Sunday, May 6, 2012

Changes in the food world across two centuries and "kilupirukad" (small salty oily fish pastries)

There are fundamental changes happening in every area of life at a fast pace. The changes around the food and eating burst emotions left and right like a metronome. We find things that never existed before, that are genius and on the other hand see things that make perfect sense disappear or nonsense flourish. Here is a short list of observations that I have lived through or experience at this very moment.

End of the last century: Estonia
Few cookbooks
Every household had at least one handwritten recipe notebook
Simple food… still my favourite
Eaters were much closer to food production (neighbours helping neighbours at potato harvest, own food grown on allotments)
Less packaged food, often food was weighed in the shop according to your order, often packed in paper, very little plastic packaging
People carried a shopping bag, plastic bags were expensive and even not available
Less allergies
Less food regulatory laws (I used to walk by a bread factory that had its windows open to the street, the smell coming out was heaven. Loaves of bread used to be sold unpacked in shops. Nobody died of dysentery coming from the bread they had bought that wasn’t individually packed)
Less E-ingredients, the big money wasn´t in the food research
Shorter life expectancy
A lot of food was very local
Recycling of milk bottles, cream and mayo jars, other bottles (there wasn’t much other packaging to recycle)
Deficit of exotic fruit, coffee, other ingredients (eg to cook a Thai curry at home in 1990 was unthinkable)
Home made jams was a common way of preserving
Estonians loved “Tallinna kilu”, small oily fish spiced and preserved in cans (see photo)
Tallinna kilud have stood the test of time

21st century: Estonia, Switzerland, Europe
More packaged foods
Fashionable to take a plastic bag each time – fortunately this trend is reversing
Less knowledge about where food is grown or how –  fewer children have seen, let alone touched, an animal whose produce they eat, TV programs showing children guessing how peas, cabbage, brussel sprouts etc grow… a tragic comedy
Better agriculture
New varieties of produce are higher yielding and stay fresh longer (sometimes at the expense of smell or taste)
Hydroponicly grown strawberries flown across Europe in March
More allergies
People live longer (combined with progress in medicine)
Long aisles of ready made meals
Food wasting increases massively
Smart mobile phones – internet saves the work of writing down the ingredient list
Food magazines have a booklet with shopping list for ingredients
Thousands of food blogs
El Bulli, Heston Blumenthal, molecular cuisine
Nordic chefs winning the French culinary competitions
Frozen food, big freezers at home allow storing fresh food, great to have fresh berries from your own garden in winter
Celebrity chefs acting on TV People talk about food miles, local, seasonal food
Estonians love “Tallinna kilu”, small oily fish spiced and preserved in cans. “Tallinna kilu” is awarded “Recognised Estonian Taste” Award in 2001, 2003, 2008.

The fillets of "kilu", little anchovies type oily fish, is canned with salt and spices

Go figure what will happen in the future. On one hand there are propelling new techniques, the unimaginable has become a reality, on the other hand the old common sense of eating what the nature provides with the farmers´ wisdom and the mothers´ common sense of eating a variety of foods is fighting for existence while the blasts of new diets of the month in the media feature one or the other “magic” ingredient or nutritional nebula.

For sure the changes and the extremes will continue. In one way or the other the world will keep a balance.

Future: the world
People live even longer
Genetically modified food will feed the billions
People will migrate for water, flee the famine
Better (=less) usage of water in agriculture
Better fertilisers
Globalisation - more imports of non-local ingredients, fruits and veg
More eating seasonal produce – the sustainability mentality will continue
Growing vegetables vertically, on small space (eg on roofs), on hydroponics
Food blogs will stay for a while
Recipes on Internet, printed books will become rare
Cooking lessons - part of survival education at schools

More people can afford a fridge
Households producing energy, connected to the grid, kitchen appliances using less energy
Asia going through the bad western diet fashion of more fat and sugar as more business is done in Asia and people demand/can afford new, more expensive ingredients
Fast food and slow food revolution
Estonians will love “Tallinna kilu”, small oily fish spiced and preserved in cans

Kilupirukad: small oily fish pastries or empanadas
These pastries or small pies are made with small oily fish that we Estonians call “kilu”. They resemble canned anchovies. Both are quite salty, however “kilu” are softer than the anchovies and mostly canned as whole fish. One can also buy fillets, if you don’t want to spend time cleaning the fish off the heads and backbones.

Puff pastry (ca 25x 40 cm)
12 fillets of “kilu” or anchovies
12 leaves of parsley
4 boiled eggs, cut in quarters
1 egg, beaten
Fold "kilu" or anchovis fillets with egg in puff pastry. Add dill or parsley for taste.

Heat the oven to 200°C.
Take a sheet of puff pastry and cut it into squares of 10 x 10 cm. place a fillet of fish, a leaf of parsley or some chopped dill, a quarter of a boiled egg in the middle and fold the diagonal edges across. Brush each pie with some beaten egg.
Cook in the oven for 20 minutes until golden.
Golden fish pies: Estonian Kilupirukad