Archive for November, 2009

Hannele Klemettilä: Keskiajan julmuus [Medieval cruelty]

6 November 2009 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Keskiajan JulmuusKeskiajan julmuus
[Medieval cruelty]
Jyväskylä: Atena, 2008. 365 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-796-517-0
€ 34, hardback

Darkness, cruelty, violence and ignorance are characteristics commonly associated with the medieval era. This book aims to show that this type of thinking contains a number of myths and misconceptions that have arisen in both scholarly and popular culture. She investigates how cruelty arose in medieval culture and society and how it was understood, as well as its antitheses: sympathy, fraternity and mercy. The focus of this study is from the 13th century to the first half of the 16th century. The author has relied on writings, art, folk tales and documentary sources from theoreticians, chroniclers and poets in her study. Particular attention is paid to those groups who represented the ‘non-human’ in medieval thinking, such as women and children, the infirm, common people and animals. This book also outlines a broader chronological perspective in its subject matter and addresses the issue of when the medieval era was labelled as being cruel and why that label has stuck. Hannele Klemettilä, a post-doctoral researcher at the Finnish Academy, is a cultural historian.

Slowly does it

5 November 2009 | Reviews

Photo: Sami Repo

Straight from the oven: cabbage rolls. – Photo: Sami Repo

[Grandma’s house]
(food: Hans Välimäki, photographs: Sami Repo, text: Mikko Takala, graphic design: Timo Numminen)
Helsinki: Otava, 2009. 224 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-1-23930-7
€ 40

How paradoxical: in the past couple of decades, numerous internationally famous gourmet restaurants have sprung up in Finland, and at the same time it’s harder than ever to find ordinary, well-prepared ingredients for cooking at home.

It’s hard to get used to the fact that foods like beef and lamb kidneys, sweetbread, and cheaper cuts for use in stews and soups have made way for cheap Brazilian steaks on special offer, even at the largest stores’ meat counters. There’s no point in looking for whole chickens (and certainly not organic poultry), let alone whole, locally caught fish. The last time I asked at the fish counter of my local market if they might have any salmon heads and bones for chowder, the seller looked for a moment like she might summon security. The consumer wasn’t consulted when ‘taste’ and ‘variety’ were replaced by ‘ease’ and ‘speed’. More…