The future of food and the health of the planet is an ever-evolving ethical question. In Finland, young people in particular are making choices that reflect both a respect for nature and tradition and the need to make even more sustainable choices that shake up the status quo. Eating wild, local and organic goes without saying but a more serious consideration is meat and dairy consumption which contributes heavily to greenhouse gas emissions.
Finns want to know where their food comes from and the Slow Food Movement, which has several regional chapters across the country, works towards achieving transparency in the food process and building on the relationships between producers and consumers.
Of course not everything can be grown in Finland but Finns understand the important relationship between plate, people and planet, and are the third largest consumers of Fair Trade products in the world. Fair Trade foods such as coffee, tea and bananas, as well as household products, are widely available throughout the country.
The rise of New Nordic Cuisine can be said to have its roots in 2004 when a group of food activists and chefs from all over the Nordics got together and, inspired by principles of the Slow Food Movement, signed the New Nordic Manifesto. Finland was also a signatory. The mandate was to promote the Nordic diet with an emphasis on quality food that was ethically- produced, healthy and sustainable. The result was a renewed interest in heritage foods and while Finns have always remained loyal to their culinary roots, it sparked a gastronomic revival in slow, traditional cooking.
Finnish food is said to be some of the purest in the world thanks to a pristine wilderness and strict environmental policies. Wide swaths of the forest are protected and in Finnish Lapland, where the eco-system is more fragile, almost thirty percent of the land is under conservation. Eighty percent of the inland lakes are considered to be exceptionally clean and sustained efforts to improve threatened ecosystems in the Baltic Sea, have lead to significant improvements.
Why Finnish food products are among the best in the world?
Environmental issues and animal welfare are primary focus areas (Natural Research Institute)
Food is clean, and throughout the food chain, its hygiene, traceability and accountability are among the best in the world (Natural Research Institute)
The best reserves of groundwater in the world (Finland's Environmental Administration)
The cleanest air in the world (World Health Organisation WHO)
Poultry farms antibiotic-free since 2009 (Natural Research Institute)
The quantity of antibiotics administered to farm animals is among the lowest in Europe (Natural Resources Institute Finland)
Finland has the northernmost agriculture in the world and produces the purest food in Europe. Finnish wild forest berries, luminous oats, and livestock are grown and cultivated in the clean arctic air with very limited need for pesticides. Due to Finland's long and harsh winters, plants utilise the short summers, midnight sun, clean soil and water to the fullest. The result is the dense and unique taste of Finnish food.
Slow food is ingrained in the Finnish way of life and is central to the culture. It is part of a lifestyle that embraces a slower pace, simplicity and authenticity. Pure, healthy ingredients from nature are prepared in traditional ways that have been passed down over generations. Meals are shared experiences and presented with care, whether it is a morning table laid out with whole rye bread, cheeses and fruit, or a sit-down evening dinner. Food is considered much more than nourishment.
So go slow. Eat local, respect traditional food cultures, enjoy the beautiful foods found in nature and be open to new frontiers in sustainable living.
Photography by My Blue & White Kitchen