Coffee and cakes from the past
The Helsinki City Museum historical café is here again! This year, the pastries, cakes and biscuits served in the café have been chosen from the cookbooks of Anna Olsoni, the founder of home economics teaching in Finland. Café Olsoni is located in the oldest building in downtown Helsinki, Sederholm House.
Have coffee in the style of your grand-grandmother and try the delicious Lübeck Coffee Cake or Mam’s Spiced Cake, or even the politically charged Fennoman biscuit. In Café Olsoni you can also listen to live music from the turn of the 20th century or visit the exhibition Women’s Rooms – Lives and Actions.
Sederholm House, Aleksanterinkatu 18
4th–12th June 2011
Having Coffee with Anna Olsoni
Drinking coffee became a daily custom in Finland during the 1800s, also among the common people. Serving wheat buns and sugar became more common as the standard of living improved toward the end of the century. The higher classes expected a wide selection of treats to complement their coffee sessions, and the bun was introduced to common people as well. Whilst home-made pastries were held in high regard, confectioners' delicacies were mainly reserved to the wealthy city residents.
Anna Olsoni's first cookery book from 1892 taught people to prepare everyday, healthy and affordable food and offered only a few recipes for pastries. The sequel, published in 1901, included a wealth of recipes for cakes and biscuits previously enjoyed only by the gentlefolk. With her second book, Anna Olsoni uncovered the secrets of fine coffee treats to the masses, making them a part of the traditional Finnish coffee drinking customs.
Olsoni adjusted her recipes to contemporary preferences and the conditions in Finland. The use of spices was gentle, as excessive seasoning was seen as unhealthy. Fruits and berries were used mainly for jams, as the Finnish season for fresh ingredients was quite short.
Olsoni’s recipes combine the old with the new. The concise recipes make use of accurate measurements and apply the recently adopted metric system. Nevertheless, old traditions show here and there. Old measurements and methods are still visible in the more traditional recipes. The ingredients may surprise today, as eggs used to be smaller and some spices and leavening agents were different, for example. Due to the wood stoves used in Olsoni’s time, the stated cooking temperatures and times are vague at best. Today’s bakers will have to scratch their heads for a while before they can prepare treats à la Anna Olsoni!
Anna Olsoni-Quist (1864–1943)
Founder of Home Economics instruction in Finland
In the 19th century, family and home came to be regarded as the core of society, on which rested the flourishing of the entire nation. Women's work as home keepers developed into an honourable mission requiring skills and knowledge, and household management was raised to a new level, assisted by science. In Great Britain and US, chemistry-based home economics was developed and began to be taught in schools.
In 1890, The Association of Women in Finland sent Anna Olsoni, a daughter of a vicar and well-versed in home keeping, to study home economics instruction in Stockholm, London and Edinburgh, and to pursue a degree in home economics teaching in Glasgow. Upon her return in 1891, the Helsinki Pedagogical School of Cooking was founded and she was appointed director.
In 1892, Olsoni wrote the first textbook for home economics in Finland. The comprehensive book covered the basics of chemistry, nutrition, handling foodstuffs, cleaning, and clothes maintenance. Olsoni presented in precise modern measurements recipes for basic dishes, emphasizing healthiness as well as saving time and money. In 1901 Olsoni published a sequel, which also included recipes for more sophisticated dishes. Both cookbooks remained popular for years.
When she married in 1894, Anna Olsoni left her position and moved to Vyborg. The mother of seven taught home economics and worked as the first food reporter in Finland. She was also active in the Martha movement, in the Soldiers’ Home Organisation, and in the political party Young Finns. Olsoni represented the party as the first woman on the city council of Vyborg from 1920 to 1928.
In Café Olsoni, young musicians from the Degree Programme in Music at the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and the Sibelius Academy will perform chamber music that was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Concerts daily at 12 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Coffee in Women’s Rooms
A coffee break at Café Olsoni can be combined with a visit in the centennial exhibition of the National Council of Women of Finland. “Women's Rooms – Lives and Actions” presents Finnish women’s organisations and a century of their hard work for equality, a room of their own and a rightful place in the society. Many bold and innovative Finnish women and their accomplishments are presented in the Sederholm House, built in 1757, which is the oldest building in downtown Helsinki.