Lokal is an award-winning concept store and gallery in the heart of Helsinki. It is run by photographer Katja Hagelstam. Inspired to create a space where to showcase the works of Finnish artists and designers, she opened Lokal in April 2012. It has been my dream to have a culinary performance there. The dream became true in the Spring 2019 when they we were going to celebrate the seventh birthday of Lokal. By coincidence, there was another “seven” to be celebrated.
New Year or Nowruz, as we called it, is the most important celebration of the year in Iran. When in Finland we see kevätpäiväntasaus written in the calendar, it’s time for celebrating the Iranian New Year. Like the moment of kevätpäiväntasaus, the accurate time of Nowruz changes every year. When the moment arrives, the families gather around a table, which is decorated by seven items (called the seven s’s because each element’s Persian name starts with the letter “s”) and wait until the accurate time of the change of the year –no matter what’s their social status or religion. This has been done for a couple of thousands of years. [The beautiful piece of art on the wall is created by Renata Jakowleff and all the photos are taken by Katja Hagelstam.]
- Sprouts / grass (sabsez)
- Garlic (sir)
- Vinegar (serkeh)
- Somac (sumac)
- Apple (sib)
- Russian olives (senjed)
- Mämmi (sämänu)
Even though all of the seven s’s are edible, in Iran we don’t eat them -we merely set them on a table as decoration. I decided to play with this tradition so I combined these elements together in a way to make a tasty breakfast for the guests.
Finns get totally surprised when I tell them that we eat mämmi in Iran too [read about it in my blog]. The Iranian version of mämmi, which we call it “sämänu” is one of the seven s’s. I have to admit that mämmi/sämänu visually is not really appealing. For that reason I decided to hide it under a beautiful rose made out of apple (the apple is cooked in beetroot juice). In this way, two elements were already combined together.
We, people from different countries and cultural backgrounds actually have a lot in common. Something as simple as Egg Fight (egg tapping) tradition can bring us together, tie our childhood memories to each other and make us new friends. Renata Jakowleff who has her origins in Hungary, remembered this tradition from her childhood, which we have in Iran too.
I moved to Finland in 2011. When Nowruz was approaching, I was happily surprised by seeing our New Year table’s items everywhere in the Finnish supermarkets! The shelves were filled with rairuoho, mämmi and pääsiäismunat! And there were even pajunkissat everywhere, which we used to use for decorating our home for New Year in Iran! As the years passed, I realised that these items were actually sold because of Finnish Easter celebrations.
Finally the menu for the breakfast was:
- Turkish yoghurt panna cotta with Russian olives slices and balsamic vinegar pearls
- Alfalfa sprouts, avocado cream, black garlics marinated with sumac on charcoal bread and boiled quails’ eggs.
- Apple roses with sämänu on spinach biscuits
- Saffron drink (made by Keshmoon’s farm-to-table saffron)
[I would like to thank Katja Hagelstam and Meena Kaunisto for helping me to make this Performance happen.]