Ava Antiila by Jonny Kahleyn

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb


Time for another column:  Where to begin?   Perhaps I should flip a coin—heads or tails?

Good idea!

Actually ‘head’ or ‘nose’ to ‘tail’ cookery is something that many chefs in the fine dining scene in Los Angeles [and around the US] have embraced as a part of their cooking perspective.  This recent trend is so labeled to keep patrons from focusing on the truth that the new cuisine has to do with eating organ meats!  As Finns, we have always been part of the ‘nose to tail’ movement through our tradition of sustainability and our sensitivity to not waste anything!

[The ‘nose to tail’ movement has such a funny connotation: Forgive me but, having a dog in our household and watching dog behavior, nose to tail sounds like the protocol greeting canines go through when meeting each other!]

As we well know, Finns are very thrifty.  So, it should be no surprise that we are adept in using all parts of the animal.  To many Americans, such things as alatoopi (head cheese) and verilätty (blood pancakes) are a bit too bizarre.  Americans were just getting used to the idea of eating liver —fois gras (goose liver), when it was banned in California.  In fairness to our American friends, restaurants in Los Angeles do offer such things as fried pig ears and cock’s combs.

[Organ meats are called “offal” –funny how that sounds so much like “awful”!]

Bloomfield for Congress:

Bill Bloomfield

The father of my children is running for US Congress in California’s 33rd District.  As I was writing the paragraphs above, his TV commercial was playing in the background.  The clip ends with Bill walking on the beach with the Pacific in the background.  For some reason that reminded of the time he came home for lunch and, smelling something good that he thought was lunch, he lifted the lid of the pot boiling on the stove and found fish heads and bones!  He thought that was awful!  He was ready to have me committed.  I was just being a Finn.

Then, I remembered being in Finland as a young bride on our honeymoon with my American husband whose complexion turned ashen –and he literally had to leave the room, when my Great Aunt Kyllikki proudly presented her Liver Pudding she had made for him as a special treat!  That really was “offal”!!

Oh well—our kids turned out great.  They are real ‘foodies’ too.  And, their Dad is an owner of the chic Strand House in Manhattan Beach where his chefs regularly boil fish skeletons and make paté.

Vote for Bill as many times as you can.  He will be a beneficial Congressman.

Check him out at

Recipe for Liver Pudding (Maksalaatikko)

[Please do not turn up YOUR nose, even if you do not like liver. 

There is a secret ‘nose to tail’ –actually ‘beak to tail-feather’ ingredient.]

I have tried different livers over the years from cow to calves.  This variation with chicken livers seems to be the favorite.  Try it served with melted butter and Lingonberry sauce.

1 pound chicken livers
3  tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
3 cups cooked rice, cooled
2  cups milk
1 large egg
¼ cup dark corn syrup
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup raisins
dash white pepper
dash dried marjoram

Preheat oven to 350º F

Butter a 2 quart oven proof dish

Put livers into a food processor and puree

Sautee onion in butter; let cool

Combine rice, milk, egg, syrup, onion, salt, pepper, marjoram, and raisins with pureed livers.

Pour into baking dish and bake for an hour (until set)

Serves 6.

Butchery 101:

Huntington Meats at the Farmer’s Market on 3rd and Fairfax

When I learned that the butchers at Huntington Meats at the Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax were offering a butchering class, I had to be there.  For decades, when something special was needed for a meal, that was my destination.  Their products are prime and their knowledge of the subject top in the field.  They are known as the ‘butchers to the stars’.  Sam Goldwyn of MGM, among others, would come by their ‘stand’ weekly for his meat purchases.  Just the other week I saw Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery fame heading toward Huntington Meats as I was heading toward her gourmet ‘burger joint called Short Order right nearby.  Since I did not see her at the restaurant during my lunch, I guess she just picked up some of her special ‘burger mix carried by HM and went home to cook her own.  Bet she uses her own buns too!   Burgers are indeed the official food of L.A.

Huntington Meats

You may know that HM is ‘in the open’ near the South East corner of the Farmers Market.  Our butchery class convened behind the counter –2 women and 18 men, on a hot Sunday night after closing time.

We learned all about types of cattle, cuts of beef, “harvesting”, and cooking.  The demonstration was up close and personal!  I was in the very front row of folding chairs about a foot from the two humongous sides of beef swinging on huge hooks –and an enthusiastic butcher with a very sharp, bowed knife swooshing and slicing away.  I was just glad the guy did not trip during the demonstration and fall on my lap with his weapon.

 butchering class at Huntington Meats

an enthusiastic butcher with a very sharp, bowed knife swooshing and slicing away..

The knowledge, skill, technique, and experience of our butchering ‘professors’ was truly impressive.  It is always fun to watch masters at work.  I really learned a great deal.  There are parts of a steer/cow I had not known about or thought about.  Often we overlook value cuts and buy familiar, more expensive staples such as Filet, New York, and Ribeye.  These cuts are full of flavor but, as I learned, make up a very small part of the meat coming from a side of beef.  In knowing the character of and using the other cuts, skilled chefs are practicing the Finnish ‘whole carcass utilization’ which makes culinary and economic sense –and helps our local farms and meat processers.

butchering class at Huntington Meats

It was a good thing the ‘war stories’ came after the butchering demonstration. This one butcher –a macho and much tattooed fellow, told of how he had amputated his finger (successfully reattached later).  Another ‘professor’ told of stabbing himself in his femoral artery while trimming a head loin.  He almost bled to death on the spot.

Phew!!  I was glad to have made it out alive!  Yes, I will sign up for Butchery 102.  No, I did not bring home a whole side of beef—yet!

Canine Event at LASD

Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Special Forces presentation on Tactics and Canine Training

Clearly, I lead a strange, interesting life.  Or, maybe this is just a ghoulish Halloween themed column.

More frightening ‘meat’ demonstrations took place when I attended a Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Special Forces presentation on Tactics and Canine Training.  There are 16 LASD Canine ‘Teams’.  The dog members of the teams are special breeds brought from Europe.  Often their “signal” command is in a foreign language.  It is helpful that the dogs are bilingual because you would not want to accidently be on the other end of a “signaled” attack—they are all business!

European American Sheriff’s Advisory Council members were given a presentation on Tactics and Canine Training

Each month members of the European American Sheriff’s Advisory Council meet to learn more about the vast and complex operations of the largest police organization in the world led by LA County Sheriff Lee Baca.  This day, our subject was a different version of the Animal Kingdom.  Of course, as civilian volunteers, we were all dressed in our normal street clothing.  At the program outset we were told to stay “far away” as the procedures were being demonstrated by an officer in a “bite suit”!  You see, the dogs know those in uniform are their leaders/friends and others are their enemies/targets.  It was emphasized that these special dogs are not sent into situations to sniff out suspects or sausages like Airport dogs.  They are taught one thing: attack and subdue!  Like I said—you do not want to be on the other end of a “signaled” attack.

LASD Sheriff’s Special Forces

The LASD Sheriff’s Special Forces displayed many of their other SWAT Team capabilities.  Suffice it to say, they are thoroughly trained and unbelievably equipped.  It is reassuring to learn that the “good guys/gals” have the latest equipment, weapons, and powerful ‘vehicles’ at their disposal to “Serve and Protect” us.  Their capabilities are impressive, indeed.  Sorry, you will have to take my word on the equipment, weapons, and vehicles –we were requested not to take photographs.  The dedication, talent, and training of the Teams are even more impressive!

Finnish Education Via Finnish Comfort Food

Most of us first generation Finns came from a household where both parents were in the work force.  We bonded with the puisto tätis –the nannies in the park, and had our “comfort food” in the schools as the days were long, the studies intensive.

As an inquisitive 3 year old, I loved to find my way into the school cafeteria at Lycėe Français in Helsinki that was in Eira at the time.  My maternal Grandparents lived in the Superintendent’s quarters on premises—my paternal Uncle was the Headmaster.

Lycėe Français in Helsinki

I was awed by the school’s humongous industrial kitchen with the giant sized pots and utensils.  The aromas of the soups on the stove started early in the morning.  The cooks were appropriately dressed in chef’s whites and toques. They started very early, as I recall. The gigantic stock pots were big enough for me to hide in. We had some fun banter in Finnish and French.  I loved to watch them cook.  Sometimes they chased me away by threatening to put me into the walk-in refrigerator if I did not behave.

The cafeteria lunches my chef friends prepared are important to young students.  I am convinced that reverence for and enjoyment of our daily sustenance elevates the quality of our lives in a simple but important way.   America is starting to learn the importance of proper nutrition in education now.

You may have read about the various controversies in school lunches lately and the sorry state of same here in Los Angeles.  Even British chef Jamie Oliver has been here trying to improve quality –or to promote his next TV show.

When our family came to America in the late ‘50s, life was markedly different than in Finland.  The typical family here had a Father who worked outside the home and a Mother who was a “housewife”.  She raised the children, shopped, cleaned, and cooked. American ‘sitcoms’ through the decades have portrayed this life here and abroad.  My Finnish Mother wanted no part of it.  She was an educated career woman who was not interested in the domestic life.  Off to work she went.

The wonderful Finnish comfort foods I remember were things from school and from ‘hanging’ with my Grandmothers.  I suppose that is why I so relish my role as ‘memory maker’ for my Grandchildren.

I almost fell off my chair the other day when reading of the latest food celebration at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  The MoMA restaurant is featuring school cafeteria meals served to children in Finland.  Yes, that is what I said!  That is what I read!  MoMA is serving Finnish school cafeteria meals to its sophisticated visitors!!!  Holy cow!!!

MoMA’s Back to School: A Taste of Finland

We all know Finland is recognized world-wide for excellence in education, but now Finnish school lunches are ‘cutting edge’.  The Back to School: a Taste of Finland was in conjunction with MoMA’s exhibition Century of the Child: Growing by Design 1900-2000.  Featured dishes included salmon soup, macaroni casserole, and whipped berry pudding.  Sounds good to me!  Back to boiling fish carcasses—and big pots!!  What fun!!!

Things to Ponder in L.A.:

Stranger than fiction:  The 99 Cent Store chain is looking at real estate on Rodeo Drive!  What???

The company has about 300 stores across California, Texas, Arizona, and Nevada.  One store on Wilshire is the chain’s best performing unit with sales of $12 million last year.  [I am not sure if that is before or after they raised their prices 10% to $.9999 from $.99.  Regardless, that is a lot of product sold.]

I had never been into one of their stores until I had heard it mentioned, of all places, at a memorial service for a Finn.  A friend saluted the Finn’s parsimony in a humorous anecdote describing how he did all of his Christmas shopping at the 99 Cent Store.

When I learned that the amazing premise of the store is that there is nothing that costs over 99cents!  I had to investigate!  I came, I saw …and, I keep going back—even though they raised their prices so outrageously in the middle of the Recession.

a 99 Cent store in North Hollywood, CA

Will economic reality overcome the snob factor?  Will Chanel, Cartier, and Louis Vuitton be happy to rub elbows with the 99 Cent Store next door?  Will Beverly Hills babes and Bel Air dowagers bring their own Gucci bags to carry home a big box of organic arugula, giant cauliflowers, bags of yellow potatoes (that taste so Finnish), and Toblerone chocolate?  Will the chauffeur park the Bentley in the front or the rear of the store?

This could give a whole new dimension to Shabby Chic!

LA –SF Community Happenings:

Eero Saarinen Exhibit Opens

On October 4th, Consul General of Finland Kirsti Westphalen welcomed VIP guests with her opening remarks at the A+D Museum.

Consul General of Finland Kirsti Westphalen welcomed VIP guests with her opening remarks at the A+D Museum


In attendance were Mina Marefat, Ph.D, AIA (Curator of the Exhibit), Virpi Sidler (much involved in making the exhibit happen during her term as President of the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce), William Russell, Christel Pauli (current President of the FACC), Mirja and Ernie Covarrubias, and many others in the Finnish American community.

Eero Saarinen Exhibit at the A + D Museum

The exhibition called A Reputation for Innovation captures the impact the iconic Saarinen had internationally and how he helped shape American modernism.  It was truly an informative and inspirational exhibit.  Eero Saarinen’s connection with our City of Angels was solidified through his friendship and work with designer Charles Eames.  Saarinen’s philosophy, work, and architectural principals are still relevant today –almost 50 years after his death.  His life, his career, his impact on American architecture, and his Finnish roots make the exhibition well worth checking out.

The exhibition called A Reputation for Innovation captures the impact the iconic Saarinen had internationally and how he helped shape American modernism

Consul General of Finland Kirsti Westphalen: Dean of the Consular Corps

We in the Finnish community are just “busting’ our buttons” with pride.  Our Consul General Kirsti Westphalen has been named Dean of the Los Angeles Consular Corps.


Ava with Consul General Kirsti Westphalen and Abdellatif Moufakkir at the Consular Corps event at the Consular residence

This is a major acknowledgement of Finland’s supreme diplomatic and political leadership.  The Los Angeles Consular Corps is the largest in the world.

The Los Angeles Consular Corps is a nonprofit corporation that fosters and promotes goodwill, cooperation, and interaction between its members, its countries, and US federal, state, and local governmental authorities. Most Consular Corps members work to exchange information and to meet with local and official leaders.  The Senior Consul (by rank and/or longevity) is called the Dean and represents the Corps for protocol purposes.

Kirsti and her husband Abdellatif Moufakkir hosted the Consular Corps and their families at an event at the Consular residence on a recent beautiful, warm October afternoon.  It was great to see a myriad of local officials, Consuls General, and Honorary Consuls having a wonderful time with their families.  All enjoyed the wonderful fare prepared by Chef at the Residence, Sirpa Welch.

Tomi Hikkanen Celebrates His 50th Birthday

Tomi’s(as a deranged inmate from an insane asylum) with mother Eeva and sister Katja

Tomi Hinkkanen(as a deranged inmate from an insane asylum) with mother Eeva and sister Katja

Tomi Hinkkanen –FinnTimes founder/publisher, film producer, and  journalist was celebrated by family, friends, and colleagues on his 50th birthday.

Tomi’s Mother Eeva and Sister Katja came all of the way from Finland for the festivities.  Tomi was welcomed “over the hill” by Halloween-themed revelers.  Eeva and Katja wore beautiful Venetian masks.  Jonny Kayhlen was a soccer player.  Tomi was decked out as a deranged inmate from an insane asylum and was fully in his element enjoying the festivities, feasting, and song.  Monty the house pit bull (with a quarter of cats at his side) greeted guests and showed off his new digs [–Tomi, Jonny, and Monty just bought a wonderful new house]. A full-throated Happy Birthday chorus serenaded the birthday boy as he blew out the candles on his blue and white birthday cake.  Close friends from various interesting fields enjoyed getting to know one another and celebrating Tomi’s big day!  Fun was had by all!!

Installation of Pastor Tarkki

Bishop Dean Nelson blesses installed Pastor Jarmo Tarkki

Pastor Jarmo Tarkki was installed as ‘migrant’ Pastor to serve Lutheran Finns in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco Bay Area, Dallas, and Mexico.  Bishop Dean Nelson presided at the installation ceremony on October 21, 2012 at St. Paul‘s Lutheran Church in Santa Monica.

Installation of Pastor Tarkki

The church was filled to capacity with congregants and well wishers.  Joyous music filled the sanctuary.  Consul General of Finland, the Honorable Kirsti Westphalen, and her husband Abdellatif Moufakkir hosted a reception at the Consular Residence following the installation ceremony.

Suomi 95

Plan to join the California Finnish American community in celebrating Finland’s 95th Independence Anniversary on December 1, 2012.  Your committee is hard at work planning a grand celebration!

A fund raising ‘garage sale’ will be held in support of Suomi 95 on Saturday, November 3rd at Suomi Kerho beginning at 10:00 a.m..  Please donate your ‘treasures’ on Friday, November 2nd after 3:00 p.m. at 10701 Magnolia Boulevard; North Hollywood 91601.  Pulla, coffee and Independence Day Gala tickets will be available for sale on Saturday. 95