Hill Country Living
By Coulter Fussell
Happy Mother’s Day from Finland! I only say that because as I write this I am in Finland and it is Mother’s Day. By the time this article is published, though, I will be back home in Water Valley and my house sitters, the two armed ex-cops/Marines and their four short-leashed pit bulls will have been sent home. So will my fish-sitter, Jackson-the-neighbor-kid, who is the real force to be reckoned with. Don’t steal my fish and then try to run from this guy. It’s futile. He’s got an electric scooter that hauls like crazy.
I left the miserable spring season that north Missis-sippi is known for just in time to catch the glorious last few weeks of freezing rain and soggy sleet in Finland. Despite the character-building weather here, I’m always glad to get out of town. Not because I don’t like town, considering Water Valley has been so pleasant lately, but more because it’s easier sometimes to gain some perspective on what’s important when seeing it all from a distance. A very, very far distance. Bette Midler sings a song about this phenomenon. Maybe one day she will hear her song from a distance and quit singing it.
Traveling also gives the opportunity to see commonalities in places that are, on the surface, vastly different. For example, the Helsinki airport is sleek and modern. Everything is made of glass, lights are dimmed to a comfortable level so as not to blind the weary eye. Everything is minimal in design and made of unstained wood. Basically, it’s an IKEA store with airplanes.
Most impressively, they have recorded bird sounds playing in the bathrooms. It’s weird at first because you think,”Why is there a little bird singing while I’m going to the bathroom?” But then you think, “That sure is a nice little bird singing while I’m going to the bathroom.” And, despite being half a world away, we in Water Valley have the same thing! When I was at the Pig the other day I heard a pleasant little bird sound while I was standing in line at check-out. At first I thought, “Why is there a little bird singing while I’m standing in line at check-out?” But then I looked to my right and saw that there was an actual bird about five inches from my face sitting atop the bubble gum display. Then I thought, “That sure is a nice little real live bird singing while I’m standing in line at check out.” Sometimes it’s the little things, ya know?
Like the Finns, we also eat lots of fish, deer and gravy. Granted, a few times I’ve wished these people would discover some cornmeal and fry oil but since their fish species here are so varied and flavorful, not limited to a bottom-feeding acquired taste and a fish with such a pleasant name as ‘crappie’, then they are freer in their cooking methods.
And like us, they eat a lot of venison. But in the form of reindeer. Honestly though, it’s disturbing that every time I’ve ordered the reindeer steak it comes with a bright red cherry tomato on top. No one is laughing at you and calling you names anymore, poor Rudolph. Because I just ate you.
And the gravy. So much gravy. Really, it’s more “sauce” but it means the same thing. It means you’ve covered up the entire meal you just spent several hours cooking in a thick wet blanket of fat, milk, and meat juice.
But then there are some things that the Finns just do differently…and better. Like their tradition of going to sauna. It involves beer, sweat and nudity. But I’ll stop now as I know you all don’t want to hear about that.