Friday, October 3, 2008

Finnish Pancakes

My grandmother was born and raised in small town in west central Finland called Alavieska. She was raised by her aunt and lived with her cousins on a farm, where she took the cows to pasture, read most of the books the local library had, played games with her friends and family, and worked hard. She moved to Helsinki, the capitol of Finland, when she was 16, where she worked as a maid for a very wealthy Finnish family; she learned all the proper ways to serve, including caring for the rich woman's silk, folding heavy fancy white napkins perfectly, and cleaning and caring as you would for royalty. She married my grandfather, Reino, had my aunt Hannele, and after registering & waiting, received permission to move to the United States. I believe the year was 1956 when they took a huge ocean liner across the atlantic, and made their way across the United States all the way to San Pedro, California; they immediately found a Finnish community, thanks to my grandmother's Aunt Eva, or "mummu," as we all called her, who was already settled in Long Beach.

While my grandparents have long since left their homeland, they had maintained a Finnish culture within their household. The food they eat is decidedly Finnish in style, including dry rye bread topped with butter, smoked salmon, lots of fresh fish, boiled potatos, and vegetables. They drink barrels of coffee throughout the day. Pulla, a sweet, heavy Finnish coffee bread is made several times a year. Finnish Traditional Finnish decor comes out at Christmas. The boxes of cassettes they have are all in the Finnish language. The paintings on the walls are reminiscent of Finnish landscapes. Many Finnish words, books, maps, wall hanging rugs/tapestry, and Iitala crystal can be found throughout the house. My grandmother even grows some of the same plants she and her family and friends had in Finland.

I lived in my grandparents house on and off my whole life. My mom worked nights as a nurse, and my dad left for his mechanic job before my mom came home from work--I spent several nights a week, and had my own room, at my grandparents house. Later, my mom and I loved with my grandparents fulltime. And after my family and I moved to Illinois, I stayed with my grandparents for months at a time when I'd come back to California to visit. As a child, my grandmother sang bedtime songs to me in Finnish. Their Finnish friends often came over and stayed late at night dancing to Finnish music, speaking in only Finnish language. In fact, I can just about understand what Finns are saying, although I can't speak the language myself yet. Well, I can count to ten, and I know most basic words. But I can't build a sentence. LOL.

The one part of Finnish culture the Americanized part of the family clings to the most is Finnish pancakes. Waking up in my grandparents house 50% of my young life, these delectable little dessert pancakes often graced my plate before I headed off to school. Grandma Helena is fabulous at spoiling, and she often woke up long before anyone else in the house to make the quick, easy, batter for "Lettuka," (pronounced: Leh-too-yuh). As soon as Grandpa would complete his morning work out, and I cracked open my sleepy eyes, she'd begin making the pancakes, so they'd be fresh and hot when they hit our plate. The pancakes taste like a thinner, smaller, sweeter crepes, and we'd top them with a teaspoon of granulated sugar, or raspberry preserves, roll them up, and devour them (me, by the dozen).

I make them at home once in awhile. Although, I admit I should make them a lot more often. They are truly special, and my kids love them, too. Now that I have my Lettuka pan ready to go, I have no more excuses. Perhaps this weekend?

So, no trip to see my grandparents would be complete without having grandma make us Finnish pancakes. Early Saturday morning, before our pool party at Dennis and Hannele's, we all lined up at Grandma's counter for pancakes.

As part of Alyssa's assimlation into the family she's grown to love the Finnish pancakes, too. She joined us to eat. ;)

Here the boys enjoy some of their own Lettuka.

Thank you Grandma, for always being the most wonderful Grandma in the world!

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