Rye. Wow. I would say the nation of Finland was built on rye (oh, and potatoes and dairy… but that’s for another post another time). There are so many rye products in the shops here, it puts any “health lifestyle” shop in Cape Town to shame.
And, it is no wonder, rye fills you and keeps the hunger pangs faaaaaaaar away. In the epic Finnish historical novel, “Under the Northern Star” by Väinö Linna, I read about Juusi. He is a poor tenant farmer who works very hard to clear a swamp for his farm. At lunch time he, “took his birch-bark napsack from a spruce branch and began to eat…there was black rye aplenty, and he ate it unsparingly. Not because he undervalued it, but because he knew without it, rocks would not rise from the ditch” (p8). That’s the power of rye, folks… rock-lifting rye power.
In Cape Town I am used to eating rye only at fancy dos: when the rye bread is a delicate lightly toasted slice spread with copious amounts of cream cheese and a microscopic piece of smoked salmon. So, eating rye was quite a rare occurrence. Even in the fancy bakeries where you can get rye sandwiches, they are definitely more topping than rye.
In Finland, it is quite another matter. The sliced ryes are the same thickness as “normal” bread slices and and the rye rolls that I eat are probably altogether three times as thick as a “normal” bread slice. Rye bread is a dense, dark bread that will get you through a long bike ride on a subzero day. It’s the kind of bread you would take with you on any epic adventure and the kind of bread students live on.
I’m sure it has many well documented health benefits but I would say that the major benefits for students are that it fills you up and it seems to never go stale (and if sometimes, maybe, you really have left it out for too long, just warm it up and it’s good to go).
When I started eating rye bread regularly it left like my stomach was doing pilates on the inside. Other than biltong (South African meat jerky) I would say my stomach has never had to get fitter to digest food until it met Finnish rye bread. But, to be honest, I am now a fan and will definitely miss it when I go home. Maybe I’ll see if someone wants to teach me how to bake it…