Friday, May 11, 2007

Danish drag queens (or Move over, Japanese fugu...)

Last night we had the fancy course dinner. It was in the 'Old dining hall' (so the nice wooden building with long wooden tables and benches, rather than the blocky, ikea-furnished buildings...). It was fantastic. White tablecloths, French wine, delicious food. Despite being potentially lethal, very delicious. Dinner started with a fabulous mushroom soup - large chunks of dark brown, nobbly mushrooms - very pungent and flavourful. We were all impressed, the cooks had out-down themselves. And then the rumour started down the table that the mushrooms were poisonous. Our course leader stood up to explain. He had clearly taken notes during the aerosols lecture earlier this week, as he was armed with chalk, that he chose to throw at unsuspecting students during his talk. Apparently the mushrooms in the soup are quite special, and picked near the field station. They are regarded as the best tasting mushrooms in Finland (I definitely agree), and earned three stars in the mushroom text book. However, they also have three daggers in the book. After being pelted with a large hunk of chalk, I managed to correctlyidentify this as meaning they were poisonous. Highly toxic - so much so that the profs wouldn't let us handle the raw versions they had brought! Apparently the trick to make the mushrooms go from three daggers to three stars is to cook the mushrooms at least twice in water, throwing out the water each time! Then you make the soup. Tasty, tasty, toxic soup.

The rest of the dinner was a little less dramatic (moose for the meat-eaters, and stuffed peppers for us veggies). After dinner, I took part in the cult phenomenon that is Eurovision. For the unintiated, Eurovision is a televised competition in which each country sends a representative music group to compete. Last year, Finland won with a hard rock group that apparently dresses up as monsters, complete with flames coming out of their guitars on cue. Highlights from last night's semifinals included the Norwegian salsa band, which progressively pulled of layers of clothing from the lead female, her dress getting shorter every time. Denmark had a drag queen. Switzerland had a vampire-themed band. The hosts for the show are two Finnish models. Better than America's Next Top Model (well, maybe not, but equally ridiculous!).

I'm excited to see the finals on Saturday. They're being held in Helsinki, and there are going to be big screens on the main square to watch. (Tickets to see are too expensive - they're currently trading for several hundred euro apiece, to give an indication of how seriously the Finns take the competition). Almost as seriously as they take the sauna. For example, this morning there was a half hour discussion (no joke) on the sauna situation at Hyytiala...


(PS. Kippis is 'cheers' in Finnish - one of my most used Finnish words...)

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