Sunday, March 16, 2014

Urho and the Grasshoppers

We discuss a fair amount of obscure holidays at Months of Edible Celebrations, but few have been as easy to unearth as the celebration of Urho's Day on March 16th.

St. Urho's Day, a Finnish-American celebration, began in Minnesota in 1956. This tongue-in-cheek event reflects the Finnish-American acculturation process with a nod to St. Patrick's Day. St. Urho's Day is celebrated March 16, and is now recognized as a Finnish-American event throughout the United States. Minnesotans Richard L. Mattson and Sulo Havumaki are credited for initiating this celebration in 1956. The colors worn on St. Urho's Day, royal purple and nile green, are in memory of the fictitious occasion on which St. Urho ("St. Brave") supposedly chased away the grasshoppers threatening Finland's grape harvest. The Finns in America @Library of Congress
Great Lakes Gazette
It's Almost St. Urho's Day

So, to put it in perspective, On This Date in Minnesota History, the story of Finland's patron saint, St. Urho, (pronounced "ooh-ro") was conceived.

According to one legend: "Once upon a time, many years (or centuries?) ago in Finland, there were wild grapes growing everywhere, used for making wine. But one day a cloud of locusts (or grasshoppers) arrived to chew up all the grapes. No more wine!

Enter St. Urho. By waving his pitchfork and chanting, 'Grasshoppers, grasshoppers, scoot!' (or something like that), he drove the grasshoppers out of Finland. The vintners were so happy they declared him a saint and revered him ever after on the 16th of March. St. Urho: Finnish fact or fiction?

Great Lakes Gazette
It's Almost St. Urho's Day

It is said that Finnish people are the biggest coffee-drinkers in the world. As it turns out, they have only recently entertained the notion of becoming avid wine drinkers. As for growing grapes on a commercial scale, highly unlikey. The climate in Finland is simply not suitable. There are a limited number of berry wine makers who cater to the tourism trade and I suppose it would be possible to cultivate Ice Wine in Finland but as to Finland ever being in the center of a wine producing arena, I seriously doubt it. Vodka yes:) (Finnish Vodka was recently named among the best spirits in the world.)

Like most celebrations, Urho's Day is not without food. Lots and lots of food.

According to Lake Superior Magazine, "Finnish immigrants who settled in the Lake Superior region in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ontario are credited with creating and naming this signature dish."

Mojakka (pronounced MOY-a-kah) is a soup served in Finnish-American households in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Western Ontario. The principal ingredients are beef or fish and potatoes. Made with fish it is called kalamojakka (KAH-la-moy-a-kah), with beef it is lihamojakka (LEE-ha-moy-a-kah).
Recipe @ Great Lakes Gazette

What would a hearty bowl of Mojakka be without a home made loaf of Finnish Rye Bread? This recipe comes from a wonderful cookbook compiled by The Catholic Ladies Guild of St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Ivanho, Minnesota.

Finnish cookery is Scandinavian, but simpler and more austere. The foods of Finland are basic foods. Salmon is most plentiful in the rivers of northern Finland. The center cuts are fried or broiled, the end pieces are used for fish puddings, and scraps for soup. Herring is another popular fish imported salted or smoked. Finnish Cookery by Nika Hazelton

Marion and I won't be celebrating Urho's Day today. However, Marion wouldn't hear of not having Corned Beef and Cabbage tomorrow. I've even promised her that I will attempt to bake up these Irish Soda Bread Rounds from the new recipe book she bought me for St. Patrick's Day:) (she's a huge fan of Publisher's Clearance House "give-aways") I might be able to convince her to "settle" on this Grasshopper Mousse I found over at Liz's. She's also a huge fan of desserts!

I hope you have enjoyed uncovering the The Legend of "Saint" Urho; as much as I have. I would like to close today's post with a quote from one of my favorite books on American culinary history; American Food-A Celebration compiled by a team of expert food writers in the field of American cuisine. Heading the team was Joanne Weir, one time director of The Weir Cooking School in San Francisco. (this is a beautiful coffee-table top book filled with regional food habits, recipes, history and lots of color photographs)

1. Finnish traditions stay strong in the US
2. Finntown’s slice of the Big Apple
3. Finnish Food Glossary
4. Wine Facts from Finland