esmaspäev, jaanuar 25, 2010

hurmaa

Any food one could desire is available within Estonia. The hitch is that it is available somewhere in Estonia and that somewhere can change at anytime. You might be able to procure some celery one day at the Selver down the street, for example. But the next week, you won't find it there, but at the Konsum across town. How would you know? You've simply got to go hunting for it.

Fresh produce flows into and out of E-land from myriad locations: Georgia, Brazil, Morocco. It's not even the more exotic products that are difficult to keep in your cupboard, though. I fell in love with Fazer Cacao -- cocoa powder so strong it gives you an uplifting headrush with every sip. I'm not sure where I got it, but then -- poof! -- in a cloud of chocolate dust, it was nowhere to be found. I trekked through Maxima, Konsum, Säästukas, but, no, all gone. One seller tried to pawn off a bag of Nesquik on me, like it was the same thing. Let me just say that I really want to vote for Kalev on the poll to your right, but my allegiance to Fazer Cacao keeps me on the fence.

Which brings us to a curious fruit called persimmons by Englishmen, "cachi" by paesans, and, as I have come to learn in not one but two separate supermarkets, hurmaa by eestlased. Hurmaa. It's a curious name. It doesn't sound like your typical Estonian fruit or vegetable. Õun (apple), jõhvikas (cranberry), maasikas (strawberry), kartul (potato), porgand (carrot), and then, hurmaa? Como? It sounds like an Estonian national park. Between Soomaa and Lahemaa, there lies Hurmaa, an endless grove of pure imagination. And the best thing about my favorite fruit, hurmaa/cachi/persimmons, is that they must have imported a shit load of them to Tartu, because they're everywhere. Maybe the food import gods knew I'd be here, because I didn't see anyone else loading up their bags at the local shop. See, I need things like this to function in society. I need hurmaa to show me that, even if my car doesn't start because it's -15 F/-26 C outside, even if my fingers ache and my face is frozen in one, oddly Eskimo-like position, there was a reason I hiked through the tundra all the way to the supermarket.

The frozen car situation is quite a new experience. I was proud as ours revved up and got us to the office to unload some Petrone Print books. I thought of all those other poor suckers in their pussycatmobiles. I felt vindicated in sticking with our ride, arrogant even. But then pulling out of the parking lot, klunk, nothing. The Antarctic silence was broken only by the hum of my AM radio, which refused to go off. In fact, even removing the key from the ignition would not turn the electric in the car off. It was a ghost car. The lights were on. The radio refused to die. And the annoying air-bag light, which never goes off, kept blinking and blinking. "What's going on?" she was bewildered. "Maybe it's the weather?" I was honest.

I was reminded of a time I went to go help out a writer friend with car trouble who was stranded on a country road in north Estonia. When I approached, his Estonian wife declared: "I should have married an automechanic, not a writer. A mechanic could fix this car. What's he going to do?" she gestured at her mees. "Write a story about it?" With a stroke of good fortune, the writer friend was able to get his machine going after a few hours in distress and ride it back to the autobody shop in Tallinn where manly Estonian men fix things. But that was in the summer. And our car? We had to abandon ship. It's still sitting there in thick pack ice. There is some hope amongst the crew that the weather will soon turn for the better, and the ship will sail again. Until then, we are here camped out on the ice, with nothing but Fazer Cacao, Hurmaa, and each other for company.

32 kommentaari:

Rainer ütles ...

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hurma

Rainer ütles ...

I believe one of the reasons for the abundance of hurmaa everywhere is somewhat paradoxical: nobody really wants to buy them. They are pretty troublesome - they have to be soaked in water for hours on end, otherwise they are practically inedible, leaving an intensely dry bitter taste in your mouth.

Raine ütles ...

Alright- about the soaking part I didn't know!

Cachi- Man, they are everywhere! I mean- on top of the trees! By now I guess most of them have fell down... I love them, mainly when they are ripe (no bitter taste then) and indeed all the relatives and friends and friends of friends etc just gave me plastic bags full of persimmons. Seems like most of the people doesn't even like them, or they are tired of the taste. Boh! I find them delicious.

Here in the Dolomites happened to me that the handbrake froze and we couldn't get down the mountain! And no cell phone signal as well...

Evil Purc ütles ...

-15 F? Still with the odd scales I see. I mean who defines anything scientific by holding a thermometer in the armpit of his wife?

Oop ütles ...

Now, that's a strange talk about soaking and bitterness. Actually, I was quite surprised when I read from Wikipedia there are some astringent sorts. I consider myself a frequent persimmon user (persimmoner? persimmonist?) and I have never met a bitter hurmaa yet in Estonia. Of course, I prefer them ripe.

The same source hints that Estonian name might come from Persian Khormaloo (خرمالو), most likely through Russian.

Recently, I recommended it to Colm from Corcaigh. Somehow, I suspect there is a link. Or geniuses tend to think alike, as a friend of mine used to say.

Martasmimi ütles ...

Raine said

"they have to be soaked in water for hours on end, otherwise they are practically inedible, leaving an intensely dry bitter taste in your mouth."

Does this rid the fruit of giving one the sensation of having ones tongue stuck to the roof(top)of your mouth?

Rainer ütles ...

"Does this rid the fruit of giving one the sensation of having ones tongue stuck to the roof(top)of your mouth?"

Once in a blue moon.

Giustino ütles ...

You just have to just wait until they're ripe. It's the same with green bananas, firm mangos, etc.

Alex ütles ...

In the years I lived in Estonia, I was never able to find Miracle Whip anywhere, ever.

If you want to consider that food.

Brüno ütles ...

It was so cold one winter, that my car's windshield cracked while driving on a country road. The entire cabin kept creaking and squeaking in a car that is very quiet under normal conditions, as Mercedeses usually are.

It was freaky when I lowered a window by accident and it did not go back up and it was -35C outside. We had to try to use our hands on both sides and it finally went up.

Cold is not fun.

notsu ütles ...

It means it is much safer to just walk - cars only mean that you can get stuck/lost much further from home or any inhabited place whatsoever.

Rainer ütles ...

"I fell in love with Fazer Cacao -- cocoa powder so strong it gives you an uplifting headrush with every sip. I'm not sure where I got it, but then -- poof! -- in a cloud of chocolate dust, it was nowhere to be found."

Good pitch, Giustino:) You mean the one in the brown package with a pair of eyes on it? I've always wondered about those eyes and their connection with cocoa. Now I know they are some sort of a sign of quality. Yes, I bought one today.
I wonder about Tartu kaubandusvõrk and its eripärad - in Tallinn, be it my local Prisma or Selver, that stuff never seems to run out. Go figure....

"You just have to just wait until they're ripe. It's the same with green bananas, firm mangos, etc."

How can you tell if hurmaa is ripe or raw? They look all the same to me.

Oop ütles ...

Ripe hurmaa obtains a certain luminous quality. It has tender skin and soft flesh.

Giustino ütles ...

Good pitch, Giustino:) You mean the one in the brown package with a pair of eyes on it?

There's something about those eyes.

Lingüista ütles ...

Well, hurmaa is obviously not an Estonian word (consider Russian хурма, the same fruit; also obviously not a slavic word, probably a borrowing from some other language family). I suspect hurmaa was borrowed directly from Russian rather than from some other language, because the Russian word is stressed on the final vowel (khur-mÁÁ), which, to Estonian ears, will certainly sound like a long vowel (stress in Estonian, unlike Russian, alas, must remain at the beginning of the word...).

But I thought hurmaa would simply be English 'kakhi'; or is kakhi just a kind of persimmon? Fruits are so confusing...

Andres ütles ...

Okay, you can tell us. Is Fazer the sponsor for your new book or something? Anyway, I bought their cocoa powder from Selver today. It's pretty good. Nothing really exceptional. But the package... I mean what the hell, who designed that and why doesn't it have an instruction on how to open it. I spent like 5 minutes on it and then just tore it open and punched a hole into the inner package.

Kristopher ütles ...

North American persimmons will pucker you up if unripe, but I've never encountered that with the Eastern ones on sale in Eesti. They can even be crisp and still not be astringent. We prefer them soft, though, so we can scoop out the insides with a spoon.

Sharon ütles ...

I'm sorry, did you just call celery an exotic vegetable?

Miks ütles ...

Yesterday when I started my car it told me: "Very low temperature. Anti-skid temporarily disabled." Kind of defeats the object of having it at all, I would have thought.

My car is literally a fair weather friend.

Sam ütles ...

Celery stalks are kind of uncommon here.

Celery to most people here means celery root or ground celery seeds.

Doris ütles ...

you forgot the celery leaves ;) to go as garnish on potato salad...

Hurmaa... I never did get why so many people like it - it tends to make me nauseous. half a fruit and there I go, sitting very very still and looking into the distance trying not to embarrass myself. Pomegranates - not THOSE are yummy!

Pierce Bacchus ütles ...

Seafood that isn't herring or shrimp would be nice. I'd love some king crab legs, lobster tail or sea scallops. If anyone ever sees those let me know! A proper ribeye steak would be a perk.

I'm on holiday and just ate all those things this week and I wish I could fill my suitcases with it all and bring it back to my nordic paradise.

Inita ütles ...

Pierce, I appreciate your refined sense of humour.

Inita ütles ...

Paradise.

Or am I reading too much into it?

Rainer ütles ...

Coming back to Fazer Cacao - i don't know about Tartu, but in Tallinn's Prismas it's on sale now, so it's time to hoard.

Andres ütles ...

I got it from Järve Selver.

Lingüista ütles ...

I actually like hurmaa; it's the pomegranates I can't stomach. (My wife loves them though. Ah, the things we put up with for love.)

Helen ütles ...

Justin: I just bought Fazer Cacao from the new Rimi at Lõunakeskus. There were like 6 varieties from different companies. Go take a look.

And I love hurmaa, too. Should go and buy some. I always forget.

Pene ütles ...

According to my computerized Est-Eng dictionary diospüür=persimmon. So why not use the Estonian word. I'd prefer a pomegranate to a persimmon any day.
I have a theory that if Aardla (the wholesale supply store) doesn't have an essential item (eg pizza sauce) then the supermarkets get raided until the supply is replenished.

Rainer ütles ...

Diospüür sounds like a Greek mythical figure or a name for some horrible debilitating disease.

Fully Estonian word for hurmaa is KAKIPLOOM, but that's just too icky to utter ("poo plum").

tartuense ütles ...

I was also really intrigued by the hurmaad in the beginning. And then read up on them and discovered that back home we have a different variety of these large berries, but our's is black (yes, pitch black!) on the inside and green on the outside. We mash the innards of the fruit and mix it with jugo de naranja (apelsini mahl) and it's delicious. Looks weird all black, and makes your mouth black too, but it's a great flavour. They're eaten ripe and sweet though.
Granaatõunad (yes, 'granade apples' for pomegranates) are also great. Only we call them granadas. Funny how in my Estonian family, I guess since I'm also exotic, I always get to cut open the exotic fruit like pomegranates, pineapples and cactus fruit, though my wife slices up the mangoes better than I do.

Inga ütles ...

You got to be kidding me, persimmons are the tastiest fruit ever!!! I want a tree in the back yard like our multiple neighbors do. These days we are depending on the kindness of strangers (read: neighbors) when obtaining this fruit. Funny enough, local markets (even ethnic ones) don't seem to have it. Bummer!
Let me know if you want some recipes of yummy persimmon cookies or persimmon pudding! Just mushed up pulp is great for using instead of jelly on your toast - it's so sweet, it jellies naturally, no need to add any sugar.