So good, yet so much guilt

Warning: this is one of those columns where I touch on a part of Finnish culture that is so important, so deeply a part of life that it's dangerous to ever question it or write about it.

However, according to Savon Sanomat, it's my job to write about these kinds of things, so I'll throw caution to the wind and just do it. Here goes.

It's about pulla, or more specifically, pulla guilt.

There is this funny myth in Finland about baking pulla. In it, a good Finnish mother has warm pulla waiting for her children when they come home from school every day. EVERY DAY.

Even more important than the pulla itself is its smell, which should be so amazing and so strong that, if the kids were walking home from school and a really bad fog came down and they couldn't see anything, they would be able to find their way home just by following the pulla smell.

Worse than that (and I have to say I can't decide whether this is offensive to women or just plain disgusting) but the mother should actually smell like pulla herself ALL THE TIME!

Some people call this picture 'how life used to be in the Good Old Days.' I call it a myth, because I can't figure out what the period of time was in Finland when this was common.

Would it be farm life in the 1950s? On dairy farms in the 50s, it sounds like the mothers were usually in the barn with the cows all day long. On other types of farms, were the women working on the farm or in other jobs?

I've always understood that after the wars everyone needed to work, including the women, and that they often had young girls in to help with children and house work.

Was it city life in the 60s and 70s when this pulla-after-school thing was common? People had just moved into cities and were working in factories, the women too.

Did they all get off of work early enough to go home and make pulla? Seems unlikely. So when was this myth born? Who were these fantasy mothers baking pulla all the time?

Don't get me wrong here, I have no problem with pulla. It's great stuff. I do have a problem with all that guilt being dumped on the women of Finland though.

Maybe we should take action ourselves to fight the myth? Here's a start: my list of really good reasons not to bake pulla today:

1. You don't have enough flour. Or butter or anything else.

2. The kids love baking pulla with Mummi. Why take those wonderful moments away from the kids and their grandmother? Leave it for them to do.

3. The more you bake pulla, the more they expect you to bake it.

4. You need to go on a diet, and in fact you're not the only one in the family that needs it. And now, the best reason of all NOT to bake pulla today:

5. If you keeping baking pulla all the time, your poor daughter will grow up thinking that the only way to live a good life is to bake pulla all the time. As an adult, she will also have pulla guilt. Fight the myth!

Vocabulary: Pulla: sweet buns, Guilt: syyllisyydentunto, Fog: sumu, Offensive: loukkaava, Dairy: maito

Kirjoittaja on kotoisin Indianasta Yhdysvalloista. Hän on asunut Suomessa vuodesta 1988 ja työskentelee asiakasratkaisujen suunnittelijana käännös- ja lokalisointialalla.

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