Guest Writers

Estonia: Land of Sausages, Beer, and Beautiful Women

Just the other day I marveled on my own blog about how Evan manages to post every single damn day. And now I know– by relying on the kindness of strangers. Just kidding! Actually Evan’s had very few guest bloggers, so I’m honored to be one of them. [end ass-kissing]

One of the great things about Estonia being my topic today is that most people don’t know much about the country, so whatever I write is, by default, interesting! Anybody ever been to Estonia? (Speak up if you have, because that would make you awesome). Here are three things you should know:

1. It’s not Third World. We’re in the EU, for God’s sake.
2. It’s not Russia nor anything like Russia, so never say that unless you want to be lectured/beaten up.
3. Skype!

If you need more background than that, go visit Wikipedia. I’m just here to tell you about Estonian food, since I fancy myself a food blogger. I took my camera to the local supermarket so that you could see it, dear readers of Swanfungus, but unfortunately no pictures were taken because I was afraid of getting reamed out by the Russian security guards. My apologies to you, and as a substitute, you’ll get pictures taken inside my very own kitchen!

Estonia has more dairy products than you could ever dream of. Here’s a sampling.

The one blue thing on the bottom is milk in a bag. The lighter thing in front of it is unappetizing called “curd cheese” in English. The colorful carton is yogurt. In terms of yogurt flavors, these people get wacky. Forget strawberry or vanilla. You want raspberry-pineapple? Check. Aloe-lemon? Check. Rhubarb-oat? Oh yeah. We’ve got that.

“Family weiners”

Estonians looove sausages, and 99% of the ones you find are of the uber-processed variety– you know, a homogeneous pinkish mass that you don’t even have to cook before eating. Like hot dogs, but tastier. Some of the processed meat here can be a bit scary. I once bought some sliced meat similar to bologna, and the first ingredient was water. Huh. Also, the sliced meats are given amusing names like “doctor’s sausage” or “children’s sausage”. And while we’re on the topic of sausages, one winter favorite that graces every Estonian’s plate around Christmastime is blood sausage. That one’s not pink like the regular sausages– blood sausage cooks up black. Frankly, I’m glad I grew up eating the stuff, because as an adult it could be kinda hard to get into. But it’s good! Really!

Blood sausage covered in bacon, because what better garnish for meat than more meat?

This is alcohol:

You can buy it in any grocery store, gas station or kiosk here. They stop selling at 10 pm, though. For a while they stopped selling it at 8 pm in the capital city of Tallinn, and that really sucked. But now it’s 10 everywhere. The beer pictured is Saku, which is the only Estonian beer available in the States. Evan and other California-dwellers are out of luck, but if you live somewhere along the East Coast between New York and Northern Virginia, you might be able to find it. It tastes, um… I don’t know. Saku is slightly sweeter than the other major Estonian beer A. Le Coq, but other than that, I can just say that it’s light in flavor and easy to drink. That was the worst beer review ever… Evan, where are you??

One more thought on alcohol. You know how in Italy they have table wine? Here in Estonia, they have laua viin— table vodka.

It’s pretty common for Estonians to go into the woods and pick their own mushrooms and berries when they’re in season. I went mushroom-picking for the first time last fall. After three hours, this was the result:

Seriously, mushroom picking is hard! You have to avoid anything you don’t recognize because it could kill you. I boiled the crap out of these to make sure I got rid of all the bitter toxins contained in even the safe mushrooms. They ended up soggy and tasteless. Damn. Strangely, there are mushrooms that Estonians consider poisonous that Russians will still pick and use. I didn’t realize that the concept of “poison” varied between cultures.

This last one is a crucial component of Estonian cuisine– dark rye bread. The blacker, the better. It’s a bitch to find any decent ciabatta or baguette in Estonia (it’s basically impossible), but if you want something dense and robust, you’ve come to the right place.

Thanks for reading, Swanfungus fans!

7 replies on “Estonia: Land of Sausages, Beer, and Beautiful Women”

I have made the trip from Helsinki to Tallinn. The return trip to Helsinki involved some seriously drunk Finns bringing back cheap beer. Tallinn is a very cool city.

Thanks Evan!

Yeah, the Tallinn-Helsinki route is notorious as a booze cruise. People seriously load up hand carts with cases of beer to take back to Finland because alcohol is taxed much higher there.

Thanks for the fascinating glimpse into daily life in a place I know almost nothing about. Looks like Estonians are pretty serious about their meat and dairy.

But titling it “Estonia: Land of Sausages, Beer, and Beautiful Women,” and then posting photos of just the sausages and beer? That’s just mean!

I returned yesterday from a few days in Tartu. A very pleasant place, with parks, a pretty good restaurant or two, and friendly pleasant people. If you like Lager-style beers (I’m British, so I like a much wider range of ‘refreshment’), there was plenty of local brews to try, I even brought a few cans back for friends to sample. My local host took me to a Comarket where we got a traditional hot dish of mashed potatoes (but without bacon bits, that had all gone) with long thin sausages, and a tub of cloudberry cottage cheese. I have never put cottage cheese on my bangers and mash before, but it was strangely delicious. It seemed quite a laid back, relaxed place while the students are away. Well worth a visit.

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