This December saw me make my annual ‘pilgrimage’ to Helsinki and after a full-on year of all kinds of tribulations, I couldn’t wait to hug my friends and enjoy a slightly different pace of life for a few days in the most charming and beautiful setting. Now, with the holidays over and life back in the fast lane, I can’t help but reflect on the precious moments of friendship, travel, Scandi porridge fuelled by coffee and the beauty of nature, all of which help sustain and propel me forward.
With four kids of various ages under one roof, on one of the days my bestie and I managed to escape for a few hours, while our hubbies took the kids to burn their energy off at the ginormous activity centre. After browsing Helsinki’s natural store Ruohonjuuri (several of them dotted conveniently around town, knowledgable but unobtrusive staff and plenty of interesting brands that aren’t widely available in the UK, like French ‘Beauty Garden‘, Italian ‘Argital’ and Estonian ‘Nurme‘) we made our way to one of Helsinki’s central’s shopping centres, Kamppi, and Anni Kravi‘s healthy eating, plant-based cafe, aptly named ‘DATE + KALE’, which is located on the fifth floor. Anni is a Helsinki-based recipe developer and a proponent of ‘bowl food’, as well as creative porridge recipes, which has won her a lot of foodie fans on social media, but more on this later.
I really like anything Scandi designed and kept on saying to my friend again and again how fantastically cool Finns are when it comes to interior design. Even Helsinki airport, with its distinctly calm vibes, artificial birch trees & hammocks to rest a weary body in compare favourably to the busyness of Heathrow.
DATE + KALE is small and intimate & there were a few customers when we dropped by in the afternoon, who were either deep in thought or eating their salads, but somehow, after lingering for a few minutes, we decided to go somewhere else, as the young woman at the counter gave us a frosty stare and wasn’t particularly eager to serve us. I grabbed a copy on Anni’s book ‘Porridge: oats + seeds + grains + rice’ to dive into later, as well as the huge chocolate cookie that was drawing me like a magnet (it was soft and delicious, when I later had it with my big cappuccino ) and then we made way to a yoga store, where yoga wheels held pride of place ( I think it’s the latest ‘it fit’ accessory, as upon my return to London I seem to see and read about them with increased frequency), followed by a pit stop at Helsinki’s ‘must’ for serious coffee lovers, La Torrefazione.
Choosing plenty of sweet fuel – it was post Christmas after all, I went for a barristers selection – a large ‘cappuccino and double expresso’, we sat down and within minutes I knew that nothing mattered more in that moment in time than spending time with a friend who is akin to a sister to me.
I have met my bestie many moons ago and even though she now lives in Helsinki and we don’t see each other every day, like we used to when we lived in the same area in London, she is my rock and my sunshine in moments of joy and crisis. To just sit and chat made me feel like a tidal wave of peaceful happiness enveloped me. We talked about things that made us laugh, as well as vented our frustrations. We were grateful to our partners for allowing us to ‘escape’ for some moments of peace in each others company. We savoured our drinks and food and I know that even now that time with someone that I love dearly still sustains me. People we love and moments like that should never be underestimated, because they fuel our soul, sustain us and propel us forward. Our lives are busy and we seem to be on the ever increasing treadmill, but with exhaustion, pressures and stress on the rise and doctors talking of the rising epidemic of mental issues, it’s more important than ever to find moments of peace every day, whether with friends, colleagues, partners or just on our own. To enjoy someone’s company, to listen to music, while drinking a cup of tea (a bird song would do nicely instead as well), to meditate or to just sit, close the eyes and take deeper breathes -anything that allows you to pause and gain some balance is perfect.
As to Anni’s book, it allowed me many happy moments upon my return home to read and to experiment in the kitchen. Anni, founder of blueberryboost.com website and a ‘lover of porridge (as most Finnish people are): oatmeal porridge, rye porridge, Christmas porridge, semolina porridge and whipped berry porridge vispipuuro to name just a few’, created a compact and interesting book with plenty of tips and variations. Covering the Bases, Sweet & Savoury variations, Toppings and Snacks – Tanini + Liquorice Bliss Balls anyone? – it will certainly tempt your taste buds & hopefully inspire you to make some evening prep work in order to have a fulfilling and nutritious start to your day. Happy mind + happy stomach make for a happy combination!
Anni Kraai “Porridge: oats + seeds + grains + rice”, Quadrille, £12.99