Countries should do more to promote cuisine - Monocolumn | Monocle


A daily bulletin of news & opinion

8 June 2012

How many Finnish restaurants do you know? Well, obviously there are quite a few of them in Finland and some more in Scandinavia but other than that you really are not likely to come across one to make you fall in love with Finnish cuisine.

I have a business idea – or actually, I have an idea about how I could make countries earn more money from tourism.

If I said France, Italy or Spain, what would first pop into your mind? I think about food. For the the UK and Ireland I think about drinks and pubs, although I am not sure if this is just my Finnishness kicking in.

I firmly believe that small countries should do more to promote their cuisine.

I have been to some so-called Nordic restaurants and cafes. Last visit, a rather tired looking slice of graavilohi (salted salmon) looked at me through the counter glass lying on rye bread. It looked like it had been there for hours. They were also selling karjalanpiirakka – Karelian pie – that I normally love, except for these ones were exactly the same as you’d get from any supermarket in Finland for one fifth of the price. At least the filter coffee was ok.

Where is the fish, fresh potatoes, berries, reindeer or elk? You can also legally hunt a few bears every year in Finland. Bear meat would definitely find buyers from the big cities.

Finland should also do something to rescue its reputation – it is unbelievable how many people still remember Jacques Chirac who said there is only one country with worse food than in Britain – Finland.

There is also a Nordic Bar in London I was invited to but after checking the website and seeing photos of school-uniformed parties with drunken teenagers I decided to pass this time.

And now I am not only talking about Nordic countries, many eastern European countries are underperforming when it comes to the number of foreign restaurants dedicated to their food culture. How about Indonesian food, Egyptian food, Somali food?

A bit of extra money from the governments to promote quality food in your neighbourhood would be nice. And what’s the worst that could happen? If you ended up hating the food, at least you would remember the country. And if I am willing to travel all the way to Scotland to get a taster of haggis or to Iceland to sample fermented shark, you should not underestimate the power of grim food.

As a native Finn this would be an obvious business plan for taking over the world but if I never get it done maybe I’ll just write a recipe book when I retire.


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