, events experienced, challenges embraced, and results accomplished.  It is different when you are there.

It was late morning on November 22, 1963 when a little Finnish girl in Mrs. Holdbrook’s class was told by her crying teacher to “…go home, the school is closing—class is dismissed—the President has been shot.”  And, home my classmates and I went, not really ‘knowing’ what was happening or what we were to do…or think.

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The details of that fateful morning came back into focus with a new clarity as the World stopped to reflect on a ‘reality show’ like none anyone had experienced in ‘real time’. That weekend the country witnessed the live murder of the assassin on television. Oh, how real it was!  For a new immigrant child who thought she had arrived to a place of safety and security, the World turned upside down.

The entire month of November just past seemed dedicated to recollections and reflections on one of the most monumental and earth-shaking events for anyone around on that fateful day.

Time Compression

We all remember where we were and what we were doing at the time of significant events during our lives. This is our History as we lived it: television/color television; the Moon landing; hearing of the death of John Lennon, JFK, RFK, Princess Diana; the Challenger disaster; the Northridge ‘quake; 9/11; and on and on.

In truth, I rather welcome the perspective that is brought by a significant anniversary, memorial, or celebration. When we look back at the 50 years since John Kennedy’s assassination, it does not seem so long ago that another assassinated President [Abraham Lincoln] gave his Gettysburg Address even though that happened 150 years ago.

The original Gettysburg Address

The original Gettysburg Address

President Lincoln was a great orator.  And, History classes taught us that he was responsible for preserving the Union of States and bringing an end to slavery in the United States. ‘In the day’, each American school age child had to memorize the Gettysburg Address.  Those words about the greatness of this country were heartfelt by this young immigrant. Your humble correspondent was one who knew and can still [almost] recite “Four score and seven years ago …///…of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from this earth”.

My Father was born four score and eight years ago!   Whoooaa!!

 Today

Even without the current year’s benchmark anniversaries, this is a memorable and meaningful time of year. Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Finnish Independence Day have calendared close together and force our thoughts to consider the meaning and importance of these themes.

Finnish war veteran Ari Antiila with daughter Ava

We fly the flags to salute our Veterans—here and gone. We feast with friends and family on Thanksgiving, mindful of how truly fortunate we are in our lives. We place the proper candles in our window on 6 December and join Finnish hearts to applaud our remaining Veterans and Lottas for their sacrifice and service preserving Finnish Independence.  Of course, December 7th  and the bombing of Pearl Harbor abruptly bringing the US into WWII continues to be “…a day that shall live in infamy” as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt so resolutely stated.

Each November my Father relives the start of the Winter War by describing his witness of the Russian bombing of Helsinki. Each year as I drive my Veteran Dad home from the Consul Residence Independence Day festivities, I am ever-so-mindful that he and my dear, departed Mom [a Lotta] helped preserve Finland! They fought the fight—my parents [and many others we know and love] are Finnish History!

Members of Finnish voluntary auxiliary paramilitary organization for women

Members of Finnish voluntary auxiliary paramilitary organization for women

“Ask Not…”

“Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country… .”

President Kennedy’s Inaugural ‘challenge’ served as inspiration for generations –and continues today in many forms of generosity and giving. While Congress hones ineptitude and the extremes in talk/print media bloviate to/at each other and themselves, the American people continue to reach out with amazing caring and generosity toward folks who need help around the World. That philosophy and way of life describe what I have seen, experienced, and tried to emulate my entire life since arriving here as a young girl.

 

American Red Cross workers assist at a community run shelter at Bastrop Middle School after wildfires sweep the region, driving thousands of people from endangered neighborhoods and burning hundreds of houses to the ground.

‘Let Them Eat Soup…’

My Dad often reflects fondly on pea soup and his Finnish Army experiences.

Each time I bring him a bowl of Finnish pea soup and he happens upon a piece of meat, he makes the comment: “Oh, look sattumia [special happenings or ‘finds’]”. His delight reflects how special it was for the troops to find a real piece of meat in their nourishment on the cold battlefields of Finland during the war. Despite a current life of comfort, war and all its shortages our heroes experienced left grateful memories of a ‘find’ in the frozen forest.

Heroic resistance: Finnish troops battle against the Red Army in December 1939.

Heroic resistance: Finnish troops battle against the Red Army.

During the wars, the Finnish Forces [helped by their Lottas] had to set up makeshift kitchens to feed the troops. Dried peas and water cooked in a big pot can feed a crowd. Scraps of meat, a ham hock, a bone, or even a left-over makkara tossed in the pot can add great flavor, aroma, and nourishment. Pea soup is basic, hearty, humble, unassuming, laid back, and enduring –just like the Finns who love it, including our beloved Veterans.

Finnish children being evacuated during the Winter War

Finnish Pea Soup

Although I have made different kinds of pea soup through the years, I love to serve ‘tricked out’, fancy, playful ones with fun garnishes in ‘different’ presentations for dinner parties or elegant occasions. When I am going for a ‘Finnish touch’, the authentic, basic recipe wins out!

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Finnish war veteran Ari Antiila with daughter Ava

I make Finnish pea soup for my Veteran Dad each week—or so it feels.  I stick with the simplest, most authentic version. My ‘improvements’ are not with ingredients or accoutrements, but in process. After years of watching a pot boiling on the stove and steaming up the kitchen, I moved to cooking in a simple ‘slow cooker’. You can buy one in practically any store in the U.S. for very little money. Sometimes they are referred to by the funny term “crock pot”.

The slow cooker is a California dream for a busy person.  All ingredients are thrown in the sturdy pot in the morning. Once temperature and cooking time are set, the ‘batch’ can be left safely unattended for a whole day at the office or on a movie shoot without worry. You will be greeted with an olfactory hug of Finnish nostalgia [without any additional human involvement] upon your return.

Life in the Slow Lane Pea Soup

Recipe

1 one pound bag of split peas (even better, but harder to find are the whole peas)

1 to 1½  quarts cold water

1 meaty ham bone (from leftovers) or a smoked ham hock  (can omit for vegan version)

1 tablespoon salt (a few dashes of pepper to taste)

2 teaspoons marjoram

2 tablespoons dried minced onion or one whole onion finely chopped

1 one pound bag of split peas (even better, but harder to find are the whole peas) 1 to 1½  quarts cold water 1 meaty ham bone (from leftovers) or a smoked ham hock  (can omit for vegan version) 1 tablespoon salt (a few dashes of pepper to taste) 2 teaspoons marjoram 2 tablespoons dried minced onion or one whole onion finely chopped 

Put all ingredients in slow cooker. Water should cover everything by several inches.  Set on ‘low’ for 6 to 8 hours.

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Remove bone(s) and discard. Chop meat into bite sized pieces and return to pot.

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Stir and serve.

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The soup will thicken as it sets. If too thick the next day, add a bit of water and stir.

Soup keeps 2 to 3 days, but also freezes well.

This is a great party dish for a crowd if you double the recipe. My crock pot is a 7 quart cooker and suits a doubled recipe.

For a party, serve in a large, heated soup tureen and ladle into mugs or demitasse cups—with a sliver or crouton of rye bread. Or, simply serve in bowls as a first course.

You can also serve soup ‘Shooters’ as appetizers –as the centerpiece of a celebration or a fundraiser. Or, if you practice enough, as a course in your own restaurant!

Regardless, your soup will be a success if you have Finland –its heritage and history, in your heart and on your table!!

ACTIVITIES IN LA

Veteraani Tuki Ryhma

The local Vets met on November 11 at Suomi Kerho.

The Veteraani Tuki Ryhma has had the ‘behind-the-scenes’ ongoing support of Henri Aspen and Pauli Majamaki in arranging for their events.

The Veteraani Tuki Ryhma has had the ‘behind-the-scenes’ ongoing support of Henri Aspen and Pauli Majamaki in arranging for their events.

Suomi Kerho has always been the stalwart port of Finnish activities. The Veteraani Tuki Ryhma has had the ‘behind-the-scenes’ ongoing support of Henri Aspen and Pauli Majamaki in arranging for their events. It took some wrangling and pleading just to get them to stand still for a photo, but a big kiitos is in order for all their efforts and kindness for our local Veterans and Lottas.

Majamaki Family Greenscapes

The Bulletin Board at the Suomi Kerho facility showcased the Majamaki family and its landscaping successes in a big Daily News feature. What a beautiful greenscape they have created on their property.

Suomi Kerho’s Neighborhood

I wrote recently about the gentrification of the Suomi Kerho neighborhood, including the new Senior Creative Arts Colony nearby. I had to chuckle when I saw the new Salami Studio sign that just went up on the block!  Finland and sausage just can’t get away from each other—even in Hollywood!

 I had to chuckle when I saw the new Salami Studio sign that just went up on the block!  Finland and sausage just can’t get away from each other—even in Hollywood!

I had to chuckle when I saw the new Salami Studio sign that just went up on the block! Finland and sausage just can’t get away from each other—even in Hollywood!

Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation

The LAFF meeting on 11/7 featured Ray Halme as Keynote Speaker.

Ray’s program centered on the Finns living and working in Hollywood from 1900-1950s. Ray had previously presented this program at the FinnFest in San Diego. There were so many fascinating programs going on at the same time at the FinnFest, I had to miss Ray’s program.  I was thrilled to get a call that Mr. Halme’s presentation was being repeated for the LAFF November meeting. There was a full audience at the Gidding Room and the presentation by Ray gave everyone background that brought that era to life.

The LAFF meeting on 11/7 featured Ray Halme as Keynote Speaker.

The LAFF meeting on 11/7 featured Ray Halme as Keynote Speaker.

The LAFF business meeting followed with various issues.

Maria Kizirian [who was present] was introduced as the replacement for Finlandia Foundation National’s Christina Lin who has returned to the East Coast.

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