In fact, she’d long since disposed of her braid and her dimples, and instead toiled for her husband and her mother, raised the children, loyally ran for him, her lord and master, to the fresh food market, didn’t have time for anything, and yet miraculously was always everywhere on time (she tried so hard to be organized)–and naturally at night, having put everyone to bed, she’d sit in the kitchen with her books, or work for extra cash, or else prepare her classes. Coming home from work she’d tell stories about her students, and once in a while she’d cook a whole bucketful of meatballs and a bucketful of kasha, and her students would come, they’d bring flowers and even make a bit of noise; shyly, they’d eat up everything and then entertain her with their clumsy singing. But this was only if the man of the house was away; otherwise, it was out of the question. 
-Liudmila Petrushevskaia (“My Love“) 

This week, I am all by my lonesome. My friend and hostess is basking in the sunshine of Marseille, eating bouillabaisse (clearly, a leitmotif of my Finland adventure) and not wearing woolen socks. Yes, my jealousy is real. And, no, I really don’t have anybody to talk to. It’s basically me and the books, besides the one brief moment I experience at lunch when somebody explains the menu to me in detail and, for 2-3 minutes, I feel a fleeting connection (and also wonder why vegetable gratin is so popular here in Finland. I assure you that it is the star of many reasonably priced prix fixe lunch specials here in Helsinki). I am, however, a survivor and a “the glass is half full” kind of girl. So, in that spirit, I decided it was time to engage in some “real” Finnish cooking. What better place to start than dessert? 

I did a little research and decided that the easiest thing for me to make would be a whipped lingonberry (puolukka) porridge–vispipuuro (really, I was sold on the name). With only 5 ingredients and one of them being water, I figured I couldn’t go wrong. But, considering it’s not summer or early fall, and I haven’t just returned from a berry-picking adventure–lingonberries, according to a Scandinavian food website,  are the juicier, yet equally tart cousin of the cranberry–in the Finnish countryside, I had to figure out how best to go about this enterprise. I first thought that I would go with frozen lingonberries, but the grocery store I went to didn’t seem to have them. I was momentarily stumped (I had read that juice would be a good substitute on a Finnish cooking blog), but then decided that jam would be a nice alternative since the first step of the recipe was to add berries to water and boil them with sugar and a little salt. All this meant was that I wouldn’t have to add any extra sugar.

And it really couldn’t have been any easier. After a day of working on my R&C class for the fall (“Lost Love and Murky Memories”! I’m so excited I’ll be teaching Nicole Krauss, as well as Karapanou and Petrushevskaia. It’s almost an entirely new syllabus, but, as with the blog background, I figured it was time for change. Being away has that effect on you; it makes it easier to cut the cord) and experiencing gusts of wind that could steal your breath, I needed to unwind–both away from the computer and in front of a warm stove. And, although I’m hardly capable of telling you if this is the real deal or not in terms of Finnish dessert porridge, I liked it. After 6-8 minutes of whipping the semolina-jam mixture with the electric mixer on high speed, not only did little peaks form, but you could also see the air bubbles (the final product is the first picture, while the pre-whipped product is the final one; both have their charm). When I dug the spoon into the bowl, it gave a very satisfying little plopping sound. And the lingonberry jam, which you can apparently buy at IKEA (the recipe is within your reach), was just the right combination of sweet and sour. I really can’t recommend it enough. It’s the kind of dessert you can whip up in minutes–always a plus!–and, in my personal opinion, it could even be eaten for breakfast…As I was savoring my tiny bowl, I was reading Maria Speck’s Ancient Grains for Modern Meals and drooling over the breakfast recipes when it hit me: the porridge is not unlike a breakfast polenta; in fact, I would even say it’s lighter. What’s not to love about something you could have after dinner and then again in the morning?

Whipped Lingonberry Porridge (Vispipuuro)

Yields 2-3 light servings

Adapted from
1/2 liter water (2 cups)
3 Tbsp. lingonberry jam
1/8 tsp. salt
100 ml. semolina (manna-suurimo) (1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp) or, for the American kitchen, Farina or Cream of Wheat
sugar or cream for serving (optional)
– Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. 
– Add the jam and salt and stir. 
– Once the jam has turned into a liquid, add the semolina in a steady stream, whisking the whole time so that lumps don’t form. 
– Lower the heat and let cook for about 7-10 minutes or until the mixture thickens. 
– Let cool for about 20-25 minutes. 
– Once cool, pour into a mixing bowl and whip with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. This can take about 8 minutes. If you have a standing mixer, you can let it do the work for you. 
-Scoop into a small bowl and enjoy–with or without additional milk and sugar. 

One thought on “Thoroughly Whipped

  1. Oh no, of all the things you chose vispipuuro! I feel I should get worried, how are you making it there all by yourself 😉

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