Moving from one country to another always brings with it an introduction to new cultures and a different way of approaching life. Almost 10 years ago I moved to Finland and I was of course ready to expect that some, if not many, things would work differently over here. So far I have not been disappointed.
The whole sauna culture for me was something very new. My in-laws introduced me to the whole sauna experience but it was not to be for me as I get a headache from them – and not only because of the beer. It is however a major pastime in Finland and so inevitably I do get asked to provide catering at sauna parties. These are usually very relaxed parties where everyone is in a good mood since they have had the chance to get a good sauna in as well as a few refreshments.
Sometimes however these parties are not quite what I expected, especially having lived in quite a conservative country such as South Africa. Mind you, Finland is also quite conservative in many respects, but once you hit the sauna all that goes out the window.
My first experience with a guys-only sauna party and dinner was in a small seaside sauna venue in the town of Naantali. I arrived at the venue only to find a dozen naked guys wandering around the place, chatting and having beers. This is not the usual reception I have when going to do dinners where people are often nervous about having a stranger in their home and taking over. When you have the sauna, this nervousness and shyness completely disappears apparently. I must admit I was taken aback with this new situation for a short while but then I got on with cooking dinner and everyone eventually got dressed as well.
Now this situation has become almost normal for me as well and I now regularly find myself in sauna venues, offices and private homes being confronted by naked men drinking beer before normality sets in and dinner can continue
My menu on this occasion:
Biltong pate on herbed toasts
Poached prawns and avocado with a homemade cocktail sauce
Butternut and orange soup with a parmesan cheese straw
Ethiopean chicken Doro Wat with boiled egg and Injeera bread
Pepper, paprika and tarragon dusted fillet of beef on roast vegetables with a red wine, chili and chocolate jus
Moroccan citrus salad marinated in honey, mint and pistachios