Pearl Gruel ‒ Helmiryynivelli

Free school lunches have shaped Finnish food culture since 1948. It tends to give whole generations equal experiences and helps especially the lifes of the poorest families. The cooks actually spend a lot of time planning the menus so for many kids this is the healthiest and most nutritionally sound meal they'll eat all day ‒ something that isn't always as self-evident as you'd like to think.

Every generation also seems to have strong favourites and anti favourites.School food is generally criticised as lacking of taste, in the same way as say, hospital food, but the environment of hurry and lack of aesthetics also gathers critique. Sometimes I've thought you could put together an interesting cook book just by collecting together most hated school foods from different times. I grew up during the depression of the 90's in the Finnish version of Bible Belt, Ostrobothnia, and was one of the only three vegetarian students, so I still have a hard time eating square-shaped dry bread, grated root vegetables or raw cabbage ‒ what an excellent salad projet for the next winter. (Then again, I loved pea soup and spinach pancakes.)

For the generation of my parents, pearl porridge and pearl soup were definitely among the most hard-to-swallow items. And can't blame them, I mean gosh, those things are slimy. They're just potato starch pressed together, something I imagine didn't exist before second world war.

I, on the other hand, came to like pearl soup since it was something my grandmom used to make. Come to think of it, it doesn't actually differ much from the macaroni soup my dad made, so if you have a hard time finding "pearls", try macaronis instead. It might prove difficult since I haven't heard they would be used anywhere else in the world (although this might help). This version gets a bit more taste from fennel seeds and that medieval treat, almond milk, which is usually sold lightly sweetened so I omitted sugar altogether though in my records this is definitely a dish on the more sweet side.

- 1 l almond milk (you can choose any milk you like, I just thought this would give a nice aroma)
- 1.5 dl potato starch pearls
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- 1 tbsp margarine
- salt
- sugar to serve

Heat up the milk. (Don't leave it alone as it might come out from the pot if it misses you.) When you start to see bubbles appearing, add the pearls and the fennel seeds. Let them cook for about 8 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and if you wish, a spoonful of margarine. Let the eaters decide if they want to sprinkle sugar on top.

Nutritional values / 1090 g:
energy 611 kcal
fat 22 g
protein 5 g
carbohydrates 306 g
fiber 16 g

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