TEA PARTY – Conversations on food and identity in Finland

What do we eat and why? How does belonging to different communities shape our taste preferences? What changes when you move to another country? How are traditions preserved or do they change over time? What are the things you want to share with new friends or neighbours?

We planned to discuss these topics around a shared table, but due to the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic, we transferred the meetings to a virtual environment and arranged tea parties through video calls. The table was set at each participant’s home by ordering pastries from a delivery service. Thanks to the virtual environment, people from Helsinki, Turku, Tampere, Kotka, Joensuu and Petrozavodsk could join around the “same table”. One person had lived in Finland only for a few months, another one for decades. Participants told stories related to food, childhood, and familiar as well as new tastes. The themes of our four meetings were Traditional Foods, Surprising of Peculiar Foods, Tea or Coffee and Easter.

This exhibition presents excerpts from the conversations we recorded and transcribed. While working on the texts, we tried to keep to make as little changes as possible. “Wrong” words, colloquial language and gaps in narration convey the feeling of hearing excerpts from someone’s conversation.

All the stories have been inspired by photographs. We selected images from the Picture Collections of the Finnish Heritage Agency for each meeting, and participants also sent us their own pictures. This is how the conversation started from the photographs. Some of the pictures of the stories in the exhibition we looked at together with the participants at the tea parties, while some of them were selected by the project team from the Collections, based on the stories told.

“Tea time” (Rus. chaepitie) means in Russian a moment, when people gather at a table over tea and pastries to have a nice time together and chat. Tea time can be an ordinary everyday event or a celebration. Sometimes it takes several hours and several cups of tea are consumed, even if there is only one guest.

Learn about the Tea Party project and explore the photographs and pictures also on the Tea Party website.

MAKERS OF THE EXHIBITION

Planning and implementation of the Tea Party project / curation of the exhibition: Nadezhda Gretskaya, Dina Grigoreva, Svetlana Nybyggar, Polina Razorilova
Russian to Finnish translations: Anni Lappela
Thank you: Margarita Rantamaa, Meeting point Tsaikka, Daria Agapova, Natalia Riipinen, Suvi Sillanpää
Warm thank you to all the participants of the tea parties 

The pictures from the Picture Collections of the Finnish Heritage Agency are published under license CC BY 4.0. The copyrights of all the other pictures on the website belong to the photographers. The copyrights of the stories associated with the pictures belong to the participants of the projects.
Intro Picture: Picnic. Bonin, volker von, Historical Picture Collection, Finnish Heritage Agency 

I ended up in Finland because I got married to a Finn (laughs). We met by chance in India…

I moved to Finland for my studies. I remember how I would have lunch in the canteen of the university…

I love Finnish cuisine. And my husband loves Russian cuisine. Borscht, kharcho and dumplings…

Salmon soup… When my father comes to Helsinki for a visit, an inseparable part of the programme, and the most important part over all…

I was born in the Urals, but I grew deep in Siberia, in the swamps area. I want to say that in those days, people’s everyday life and cooking was similar to that here…

While working at the Pielinen Museum, I translated the museum’s materials from Finnish into Russian. The work was very interesting…

Finnish people pick very few berries. They rather buy them from the store. Even if there are a lot of berries in the forest…

Easter table, 2020…

For Easter, new dresses were sewn for us three girls. It was a post-war time, and Easter was considered a big celebration…

My story is about the pastries I love. There are these swan pastries are in the photo. They are, of course, festive food… related to party meetings…

In the picture, there are household tools and fish hanging. In Siberia, where I grew up, we also used to dry fish…

I drink coffee from a big Moomin mug. It has a picture like this. I bought it around the time when I moved houses several times…

I don’t know about other families of course, but in our family in Perm, we didn’t drink coffee. I don’t remember having coffee…

I feel like all Finnish Christmas foods are… somekind of casseroles (laughs). Potato casserole. Carrot casserole. Swede casserole…

My story of surprising food is about pea soup. I, like Tanja, ended up in Finland through marriage…

I am from Ukraine. I moved to Finland immediately after my studies, and I have always worked in the restaurant services…

The only food that I haven’t gotten to like after I found out how it was prepared. My husband’s mother, when she was still in good health… invited us once…

I tried to serve my loved ones pumpkin pie in Finland. But my husband and my Finnish family could not understand why they are salty.

The photograph in which four people are cutting kalakukko (a pie filled with fish)…. My husband makes it very well…

In this photo, a mother, and apparently a daughter or possibly a grandchild, are baking pies. I wanted to tell you about the names of these pies…

Something touching happened to us this year on Easter. I have three little girls. One is quite small, and two are a little bigger…

I want to talk about which calendar to live by. When we came to Finland, this question came up at the church in Imatra…

My husband’s grandchildren are not given any sweets until they are one year old. So his children didn’t give them anything except raisins…

In the picture, Taina Kuusimäki, a daughter of the guesthouse, is sieving flour…

I would like to say a few words about samovars, and I even prepared a picture. Should I show? This is our house in the countryside…

I have a favorite mug, it’s big and crooked. I bought it from Denmark. Or not really. I have bought a similar one from Denmark…

I enjoy serving food. If I have guests over, I have like the tablecloth from a fairy-tale that would fill by itself…

My husband really likes… what is it called now… kernokeitto (hernekeitto=pea soup)…

When Grigori Oster’s book was published in Finnish, the publisher organised a publication event in Finland…

I chose a photograph of four men taking soup from a soup bowl. I think it’s fish soup. Finnish fish soup with cream…

I grew up in Vyborg. I remember how sometimes special family recipes were collected on TV. We only had one special recipe at home, Karelian pies…

About kalakukko. I can’t understand the idea of fish combined with pork lard… It’s not for me…

Then also, the blueberry pie. When I make a blueberry pie, I make a slightly thicker crust…

The Easter traditions here were completely new to me. In St. Petersburg I had not encountered these…

For Easter, new dresses were sewn for us three girls. It was a post-war time, and Easter was considered a big celebration…

As a child, I was confused about ice cream in one way, namely how my grandmother ate it … We lived in Pavlovsk and then in Pushkin…

In this photo, my attention was drawn to the icon in the corner, Christ made without hands. I think this is from somewhere in Karelia…

I was in Italy with my mother. In Italy they of course drink coffee…

I remember really well how I went to the music school for my violin lesson and my teacher sat me down at the table…

On our first Christmas together, after we had gotten married, my husband cooked a seven-pound ham. A big family and guests…

I ended up in Finland because I got married to a Finn (laughs). We met by chance in India…

My story of surprising food is about pea soup. I, like Tanja, ended up in Finland through marriage…

My husband really likes… what is it called now… kernokeitto (hernekeitto=pea soup)…

I moved to Finland for my studies. I remember how I would have lunch in the canteen of the university…

I am from Ukraine. I moved to Finland immediately after my studies, and I have always worked in the restaurant services…

When Grigori Oster’s book was published in Finnish, the publisher organised a publication event in Finland…

I love Finnish cuisine. And my husband loves Russian cuisine. Borscht, kharcho and dumplings…

I love Finnish cuisine. And my husband loves Russian cuisine. Borscht, kharcho and dumplings…

I chose a photograph of four men taking soup from a soup bowl. I think it’s fish soup. Finnish fish soup with cream…

Salmon soup… When my father comes to Helsinki for a visit, an inseparable part of the programme, and the most important part over all…

I tried to serve my loved ones pumpkin pie in Finland. But my husband and my Finnish family could not understand why they are salty.

I grew up in Vyborg. I remember how sometimes special family recipes were collected on TV. We only had one special recipe at home, Karelian pies…

I was born in the Urals, but I grew deep in Siberia, in the swamps area. I want to say that in those days, people’s everyday life and cooking was similar to that here…

The photograph in which four people are cutting kalakukko (a pie filled with fish)…. My husband makes it very well…

About kalakukko. I can’t understand the idea of fish combined with pork lard… It’s not for me…

While working at the Pielinen Museum, I translated the museum’s materials from Finnish into Russian. The work was very interesting…

In this photo, a mother, and apparently a daughter or possibly a grandchild, are baking pies. I wanted to tell you about the names of these pies…

Then also, the blueberry pie. When I make a blueberry pie, I make a slightly thicker crust…

Finnish people pick very few berries. They rather buy them from the store. Even if there are a lot of berries in the forest…

Something touching happened to us this year on Easter. I have three little girls. One is quite small, and two are a little bigger…

The Easter traditions here were completely new to me. In St. Petersburg I had not encountered these…

The Easter traditions here were completely new to me. In St. Petersburg I had not encountered these…

I want to talk about which calendar to live by. When we came to Finland, this question came up at the church in Imatra…

For Easter, new dresses were sewn for us three girls. It was a post-war time, and Easter was considered a big celebration…

For Easter, new dresses were sewn for us three girls. It was a post-war time, and Easter was considered a big celebration…

My husband’s grandchildren are not given any sweets until they are one year old. So his children didn’t give them anything except raisins…

As a child, I was confused about ice cream in one way, namely how my grandmother ate it … We lived in Pavlovsk and then in Pushkin…

My story is about the pastries I love. There are these swan pastries are in the photo. They are, of course, festive food… related to party meetings…

The church was very far away and we rarely went there. My mother took us there, to that church. We lived in Kirov, formerly called Vjatka…

In this photo, my attention was drawn to the icon in the corner, Christ made without hands. I think this is from somewhere in Karelia…

In this photo, my attention was drawn to the icon in the corner, Christ made without hands. I think this is from somewhere in Karelia…

I would like to say a few words about samovars, and I even prepared a picture. Should I show? This is our house in the countryside…

I would like to say a few words about samovars, and I even prepared a picture. Should I show? This is our house in the countryside…

I drink coffee from a big Moomin mug. It has a picture like this. I bought it around the time when I moved houses several times…

I have a favorite mug, it’s big and crooked. I bought it from Denmark. Or not really. I have bought a similar one from Denmark…

I remember really well how I went to the music school for my violin lesson and my teacher sat me down at the table…

I don’t know about other families of course, but in our family in Perm, we didn’t drink coffee. I don’t remember having coffee…

I enjoy serving food. If I have guests over, I have like the tablecloth from a fairy-tale that would fill by itself…

On our first Christmas together, after we had gotten married, my husband cooked a seven-pound ham. A big family and guests…

I feel like all Finnish Christmas foods are… somekind of casseroles (laughs). Potato casserole. Carrot casserole. Swede casserole…