Arctic Adventure (2)

February 5, 2009

Coffee Cheese

Coffee Cheese

Thursday, we got up at 8.30 am and drove south to the Jokkmokk Winter Market. Upon arrival, around noon, after putting on our snowpants and suiting up in the frigid ICA parking lot, my hands started to turn blue freeze off as I was zipping up my coat, we marched off to see the market festivities. With a firm schedule to keep, Ele and Suzanne immediately trotted towards the Museum to see a documentary film while Magnus and I headed to the beer tent. Once inside the warm tent – which was more like a massive teepee with picnic tables – we ordered a plate of steaming reindeer meat, cooked vegetables and a beer. Then, we huddled there for a couple of hours eating and drinking beer, safely removed from the freezing temperatures outside. For some reason Jokkmokk is markedly colder than Kiruna and Jukkasjärvi 200 kilometers to the north. I don’t know why. After lunch we tried to peruse the market stalls. Magnus bought some wool socks since our toes were completely numb after two minutes – but we soon gave up and went looking for another warm place to sit. We ended up at a bar. There seemed to be a number of people there – more than in the market itself. I ordered us Irish coffees since they claimed not to serve regular coffee. Trying to make it last as long as possible, we sipped our mugs of coffee – which were probably more whiskey than coffee. Eventually, the mixture of whiskey and caffeine had a strangely reinvigorating effect and we dared to brave the cold market once more. Outside, we noticed that the market wasn’t as big as we expected but a lot of the stalls were indistinguishable from one another – giving it the illusion of expanse since one tended to pass the same stalls again and again without realizing it. We also decided that there was no middle ground at this market. It was either expensive high quality wares or crap. For example, there were a number of stalls offering hunting knives with carved birch handles in leather sheaths, fur hats, fur-lined leather hats, leather mittens, reindeer pelts, recently-hunted game, and beaded jewelry. On the other hand, there was a lot of super tacky stuff you might find at any US street fair. Since it was too mind-numbingly cold to stand around and contemplate buying anything we stopped at an inviting birchwood fire pit surrounded by benches covered in reindeer pelts hosted by an older couple who were brewing coffee in a cast iron kettle served with Finnish coffee cheese. The old fellow saw us and shook snow off one of the pelts and invited us to sit down. While we warmed our blue toes on the fire they served us heaping cups of hot black coffee with cheese. Finnish coffee cheese seemed to be a phenomenon in Arctic and maybe in all of Finland too but I can only speak from experience in the Swedish Arctic. Anyway. Coffee cheese is a little bit like mozzarella but not as soft or moist. It has this rubbery quality. One is supposed to cut it into cubes and drop into a mug of black coffee. It quickly melts on the bottom of the mug and you scoop it out with a spoon and eat it. Slowly warming up, we watched people wandering past in different get-ups – people wearing eccentric Arctic-inspired costumes of fur and leather coats and hats and boots as well as those in state-of-the-art contemporary EMS gear…. By now it was getting close to our 5 pm meeting time so we wandered towards the ICA, stopping on the way at a cozy-looking café where Magnus got us some hot chocolate with whipped cream and a sprinkle of chili.

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