Chocolate I haven’t been eating for some time. And I really don’t miss it.
Castles are just an occasional treat – well, I do love a good ruin.
And though I rarely have cake, the mere sight of a good one makes me pine. Still, I can resist.
But as for Moomins – who can resist a Moomin?
If you don’t know the Moomins (why not?) but do like chocolate, read on, there’s an introductory treat in store 😉
My first encounter with Moomintroll, his assorted friends and relatives – as well as some terrors – was as a small child.
My parents read Tove Jansson’s Finn Family Moomintroll to me at bedtime.
Oh, how I longed to see the King’s Ruby gleaming in the dark. And thanks to Ms Jansson’s evocative black-and-white pictures, I could easily imagine it.
I still have my well-thumbed and precious Puffin paperback.
My favourite character is the magical-black-top-hatted Hobgoblin.
Although Thingumy and Bob, who communicate in a lange stranguage, are also cholly jaracters.
The Hobgoblin appears at first to be BAD, but turns out just to be SAD.
And really rather nice inside when Bingumy and Thob are kind to him.
Isn’t that so often the way? Bad people are just sad people in disguise?
Anyway. Being in Sweden, which is nearer to Finland than England is, Moominalia is available to buy.
It was on my last trip, as I walked through the shopping area, that I first came across the sweet shop. Great, glittering, heaps of cellophane-wrapped nougat – one of my favourite confections – lay, siren-like in the window.
But bravely I marched past – and found a toyshop. Wherein – oh joy – were not just toys, but plates, cups, bowls and other such Moominaceous stuff.
I bought a plastic plate. And felt a bit selfish. It wasn’t cheap. Nothing in Sweden is, especially since our Brexit decision.
But this time, as the Prof and I together wandered the after-dark streets, the sweet shop window had a special surprise for me. Moomin’s friend the Snorkmaiden and Little My, in chocolate.
Now, Little My isn’t a character I know well. She didn’t feature in Finn Family. But how can you fail to love her? Here’s her tiny biography, from the genuine Moomin website:
We tore ourselves away from the chocolate and made it to the sleeping toyshop, which had a wonderful display in each window. One featuring a rather lovely fox, the other a whole Moomin world.
Which would have to wait for another day. Because even for humans, it was time to make ready for bedtime – and first, to eat.
We pounded the streets for quite some time after that, searching for a place to dine. And finally found an old Italian restaurant with old-style Italian food.
At Swedish prices.
The night was quiet in our tiny room and the breakfast options brimming with choice. Though I never did make my own waffle, as I intended, so enticed was I by the smoked salmon and mustard sauce.
For the next two days we walked, took buses, experiencing people, places and things.
The second night’s meal was the punctuation lobster – followed by the less poetic but delicious Arctic Char. Which reminded me of the train timetable in Uppsala, which offers trains to ‘the Arctic Circle’. Oh, how romantic that sounded.
But back to the Char.
Did you know (so the Prof told me over dinner) that there is Arctic Char in a lake in Snowdonia, Wales? It’s dying out, thanks to the increasing warmth of the water. A remnant, he said (I think) of ice age days…
Anyway. I love food. I really do.
So it’s no surprise that on day three, when we visited the Castle – where we had eaten a perfect lunch of soup and endless salad on our last trip – we treated ourselves to cake.
It was a dreary, drippy, Sunday. And, I must confess, not only did I succumb to cake, I had warm chocolate.
See, that warm is the odd thing.
It happened in Poland too.
We in England do hot chocolate. In Sweden and Poland they do warm (barely) chocolate.
In fact, the warm chocolate in Poland was exactly that – chocolate, warmed to a gloopy liquid state. At least in Sweden it was milky.
What’s that? The cake?
I’ve never eaten such a luscious cake.
Sweetly whipped cream.
Sugar paste. And all beautifully decorated, a dusty decorous pink.
Anyway. Shall I tell you what we bought in the Moomin shop?
Just a tiny tray. Made of birch wood, in Finland.
Sunshine yellow, to carry my morning cup of tea and cheer my start to the day.
But … then we made another find. In an academic bookshop.
Notebooks. Cards. Tins.
I restrained myself from even considering the bigger items – which were really expensive.
And, anyway, little things are just as good as big things. Sometimes better, as Little My would probably agree.
So now we have our Malawi tea in a Moomin tin.
And I have a precious card that one day someone might (hmm) receive.
And a Moominvalley notebook, for little notes.
But I swept up a Groke notebook at the last minute to remind me.
Even in Moomin world, sometimes bad things are – bad.
But cake – and even warm chocolate – can be relied on to make the world feel better.