AROUND LA WITH AVA ®: Spooks and Saunas
The Sauna; Part 2
Celebrating saunas and the Finnish sauna culture should be a fun adventure in this year leading up to the Centennial of Finnish Independence in 2017!
While writing last month’s column about Michael Fyffe’s exhibition and seeing that Risto Matti Ratia (son of the founder of Marimekko) was in attendance, I ran across Mr. Ratia’s web store featuring wonderful designs for sauna related products. The site was so appealing that I thought: if you don’t have a sauna, you will want to build one just to have his cool robes, towels, and accessories. Then, I smiled a subtle Finnish smile at the Hollywood fashion consideration and ‘hubbub’ so far removed from the Smoke Sauna world which begins with nudity and ends in peaceful solitude. Rodeo Drive and the birch forest really are pretty far apart!!
Still, it amazes and amuses me where Finns find places to have saunas such as on gondolas, flotillas, and the like. [If you have not seen Miesten Vuoro (a fine film), check it out.] The last time I was in Finland, there was a big Ferris Wheel erected in the Marina where the Viking and Silja Lines base. There was a “White Star Champagne Cabin” that could be reserved for special events. Now, that cabin has been replaced by an actual revolving sauna!! Yes, you can book it privately for a ‘reasonable’ fee per hour.
Other unusual saunas that seem to tickle the Finnish fancy include a ski gondola sauna, a travel trailer sauna, and (coming soon) a sauna moving around the US to honor 100 years of Finnish Independence! These creative sites for saunas always seemed natural to me since my Uncle Jaakko, a Professor at the technical university in Finland, made a sauna for his sailboat that he sailed to and spent time in on the Mediterranean. Real Finns are never far from their sauna!!
For those who are several generations from Finland, don’t be “spooked” about the sauna. There is nothing scary about it. We should get ready for the Centennial Celebration and the Centennial Traveling Sauna with a little ‘sweat equity’ of our own!
If you know someone with a sauna, ask if you can try it out. No dedicated Finn would turn you down. Most home saunas (like mine) take about 40 minutes to be fully heated, so some advance notice is helpful. Burbank Spa on Magnolia Avenue in North Hollywood is an excellent, authentic commercial alternative. If you can find a member to host you, there is a nice set-up at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.
October: What Season Is It?
The calendar year in our City of Angels does have seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, and “…more Summer”! Today, there is a drought and the warm/hot Santa Ana winds are blowing. Even though Fall is about over, the thermometer is scheduled to exceed 100º F.
Don’t you miss those crisp, fresh Finnish, East Coast, Midwest, Upper Peninsula, New England Autumns that yield the European Oktoberfest vibe?
There are ways to kindle that nostalgia and kill two or more birds with one stone! You could turn on the air conditioner full blast and I will share my recipe for authentic Finnish sauerkraut (Hapankaali) from the Asikkala region I picked up from the local newspaper decades ago. Unfortunately, that recipe begins with a call for ‘about’ 40 heads of cabbage! Maybe by next year I will have done the math to make the ‘making’ manageable for both of us! But, the immediate solution for your Finnish/Euro Fall experience may be just a visit to LA’s own Alpine Village. They have homemade sauerkraut, award winning sausages, and wait for it…–a treasure trove of Finn Crisp. They also have fresh quark.
One of my father’s favorite soups he continuously asked me to make for him since I was a child was Siskonmakkarakeitto (translated: Sister Sausage Soup–I know, go figure why the name?). It was one of his childhood memories and many other Finns’ favorite, too. The closest sausage to the Finnish featured makkara I have found locally is the Bavarian Weisswurst (veal sausage). SSS has much of the same ingredients as your traditional lihakeitto, with sausage instead. My father insisted [“se täytyy olle suurustettu”] a slurry of milk and flour needed to be added to thicken, making almost a makkara chowder. It is tasty, comforting, and kid-friendly.
There is so much going on in LA right now. Halloween is everywhere. The Halloween phenomenon has gone out of control. Supermarket ‘shelf space’ has been taken over by Halloween superstores. Investigating what these ‘super’ stores held inside, I found some child costumes, but the stock was mostly adult items for dress up parties and costumes, scary decorations, and exotic props like fog machines. With such additions yielding more ‘coin’, over 6.9 billion dollars will be spent on candy, costumes, decorations, and the like this year!
[It seems like Halloween is becoming bigger than Christmas which the secularists may be trying to wipe out.]
In Los Angeles, it is easy to attribute the rise of Halloween because “…this is Hollywood”. As the center of the film industry, we are used to seeing people in crazy, outlandish garb—with or without ‘star trailers’ parked nearby. We do live in a constant world of make-believe. I thought nothing of seeing two women dressed as ‘pirates’ walking down the street in early September. Maybe they were pre-Halloween celebrants, extras off to a movie shoot, or just plain ‘wackkos’ —of no never mind, it is all part of what we love about our City of Angels. It is OK to be whatever you want to be!!
Actually you cannot be what you want to be or do something that ‘offends’ if you command too much attention. For example, all the major amusement parks like Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Knott’s Berry Farm put on special events and features for Halloween. Haunted houses are competitive features done professionally with ‘homegrown scary things’ coming out to scare people. The scariest entry draws the massive target market of kids. This year, Knott’s Berry Farm had to close their top attraction down because the scary, deranged man-figure that jumps out was considered to offend the mentally ill! This was not “politically correct”. Protests followed. The feature was closed down. So—the concept winner lost the $ race. Business can be a bear on the scary market!
[To me, what is not politically correct is the millions of mentally ill living on our streets or under our freeway underpasses and bridges, having altercations with citizens and the police, going in and out of the jail system, and not receiving the care proper to their condition. California used to have a large system of hospitals for the study and treatment of the mentally ill. Perhaps someone should create a competition for the system design and funding for their proper care! The ‘prize’ would be shared by so many!! And, serious progress could be re-made on a really serious scary problem!]
Speaking of Politics
Is the 224 page California Voter Pamphlet for November 8 thicker than the Helsinki phone book?
Finnish Community Happenings
LAFF Monthly Meeting
A lively meeting of the Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation began with a showing of the movie The Cuckoo. Imagine a movie with three characters not speaking one another’s languages with us (the audience) in the same predicament watching them while having a film experience of human connectivity. Such is a metaphor for the current global situation, n’est pas?
Jeff Neff (Coordinator of Development and Culture for LAFF) brought the film.
Next month Al Jokela will be the featured speaker! Don’t miss it.
Friends of Finland Meeting
The regular gathering of Finnish community leaders was enthusiastically ready to hear all of the exciting news of each other’s organizations, as well as, of the programs developing for the Centennial. I know you all have been excited about the Traveling Sauna. Just as this column was going to press, I had an update from Risto Sivula. Here is his website: www.finland100usa.com. Please check it out.
However, the big news of the meeting was the announcement by Consul General Juha Markkanen that he will be leaving us. The veteran group of Finnophiles was used to the natural turnover of government postings. Still, we all felt that JP, Tuula, Juha, and Maria ‘just got here’ which is the supreme compliment for the wonders they did for Finland and California relations. They won our hearts and inspired us to go forward with JP’s enthusiasm and call for togetherness.
Consul General Markkanen, you have done wonderful work here. The Finnish American community appreciates your significant contributions and support. We wish you well on future postings. May they be as successful as your stay here. We look forward to welcoming you back whenever you visit.
Back to business: Heidi Luukkonen presented much information of coming events including announcing of the Finnish Golden Globe and Oscar entry of Juho Kuosmanen’s movie The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki which was just named the Best International Film at the Zurich Film Festival.
There was true excitement in the room as plans are coming together for the Centennial. It was like a beehive of brainstorming. What a joy to have Sirpa Selänne there sharing Teemu and her dedication and support for the pending plans. A big hug and thumbs up for Sirpa on proposing a special event honoring our remaining Veterans and Lottas [‘stay tuned’ for an announcement when/if the details can be worked out].
I always try for a sports update when we are able –and Selänne equals sports to California Finns!
The proliferation of coverage has honored a retiring Southern California sports media icon –beloved Dodger Sportscaster Vin Scully. His farewells and goodbyes were about as long [but well deserved] as his broadcasting career as The Voice of Dodger Baseball for 67 years.
Finns are often overshadowed due to their modesty and shyness, so I want to note the simultaneous retirement of the great Finnish sports broadcaster, nationally acclaimed Dick Enberg. He had a long and illustrious career—just not quite as long as Vin Scully’s!
Finnair non-stop flights between San Francisco and Helsinki begin in November for Slush –with Summer flights beginning in June.
Suomi Kerho Anniversary Gala
A beautiful, elegant, monumental, and warm celebration was put together by Suomi Kerho in honor of its 60th Anniversary at the Courtyard Marriot Ballroom in Sherman Oaks. What a warm, poignant event: a display of the history of Suomi Kerho, its Charter, a celebration of its original members, recognition of its past, and an appreciation for the current awesome team brought people from their seats in applause and reaching for their hankies with nostalgia!
President Liisa Linnala brought the history of Suomi Kerho to life as she recognized the major players who have contributed so much to our Finnish American History in Los Angeles. All in the audience sat proudly, basking in praise of the historic and present accomplishments and achievements. All were warmed by the remarks from Consul General JP Markkanen about the state of Finnish American affairs here in LA.
Many thanks and kudos for the wonderful service and fellowship Suomi Kerho provides for our community. We are especially grateful for the Finnish Club’s continuing support of our Veterans and Lottas’ meetings. Let’s all get involved to learn, support, contribute to, and enjoy the offerings of our Suomi Kerho.
October 2 was the Saint Michael’s Day worship service which featured the Holy Baptism of Henri Alec Rodriguez. A joyous congregation of over 50 were there for the first Fall event of the season for the Finnish Lutheran Church. Dr. Veli-Matii Kärkkäinen delivered the Sermon. It was wonderful to have Katrierrilli lead Pirkko Satola-Weeres welcoming everyone. [We wish her well on her ankle surgery on October 26.]
A real show-stopper that brought spine chills was the rendition of Amazing Grace by Lauri Helin, son of Pia and Jorma Helin.
What a treat it was to have Pikku Lotta Pirkko Liisa Mishenko (sister of Raija Anttila) in the Congregation with her caregiver Rhonda for the service.
Finnish treats and bites were enjoyed by all after the service
Tricks and Treats Redux
The traditional American Halloween involved little children in costumes and masks going to their neighbors holding a basket or plastic pumpkin seeking candy. Upon the ‘target’ opening the door, the little ones squealed the traditional phrase “trick or treat” –meaning: give us candy or we will play a trick on you. [The tricks threatened were like ‘soaping your windows’ or decorating your tree with toilet paper. Tricks were mischievous, not malicious.]
Since this was not something Finland participated in in my youth, my first Halloween in the US turned out to be a real trick not just for me, but for every trick-or-treater who came to our door. Looking back, what we did do was really pretty diabolical (and not very nice).
I had been sick in bed with a case of the chicken pox –my face covered with big red pustules which, in turn, were covered in pink calamine lotion to prevent itching. My Dad told me to put on my mother’s Marimekko (one with the classic pink dots on a red background pattern that matched my face). My assignment was to answer the doorbell every time it rang and to pass out the candy. What a nice way for the immigrant family to get to know their new neighbors, give them a ‘candy treat’, and ‘trick’ them with a case of contagious chicken pox!
Since that experience (even now), Halloween is my least favorite of the American holidays. There is an undercurrent of evil and bad guys run amuck. Enough with the creepy clowns and their ilk. I am always so happy to turn the calendar page after October 31 to the wonderful holiday month of November.
November features the beautiful and loving traditions of people coming together, immigrants and natives, helping one another in a new land with gratitude and sharing.
A Real Treat for You and Yours
One of the most fun days of research for Around LA for this Ava was my pilgrimage to Olson’s. This historic stalwart of Scandinavian goodness has been around since 1948 in Los Angeles. What was, still is! Olson’s continues on with new leadership and a new spirit.
Yes, it is now possible to use a credit card, although I do miss those old cash-only registers that so added to the old world aesthetic. Otherwise, you will not be disappointed. Quite to the contrary. Jill can answer every question you may have.
My lucky day there began when I walked in the door to find myself in a ceiling high birch forest! In answer to a question about Finnish candy, not only did they have Fazer Blue Chocolate Bars and Finlandia Jellies on hand with other Nordic treats, but Jill told me she had another large shipment on its way. Check them out before holiday time. They are aware of the Finnish Centennial celebration and will stock up on things Finnish. We must do our part by patronizing this grand re-casting of an almost 70 year old Los Angeles ‘secret’. There are some Finnish gift items there as well. Stop by Olson’s on Pico near downtown for some early Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping. Go to www.olsonsdeli.com for more information.
While at Olson’s, I was lucky enough to meet Caroline Nilsson, Scandinavian pastry chef. Her business [www.swedcakes.com] sounds like something neat and sweet missing for a long time in LA.
Let the Festivities Begin- a Sauna night, Spooky night or any time Suomi!!!
My dear, late mother used to say Finns will celebrate anything. [Vaikka kissan ristiäiset = even a cat’s christening]
Start planning your celebrations –or be spontaneous. Whatever your style, please put a smile on your face and feel love in your heart. Enjoy your life, your family, and your friends —do something nice for someone you do not know!! (e.g.: I just secretly delivered a tureen of this soup to my neighbor and left it on her stove while she was sleeping—she calls me the “Food Fairy”. Finnish Food Fairies unite!!!!
Triple S SSS Soup
Sister Sausage Soup
Siskonmakkarakeitto Arin Tyyliin
Sister’s Sausage Soup Ari’s Style
8 cups water
1 ‘package’ of Finnish type soup combo of vegetables: parsnip, celery root, rutabaga, leek, and onion in equal parts (approximately ¼ lbs. each ingredient). We are not measure here people—it is soup for goodness sake!
4-6 Yukon Gold [closest I have found to real Finnish] potatoes peeled and cubed
3 large carrots peeled and cubed
2 bay leaves
6 whole peppercorns
6 whole allspice berries
1 small vegetable broth cube
1 large beef bouillon cube
4 veal sausages (weisswurst)
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup flour
Parsley, chopped for garnish
Put first eight items in a large pot and simmer until vegetables are tender.
Peel casing from sausages and drop spoonsful into boiling mixture.
Mix flour and milk into a smooth slurry.
Mix slurry into boiling vegetable mixture until thickened.
Garnish plated soup with chopped parsley.
Serve with ruislimppu rye bread or Finnish crispbread with European butter to complete the experience