Last time, after ranting about the weather, I said I was going to write about the Finnish poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg and the cakes named after him. As it turns out, it’s frustratingly difficult to find his poems in English (I’m sure they’ve been translated at some point but I can’t find them anywhere) so the only information about him I could find at the local library, in English, was from a series of essays about Finnish identity. I’ll write my response to that in a later post, as I don’t want this one to get too serious.
For now, I’ll explain a little more about Runeberg. He is the national poet of Finland, although, as was common for the time, he wrote in Swedish. His most well-known work is The Tales of Ensign Stål (Now I really want to see a redshirt on Star Trek named Ensign Stål!) part of which was used (in a translated form) as the lyrics for the Finnish national anthem. This gave me the only English translation of Runeberg’s poems that I could find:
Oh our land, Finland, land of our birth,
rings out the golden word!
No valley, no hill,
no water, shore more dear
than this northern homeland,
precious land of our fathers.
Your splendour from its shell
one day will bloom;
From our love shall rise
your hope, glorious joy,
and once your song, fatherland
higher still will echo.
Aleksis Kivi may be more revered within Finland, as he was the first author to write in the Finnish language, and in modern times Tove Jansson’s Moomin series is famous worldwide, but Runeberg is probably the only poet in the world to have both his own day and a dessert named after him. This is a Runeberg cake:
Whoops, that one was squished on the journey back from the supermarket. This is what they’re supposed to look like:
They were named after Runeberg as he supposedly ate them for breakfast every day. His wife might have even invented them. Similar to how Cadbury’s Cream Eggs are only sold before Easter, these little cakes appear in Finnish supermarkets and cafes just before Runeberg day on February 5th and disappear for the rest of the year. But unlike Cream Eggs, they are delicious. I’m not going to attempt to bake them myself, I’d probably just drink all the rum, but if you want to try then here’s a recipe: