Finland? Wha? Yes, Finland. Known to outsiders mostly for vodka, Sibelius and reindeer … Finland needs to be outed as the land of gluten-free goodies. How did I know this? Well, somehow years ago I made friends with a Finn. Then I dated a Finn. (That’s another story but I’ll spare you.) In true Finnish witty style he told me that celiac disease was ironically pronounced in Finnish “ Kelly- ah-kee-ah”. So my Finnish peeps were well aware of celiac disease and told me how common it was in Finland, and how GF foods were readily available everywhere. Even McDonald’s gives the option of a GF bun! So, as you can imagine, I had been dying to go and experience all of the bakeries and see menus with actual GF coding!
Examples of GF menu coding!
My dream recently came true. I went to Finland, Estonia and Russia in December for two weeks and I’m excited to share my discoveries with you along with a few fun touristy tidbits. You may ask, "How does this benefit me?" Well, I figure it should give you hope that in the near future the States will be as educated, understanding and accomodating in regards to celiac disease. In addition, it should help fellow celiacs no longer feel like they are from another planet and that it is common and dealt with appropriately in other places. I’ve broken it up into little segments so as not to overwhelm you and cause your keyboard to short out from drool. Over the next few days I’ll expose you a little more to the GF paradise in a land far, far away.
Helsinki is a cute little city. Don’t expect Alvar Aalto buildings everywhere… but there are some really nice examples of classic Scandinavian architecture. I was fortunate that it had snowed and the whole city was beautifully blanketed in white.
Snowy Helsinki street scene
My friend Kirsi greeted me with a bag of traditional finnish pastries called Carelian pies. I felt so loved that she had special ordered them gluten-, corn- and dairy-free. Immediately I fell in love with them … so sad I can’t eat them right now! Traditionally they are made with rye and filled with rice porridge.
Clockwise top to bottom: GF rolls, breadsticks and Carelian pie
I had printed out a list from the Finnish Coeliac Society of GF establishments in Helsinki. First, we found Cafe Smorrebrod and I had the giant shrimp salad with a buried piece of GF bread underneath served with some great euro mayo. This shrimp salad item seemed to be a common lunch item everywhere we went. Very tasty.
Below is a photo of the crepe we found at Cafe Fontana …. filled with ham bits, veggies and yummy euro mayonnaise.
Marketplace w/ gf bakery inside
Keliapuoti gluten-free bakery! Notice the "No wheat/gluten" symbol on the glass display. Most things had some dairy and corn starch in them so it narrowed down my choices. However, the few things I had were excellent.
Scrumptious treats: little spice cake, a chocolate ball filled with fudgey dough (so rich I couldn’t even eat the whole thing), and an amazing little cake made with many thin layers of potato starch cake and a buttery frosting with almonds … this was my favorite … very light. I had to cheat a little on the dairy issue! After all, I was on vacation! (*never cheat, however, with gluten! )
Sooo … stay tuned for more gluten-free gluttony in Chapter TWO!
*FYI: Most airlines will now let you request a GF meal at the time of your purchasing a ticket. The meals aren’t that great, but at least it’s progress. For those of you who are dairy and corn intolerant, you should know that I am usually disappointed that the GF meals are typically dairy and corn based, so I end up carrying my own snacks.