Home(of)food

There is something special about food cooked at home. Something beyond the way it tastes. Home food is about a familiar scent, a secret technique, a pleasant memory, an emotion. A caring parent making soup in the kitchen, or the way bread smells fresh out of the oven. A memory of going fishing with grandpa, or the delicious pickle only grandma can make. Where are these foods from? Do these sentiments have national borders? Does food have a home, a nationality?
The exhibition features 8 personal stories and portraits of individuals living in Estonia.

Exhibition ’Home(of)food’’ is open for visitors in Tartu Market Hall in spring 2021. The exhibition features 8 portraits and personal stories about home-made food and homely tastes of different people living in Estonia.

The exhibition project is funded by Centre for European Policy Analysis.

Home-made Bread

Anneli Erik 

Librarian

From Misso, Võrumaa

Lives in Vaida, Harjumaa

For me, the habit of baking bread at home began a long time ago. My grandparents used to live in a household near Sakudi village and the nearest shop was about 9 kilometres away. It wasn’t very convenient to go there on foot or by horse, so they usually made their own bread at home instead.  In my childhood, too, my grandma often baked bread at home, and I used to always watch how she did it.  My grandmother let it ferment for several days, every now and again adding a little flour to the bread starter. And so it fermented there in the warmth beside the oven.

Recently, as it became so trendy, I started trying and testing it out myself. The first time I did everything on my own. I didn’t get sourdough starter from anywhere so I made that myself too. It took me several months before I could make proper bread, the first batch of bread starter didn’t rise at all. I kept trying again and again. I usually keep the starter in the fridge, unless I haven’t felt like making bread in a while – then I have to make a new one or borrow from someone else. I’ve also shared my starter with others.

The main ingredient in my bread is rye flour. It depends on what I want, I might use wholemeal flour or light rye flour. I also add a little bit of wheat flour, because I like when the bread is soft and airy. Wheat flour helps it rise nicely. Then I add sugar, salt and some maltose…t’s difficult to write an exact recipe for homemade bread because it depends on the oven, the sourdough starter, the kind of flour you’re using. My favourite bread that I’ve made is a meat bread – where pieces of meat are added to the bread as filling. This bread makes a great gift for friends, or a snack to offer guests.

I eat plain bread with butter or herb butter. I also make sandwiches – just add ham or sausage on top, whatever you like. If having bread with a meal, there is no need for toppings at all.

Nadja Haberz

Scientist 

From Hamburg, Germany

Lives in Tartu

In general Germany has quite a bread-oriented culture with a lot of bakeries. Nowadays there’s not many bakers left that actually bake the bread from scratch. They tend to buy frozen bread and buns from somewhere else and then bake it in their ovens. There is one of these traditional bakeries left near my mother’s house – sometimes she would bring me fresh bread from there and it was very good! 

There’s not a lot of countries where bread is that popular, so for us Germans being abroad usually means that it is hard to find good bread. Luckily, Estonians have really good bread! I really love that.

I first bought sourdough starter for my Estonian rye bread from Taluturg in Lõunakeskus. I love to add loads of seeds and whole hazelnuts into my bread and I use only whole rye flour. For a nice crunchy feeling I “stole” an idea from Muhu bread and add hemp seeds. Malt flour gives the bread a nice colour, sweetness and crust. 

I usually bake once a week and eat the bread throughout the week. I like that the starter survives without “feeding” for weeks in the fridge, or even longer in the freezer.  At the beginning I often forgot to save a starter from pre-dough, so my lovely Estonian colleagues helped me out by sharing their starter and also gave valuable advice about bread-baking in general. 

As a German, I thought I knew what good bread means. But now, me and my partner bake Estonian rye bread recipes even when in Germany, it’s just so much better!

Handmade rye bread is excellent to take to house parties or gifts for housewarming – we have the same tradition of bringing salt and bread.

Black bread is my favourite food in Estonia! A slice of fresh black bread with butter is all I need to be happy.

Pickled Vegetables

Iman Moaz

Chef

From Idlib, Syria

Lives in Tartu

Marinating vegetables is a very old tradition in Syria. It is a good way to preserve summer vegetables to be used later. Once the vegetables are ripe, we pick and gather them all together. Some people grow their own vegetables at their farm or in their garden, others can buy them from the market. My mother has been marinating vegetables since I was born. We do the marinating all together! If someone is marinating vegetables, then all the neighbours will go there to help. The next day, we gather at someone else’s house. 

The most popular vegetable to marinate is the green chilli pepper. Marinated chilli peppers go well with just about anything – at breakfast, together with a fried egg, at lunch, or at dinner… we eat it all the time! The green chilli pairs well with every food and are considered an everyday food that fits any occasion. 

 

We use marinated bell peppers for a delicious sauce. We also marinate cabbage, romaine lettuce, aubergine and unripe green tomatoes. Also onion, cauliflower, grapevine leaves – most vegetables can be marinated. And of course turnip! I forgot. We put turnip and beetroot into a jar, which gives the turnip a lovely bright pink colour, then add salt, water, sugar, and vinegar. This is called lefet and we eat it mainly in winter. I don’t even know why, but my mother serves this only in winter.

We also pickle cucumbers in Syria almost exactly the same as the ones in Estonia. However, in Syria, we make them sour by adding lemon juice or unripe grape juice. This makes the cucumbers yellow!

Jaan Pehk 

Poet and musician 

From Türi

Lives in Tallinn

Fermenting, marinating and salting are good ways of capturing summertime nature and warmth in a jar. Or autumn. Similar to the spicy Korean fermented cabbage kimchi, the Estonian national dish sauerkraut already implies the sour taste of fermentation in its name. Temporal self-development. Time is, of course, important. In fermentation, time passes together with changing flavours. 

Mushrooms, pumpkin and garlic are the first that come to mind in terms of marinating. My favourite is garlic. Heated in a lightly spicy and slightly vinegary solution, the white cloves will soon seem to be painting a bluish-green world around them, making each jar one-of-a-kind. 

Homemade pickled pumpkin…delicious! And pickled mushrooms are tasty any time of year, as the growing season and availability of wild mushrooms can be volatile. Of course, there are thousands of good places for foraging where you can almost always expect to fill a basket. But avid mushroom lovers keep these places secret. Mushrooms can also be salted. With salt. 

Marinated onions, carrots, peppers, garlic, ah yes, I mentioned the latter, garlic and mushrooms are also very nice. I’m sure I’m forgetting something. Therefore I encourage everyone to experiment with different vegetables, marinades and spices. Every canning process is unique. Although grandmother’s pickled cucumbers and mother’s cooked lingonberry jam probably remain the best. 

Around ten years back, Estonian cuisine started to witness many surprised faces. Something is going on around the pickling table, some chopping, tasting…resulting in big eyes and open mouths. Yes – it’s all the different chilli peppers! Divine, both individually, and as part of a mixed salad. If you look at the Scoville scale (chilli spiciness scale), you’ll certainly find something interesting. I recommend!

It seems that Estonians have a habit of sharing preserves. Whether at Christmas or for a shared meal. 

“Look, I brought you a jar of cucumbers, put them in the cellar.” 

“Oh, how nice, thank you, I’ll bring you mushrooms in exchange. This year the milk caps were especially crunchy! ” A friendly exchange and a beautiful gift.

Pea-soup on a Winter Day

Kersti Jakustand

Home-maker ‌ ‌

From‌ ‌Võrumaa‌

Lives‌ ‌in‌ ‌Ülenurme‌

Pea soup – that pleasant flavour. For some reason, I associate this flavour with winter – it must be Shrove Tuesday, is the first thought. Pork legs, pea soup, Shrove Tuesday. At the same time, I wouldn’t say it should only be made in winter. Certainly throughout the year – if you feel like it,  just go ahead and make it. Even in summer. Pea soup is really easy to make because it has so few ingredients. 

My favourite is pea soup made of whole, unpeeled peas. The pea skins don’t bother me at all! Even though pea soup is usually eaten as a hot dish, my grandmother used to eat it cold, and served with milk. This quirk has actually stayed with me – I like to add a little milk into the soup. You don’t have to add a lot – already a small amount already changes the flavour of the pea soup. Every man to his taste.

Pea soup is also useful for being so nutritious and healthy. Traditionally, Estonians have loved eating meat and this soup has plenty. Pea soup is easy to make in large quantities and it doesn’t require a lot of effort. It just takes some time to boil – but you can do other things while it boils by itself! And if you end up making more pea soup than planned, you can easily preserve it in sterilised jars, containers, in the fridge or in the freezer. When you take it out, it’s as good as fresh soup. I think it’s a very commendable dish!

Paul Senosi

Baker

From Cape Town, South Africa

Lives in Tallinn

Pea soup – like only mama can make it! We grew up in Cape Town, South Africa eating pea soup in wintertime, which is traditionally cooked outside on an open fire. There are a few things which make it different from Estonian pea soup. First, we use split peas instead of whole peas. Secondly, at the end of the cooking process, the soup is blended.  You can add chicken, beef, lamb or pork to enrich the broth. In Estonia, I prefer to use a leg of smoked pork. I still use split peas, which I buy from France. It’s served with a dollop of whipped cream, a drizzle of olive oil and fried bacon pieces. 

I like to make soup so that it is silky smooth– you can even drink it. It pairs well with pies and other savoury delicacies. It is quite simply, heartwarmingly delicious. Enjoy a glass of sherry or port with the soup – and you’ve got a cure for the winter blues!

The first time I made my pea soup à la Cape Town for friends in Estonia, my wife gave me a strange look. She did not want to serve my drinkable soup to our Estonian friends. She insisted that pea soup should be so thick that a fork can stand straight up in it. In fact, she refused to taste my soup! But, I insisted and our friends absolutely loved it. My wife had no choice but to try it herself. And, as you can probably guess, she loved it too! Now it is a firm favourite in our family.

Fresh Fish

Ove Musting

Film director

From Põlvamaa 

Lives in a small fishing village in Northwest Estonia

Fishing is a great mystery. Although I have been fishing for over 20 years now, I discover new nuances every year. Even when fishing often, it’s a ritual that begins long before arriving at the water.

Fresh ingredients are always better. Vegetables are the only ones where fermenting is acceptable. Fish has to be fresh. Fresh fish never has that “fish smell” that you smell in shops or at the market. The flavour of fresh fish is much more delicate. 

In Estonia, my favourite fish are Baltic herring and whitefish. I like to fish for and prepare both. Fresh herring, fried or grilled, is a family favourite. The children like herring the best. Baltic herring is the best when grilled on both sides, salt added only before serving, served with a slice of lemon or lime on the side. When I grill, I usually grill a whole fish. For example bass, you don’t even need to remove the scales! Just make three incisions on either side, rub it in oil and put it on the grill without seasoning.

I have been trying to find an equivalent Estonian fish for Mediterranean sardines and anchovies. I invented some recipes for Baltic herring and sprat, which are quite similar. Small herring or sprat can be prepared as a “faux-anchovy”, with sea salt or white wine vinegar. Eat it with roasted bread or ciabatta with olive oil drizzled on top. Delicious!

I like fish soup and the very best is whitefish soup. I use the leftovers from filleting, like the head and the spine – you can make the most delicious soup from that. I don’t add any seasonings in order to preserve the natural flavour of the fish. Then it’s up to you if you add diced potato or make the soup without. You can still get enough meat from the fish bones, the potato is more of a filler. Honestly, I don’t know a more delicious or tender fish soup.

I really appreciate Asian cuisine and often use a sauce inspired by it for salads – lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar and chilli. This sauce goes with every meal. Although I haven’t tried on desserts. It goes well with fish and meat anyhow – especially if added right before eating.

Thai

Dentist

From Hue City, Vietnam

Lives in Tallinn

We have a large variety of fish and seafood in Vietnam, most of which is fresh. If you live near the coast, you can get fish that comes straight from the sea. Most fish and seafood is sold live, either from a tank or on ice, some is sold dead, chilled on ice, but my mum doesn’t like buying it because she thinks that live fish tastes better. I agree with her. 

The most common fish in Vietnam are tuna, mackerel and catfish. We don’t eat filleted fish, we fry it whole or add it to soups and stews, and hot pots. We eat it with chopsticks. One time I ordered a whole grilled trout in a restaurant in Saaremaa. I was so confused when they brought it to my table– how am I supposed to eat it with a knife and fork?! It’s so much easier to remove the tiny bones with chopsticks. 

In the south of Vietnam, the traditional soup is canh chua, sweet and sour fish soup. The fish that it used is mostly catfish; it’s cheap and its fatty texture goes well with the sweet and sour flavour. Lots of vegetables, like tomato, bean sprouts and okra go into the soup, as well as tamarind and  pineapple. The soup must have a balanced flavour of sweet and sour. It’s not very spicy, it’s light and fresh. Sometimes  chilli can be added to make the fish smell less strong. This is a simple everyday dish, usually eaten with rice or rice noodles. My mum also made it sometimes. When I make it in Estonia, I use trout because it doesn’t have small bones.

When I came to Estonia, I thought Estonians only ate potatoes and pork, no one told me anything about the fish! I tried smoked fish for the first time from a roadside kiosk while on a road trip. It was so good. I also like to make sprat sandwiches or “kiluvõileib” on black bread with hard boiled eggs and red onion. I made sprat pie or “kilupirukas” once. I used puff pastry and filled it with mashed hard boiled eggs, scallions and sprats. It was so good! I think I like the pie more than the sandwich.

Photos

Johann Villmann

Alina Birjuk

Liis Laadi

Thanks

Anneli Erik

Nadja Haberz

Ove Musting 

Van Thai Nguyen 

Iman Moaz

Jaan Pehk

Kersti Jakustand 

Paul Senosi

Kristina Lupp

Maiden Paljak