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Ainur In A Red Dress at Cafe & Eepos: A Talk About Proper Finnish Food, Subtle Tastes and Historical Comics!

Before Kallio, I lived in Töölö for so many years: on Temppelikatu, on Arkadiankatu, on Eteläinen Hesperiankatu.. And in the middle of all those streets, on Runeberginkatu, there was a cafe which I saw all the time and never took the time even to look inside. Cafe & Eeopos, “kahvisalonki”, was the little cosy corner cafe where I met Ainur this morning and had a really nice 2-hours chat.

I met Ainur last summer when we made a surprise birthday picnic for our common friend Halil. With her Tatar origin, I was instantly interested in cooking with her a Tatar recipe and put it in my blog. But then I got busy and could not make it, instead we continued communicating through Facebook. And finally, today we met for the Wednesday morning chat.

Ainur is a historian. She did her bachelor studies and PhD in Lund, Sweden. But before that, in early 90s, she lived in Germany for a while, and during 90s, she studied in high school in Finland. So she is no stranger to this land. After her PhD, when she was thinking of what to do next, a bunch of friends decide to come together and live in a collective space in Käpylä in Helsinki, in an old wooden house, and she thinks, “why not?”. She already had a grant so she could afford that easily, besides, at Helsinki University, she has found many interesting postdoc projects in history and political science, so she decided to move to Finland and has been living here ever since. She is fascinated by 1920s, and she finds a lot of inspiration on that era in Helsinki. And yet another, very interesting by this talented and inspirational woman: she draws historical comics! I am not the biggest follower of comics in general but I have never thought that “historical” and “comics” could be together! Check out her illustrations here: http://www.goldenbird.se/ and http://www.goldenbird.se/vala/ I have to admit: I have never met such a fun historian! Here is a sample comic strip by this talented woman!

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Nowadays, though, she is not part of that wooden house community anymore, and she lives in Töölö. That was sort of the reason why she picked that cafe; she says that she always saw that cafe on her way to work and back, and she was curious about it. So it was the first time she was in the cafe, like me. Cafe & Eepos is a nice cafe, I somehow expected a bit trendier look inside but no, it has a very “local” sense to it. I drank latte but I was not so happy with it: it was somehow too foamy. Ainur had plain coffee and salmon rye sandwich – which was not extraordinary in taste but was truely “functional” as proper Finnish food should be: when we talked on Facebook later in the evening, she said that it kept her going the whole day!

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Where else she likes to go? As a Töölö resident, I could guess that she likes Tin Tin Tango and of course, she discovered beautiful Cafe Regatta. I think Regatta is my favourite place in Helsinki by far, even in the middle of snowy winter. She also likes walking to Seurasaari, which is a very peaceful walk I can tell. Well, that’s what I miss about living in Töölö, to be able to reach nature within minutes.. In Kallio, though, the easiest thing to reach is yet another bar and I don’t think I am yet a big fan of that…

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When I asked about her diet, she started telling me how much she likes Finnish food, in a very enthusiastic way. She loves Karjalanpiirakka and all similar pastries and she likes any bread with fish. So when it comes to eating out, she wants to find something local to eat. But she generally prefers preparing her own food and when she does that, she does not eat meat. She says that especially in Finland the meat does not taste good. But if she is visiting another place, then she is open to try anything local and traditional in that place so she might eat meat there as well. One thing she likes a lot is having soup for lunch and she recommends Qulma for that (check Qulma’s website if you are interested: http://qulma.fi). She also says that everything is too expensive when you decide to eat out here, and she misses cheap but good quality falafel. I recommended her Fafa’s, and luckily there is one new Fafa’s close to her place and I think I convinced her to try! (For Fafa’s, check their cute website: http://www.fafas.fi).

What she cooks nowadays is mostly rice and another dish. She just recently got a rice cooker and she tests different things with it. One thing she likes about it is that while the cooker is preparing the rice based dish, she can focus on making the side dish. Yes, it is always good to have some kind of extra help in the kitchen! She also has recipes that she learned from different friends. For instance a good friend of hers, who was Finnish but acquired a very much Japanese knowledge, taught her many different kinds of comfort food, with not too heavy but subtle tastes, focusing on bitter and umami (savoury) flavours. One example: using some tea that’s gone cold on rice. That easy! I will definitely try it!

Ainur’s boyfriend lives in France so she spends a lot of time in France as well. And when she is there, she loves cooking for and with friends, but especially “with” friends. They just come together and cook something simple altogether in a pot and it is simple taste but also the joy of being together that they experience. For instance, one time when they were preparing pärämäts (a Finnish Tatar pastry), they had an “assembly line” – one prepared the dough, one put the meat inside and one fried the pastries. It reminded me of having an assembly line we had with a couple of friends when we prepared 100 small size “lahmacun” (Turkish pizza) for a party.

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But what else does she want? She says that there should be more salmiakki & chocolate options. I suggested her to check the salmiakki kiosk on Runeberginkatu but I am not sure if there are really many chocolate options. She also wants to try Ice Cream Bar in Forum, she says that there are many different tastes you can try. I am not an ice cream person much but even I want to go and try that place now!

And I of course asked where she likes shopping from, for ingredients. She likes going to Hauler in Kaisaniemi and Alanya Market in Itäkeskus (I love them too, especially Hauler). And from time to time, she goes to an Estonian shop in Kallio and another one in Pasila, and Tokyokan on Annankatu for Japanese flavours. In the market chains, she goes to life saver Lidl and she especially likes Greek yogurt that is sold only in Lidl. And here is a secret tip that might save your dishes: she says “pumpkin seed oil” makes everything taste good!

It was a really nice 2 hours with Ainur in her beautiful red dress, which she sewed herself! She likes and is good at sewing, which is something that I can never do! And red looks so good on her, I think she should always wear red! I am glad that almost a year later we could finally find time to meet through this wednesday talk project, and I certainly look forward to cooking with her or learning a recipe from her!

(Some links:
Cafe Regatta: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cafe-Regatta-official/125305227553336
Seurasaari: http://www.nba.fi/en/museums/seurasaari_openairmuseum
Hauler Oriental market: http://www.haulerorientalmarket.fi
Alanya Market: http://alanyaorientalmarket.fi
Tokyokan: http://www.tokyokan.fi
Cafe & Eepos: https://www.facebook.com/cafeeepos)

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I'm a designer based in Helsinki, who turned into a food blogger / eating designer / baker and finally found the meaning of life by cooking, baking and eating together.

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