When the war started, the first foodstuffs to be rationed were coffee and sugar. People who loved to drink coffee learnt how to roast dandelion roots to make a coffee substitute. Tea also had to be replaced. As the war continued, grain, butter and other dairy products, as well as meat, also had to be rationed. It has been said that Finns made it through the harsh times with the help of the potato, even though it too was on the rationing list. The most difficult years of the depression ended in the late 1940s, and coffee was among the last foodstuffs to be released from rationing in 1955.
FINNS HAD TO BE INVENTIVE AND ACTIVE WHEN COOKING DURING THE YEARS AT WAR AND IN THE POST-WAR DEPRESSION
Homely things that are considered trendy today were a necessity at the time. There was shortage of everything – food, energy and utility goods. Foodstuffs were stored in inadequate conditions, and people had to be able to preserve food in many ways. Salt was often used to preserve things like mushrooms, fish and meat. Drying food became familiar too, and in addition to fish and meat, apples, root vegetables and berries were also dried. The currently trendy city farming was a necessity then, and many city-dwellers started to raise pigs and rabbits. In addition to their meat, these animals also provided leather and fur. It was also very difficult to get wood to burn in stoves. Energy was saved, and people used “hay boxes” – forerunners of today’s slow cookers – to cook food. A box was filled with hay, and a pot was placed in it. In the morning, the food was ready.
The years at war had a great effect on the development of our food culture. Over 400,000 people were evacuated from the regions ceded to Russia, and they were given a permanent place to stay elsewhere in Finland. These Karelians brought their own food culture with them, and it spread through the whole country. Dishes baked slowly in the oven, soft bread, Karelian casserole and Karelian pirogues are still commonly known dishes today throughout Finland. There were also differences in ways of celebrating. In Western Finland, clergymen and other wealthy guests were invited to the table first, but in the east the eldest guests were invited first, and only then the younger people.
Many inventive methods that were used following the war have been forgotten or replaced with new methods, but some of them have become trendy again. Modern home chefs get ideas from the recipes used during the depression. Social media postings are full of pictures of sourdough bread and forest-picked mushrooms, as well as preservation instructions. People are learning how to prepare dishes that have been forgotten for decades using cheap cuts of meat and basic ingredients. Home-made food that is prepared using granny's recipes and methods is appreciated more than ever.