Apron and Ink
Apron and Ink is a beautiful website that is the creation of Australian-born Susanna - a self confessed foodie! Susanna’s grandparents emigrated from Finland to Australia back in the late 70’s to start a new life on the other side of the world. Susanna has always felt strong connection to her Finnish background and she has stayed true to her roots with a passion for the outdoors and the Finnish culture and food.
Tell us a bit more about you!
In a nutshell, I hail from Finnish decent, but have grown up in Australia, where I have been raised by a wonderful family who encouraged and nurtured my creativity and love of words and food. If I can create, I am happy, and if that creativity is somehow connected with food, even better.
I live in Melbourne with my partner and young daughter. I love reading, writing and baking, obviously. I am also a huge nature lover and if I can be outdoors I will be. I feel most calm and myself when I am hiking in the forest, surrounded by tall trees and birdsong. I think this is very much connected to my Finnish roots, as Finns are a nature loving people and very connected to the outdoors.
From Finland to Australia - How did that journey happen?
My pappa (grandfather) was always looking for an adventure and, in 1978, he found one when he decided to journey across the world with his young family and move to Melbourne.
My grandparents emigrated to Australia in the winter of 1978. I’m quite sure they all expected sunshine and endless beaches, so it was a rude shock when they landed in the middle of winter and it was absolutely freezing. They hadn’t even packed any jackets, thinking they wouldn’t need them. They have learnt since then and have adapted to living in a new country. In some ways, they are still adapting, and so am I. I was born here, yet my first language is Finnish. Growing up, all our traditions were Finnish, as was our food and our customs. My family might have been living in an unfamiliar country, but their homelife, and mine, was very much rooted in familiar Finnish customs.
We have a country cottage in Finland still, and visit as often as we can. I love going back as it is where my mother and her family are from. I feel such a connection to the land and the place. Every time I step off the plane in Helsinki I feel I have come home. It’s a lovely and strange feeling all at once.
What do you miss most about Finland?
An obvious response would be food. And yes, I do miss that very much. The bread is so good and I love that I can buy pulla (Finnish sweet bread) and Karjalanpiirakka (Karelian pie) from the supermarket. Here in Australia I have to make it myself. Not that I mind. I enjoy baking it very much, but sometimes it would be nice to be able to purchase it when I am feeling too lazy to make it.
But the thing I miss the most is the greenery. The magical moss covered forests floors, the glassy lakes and the ability to walk in to the forest from my doorstep and be surrounded by beauty everywhere I look. I miss the serenity and the absolute sense of calm I feel when I am there. I also miss the variety of edible mushrooms that can be foraged from the forest floor surrounding the cottage. Just writing about it makes me want to book the next plane ticket available.
Tell us more about your website Apron and Ink!
Apron and Ink started as a way for me to share my passion for cooking when I was pregnant with my daughter. It was something I could pour my energy in to that was outside of motherhood and share a bit about my Finnish roots. It has grown since then and now it provides a peek into my life as I try to balance cooking, creativity and motherhood. It is still a place where I share my recipes, but it it also about the power of a few well strung words and the fulfilment of family, creativity and adventures in the wild. It has also led to work as a food stylist and photographer, which I really enjoy.
Fundamentally, it is a place where I can share all my creative endeavours, the latest of which is Söpösisu, an ethical Finnish inspired homewares & handcrafts store, that has been two years in the making. My sister, Heidi, and I have always wanted to start a business that would enable us to engage all our creativity to develop products that reflects our love of the Nordic aesthetic. We wanted a way to share a bit of our heritage and create products we would love to have in our home, that in turn other people would too. It’s lovely that we get to work together, and we’re very excited to see where it will lead.
How did your love of food start?
My passion for food is something that most definitely started very early on. Our house always smelled of cinnamon and freshly baked bread. Two staples of my childhood diet that are still going strong today.
Mum always provided good wholesome food. But we never ventured outside of traditional Finnish cooking and baking, and even though what mum cooked was delicious, I craved new flavours and textures, so I started cooking. My dad didn’t cook much, but when he did, it was always seafood or pancakes. These two things he cooked immensely well. And unlike my mum, he never used recipes. He just cooked from his noodle and it always turned out. Like dad, my mummo (grandma) on mums side would use a mix of recipes and cooking from “omasta päästä, which loosely translates as cooking from ones own head. In other words, she made up the recipes herself, and still does to this day, all of which are delicious, and not just for the copious amounts of cream and butter that goes into each dish. I am a bit like my dad and mummo in that I hardly ever use a recipe, and prefer to create as I go. I always have an idea of what I want to make, but I’m never really sure how it will turn out. But that’s part of the fun for me.
What is you absolute favourite food? do you incorporate both Finnish and Australian cuisine to your recipes?
Hands down, my favourite food is korvapuusti. Which is a soft, yet dense, delicious cinnamon sweet bread. I could eat it for breakfast (and often do), lunch and dinner. Oh, and dessert afterwards. I don’t, because this wouldn’t be very healthy, but I would if I could. I think the intoxicating combination of cinnamon and cardamom is something you just can’t beat. It is a firm favourite in Finland, and I live on it when I am there.
Much of my recipes are Finnish based, as they are all comforting and a bit rustic, much like Finnish food, which doesn’t really pretend to be anything other than what it is - seasonal and honest, and in my opinion, delicious. I try to cook much the same way in that I cook with what’s in season and try to keep the recipes simple, so that you can really appreciate the ingredients that are included. Having said that, I still incorporate flavours and spices, and get inspiration from other cultures. How could you not, when there are so many incredible cuisines out there?
How does your Nordic background inspire you today?
It inspires me probably more than I am aware. I know it inspires my cooking and the way that I decorate and think about life. It inspires my creativity and my general aesthetic. I live in Australia, but I think my heart is always in Finland. I am of the people there, and my language and philosophy regarding life and how it is best lived is largely Nordic. I like the ability Finnish people have to accept their lot, but still strive for better. Not necessarily because they think they deserve it, but because they can. I think Finns are very pragmatic, because they have been forced to be, but the way they find ways around pragmatism is very inspiring, and I find this impacts of my decision making in a lot of ways.