Sex, Drugs, and Public Health

October 22, 2013

Food: Estonian and Seto

Filed under: Uncategorized — cbmosher @ 5:00 am

Seto Food


The little village of Obinitsa is a cluster of small homes crowding both sides of the road so closely that traffic slows to ten kilometers an hour for that one and a half blocks.

The restaurant, “Seto Seltsimaja” would be easy to miss.  The sign is painted on wood, weather brutalized, and small.  But our Estonian driver had precise directions.

Cats – mother and several offspring, have territorialized the steps to the door.

The owner is a big, smiling man with several missing teeth.  The rest of his family are elbowing around each other in the kitchen.  From the picnic-style wooden table where he seats us, I can see directly into the kitchen.

From a small table decorated by lace, religious icons and a credit card swipe machine, he takes a tattered notebook and stands at our table, speaking Seto-flavored Estonian which I assume is a recitation of the menu.




We English speakers, our stomachs rumbling, decide to let the Estonians order lunch for us.  The food begins to roll in.

He brings a plateful of pickles. drizzled with honey.  The pickles are surprisingly – shockingly – good with their dripping honey.

To drink there is kali, a beer made from rye bread, but containing no alcohol.

Leib, the dark bread they are famous for, tastes like molasses.

Sai, the white bread, tastes of yeast.

Next is a fish soup with chunks of some species that swims in their lakes, swimming now with carrots.

Then comes another soup: Suuliim, a milk based cold soup with cucumber slices, tomato chunks and pickles.  It reminds me very strongly of the Russian Summer Soup I make with buttermilk and sauerkraut.



A big steaming pot with a beef shank swimming in hot juice, the meat slipping from the bone by sheer gravity.

We are stuffed, but he brings sõir, chunks of some unique cheese with three dipping sauces: sour cream with garlic, honey and berry jam.

As an additional dessert, I also order a pankoogid (pancake) with lingonberry jam.

We eat in the downstairs of his wooden home. Near our table is a large, rectangular cement structure which has a fire box built into it on one side. It is molded, on the other side, into a long bench.  In winter, he explains, the bench is warm due to the fire which heats the cement stove. Today, cats occupy the bench.

The kitchen has some surprising amenities including a hood over the stove.  But I watch the gray haired woman who directs a young boy as her assistant, prepare my pankoogid by stirring the batter in an old tin can.

It is a Medieval meal in an (almost) 20th century kitchen.






                                                Estonian  Food



         Pancakes with lingonberry jam

         Assorted cheeses

         Smoked fish



         Scrambled eggs (a.k.a. “porridge”)


         Salami, sliced

         Cold meat cuts


         Cottage cheese


















         Black currants


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