Thursday, January 14, 2010
Estonia - Blood Sausage
Kevin and I have been to Estonia. We were there in the early nineties right after Estonia gained independence from Russia. At the time it was a struggling third-world country. But since independence, Estonia has undergone a rapid transformation. They are a success story and have made some major technological advances. It’s capital, Tallinn, is described as cosmopolitan with galleries, nightclubs and lounges. Apparently, it’s no longer the Estonia I knew.
Tallinn, which is said to be Estonia’s crown jewel, still seems to have the old charm that Kevin and I fell in-love with; the cobblestone streets, old churches and 14th century homes. Now its hip, a quintessential mixture of modernity with old-world Europe. Outside the capital you’ll find seaside towns, quaint villages, forests, islands and castles. I’d like to go back and see it again.
Kevin, my grandmother and I went to visit my dad and his family in Finland one summer. Estonia is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland. We caught a ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn, about a three and a half hour trip. We were on the rough Baltic Sea and the ship rocked and swayed so much that we all got terribly seasick. But once we hit land we were fine and we spent the entire day shopping in the communist-style shops. Everything was incredibly cheap, even for poor college students like Kevin and me.
We had lunch in Tallinn but I don’t remember what we ate. I didn’t know anything about Estonian cuisine or that they love blood sausage. For our Eat Planet project, I knew I had to find blood sausage, or “blood pudding.” I was having trouble finding any when Christa told me I should go to the European grocery store called Starsky’s. Of course! I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. Our Estonian meal consisted of blood sausage, sauerkraut, jellied meat, potatoes and pork meatballs.
I can’t say this was our favorite meal. The kids were finicky about eating the blood sausage. I think it was mostly for its name. It had sort of a strong smoky flavor. I didn’t think it tasted bad and I can see why it’s called “blood pudding.” When it’s cooked it turns very soft. None of us liked the jellied meat – we didn’t even like the looks of it, or the texture. The dog wouldn’t even eat it, though our cat did.
Another favorite Estonian meal is pig ears with sauerkraut. That didn’t sound appealing to me at all, but then I was watching a show on the Food Network and they were cooking pig ears and it didn’t look half bad; they cut the ears in strips and it was crispy like bacon.
Now I wish I could remember what I had eaten in that Tallinn restaurant all those years ago, in the early nineties, in the beginning, when Estonia was first becoming a country of its own.