Homecoming and Home Cooking
Marika’s experiences with her farm and with writing speak vividly to two issues addressed in an earlier lecture in the Tartu College series, analyzing recent texts as voices on the theme “Back to Estonia”: the disappearing countryside, emptying of people and their skills for living on the land, and the erosion of the critical mind that normally accompanies writing (vs. prefab power point, texting, etc.).
Trained in Berlin as a visual artist and in New York as a performing artist, yoga instructor, and holistic health coach, Marika returned to her country of birth in 1995 to buy a traditional farm complex in the village of Rame near Virtsu, Läänemaa. As a child she had loved to hang out in open-air museums that featured old farm buildings. “I love the interconnectedness of their design and the way they function with the nature, climate and culture that surround them”, she writes in her book. She is proud that the traditional art form of building thatched roofs reemerged at her Polli Talu (Polli Farm), as two apprentices were taught by a master from Virtsu to restore first her roofs, many roofs at neighbouring farms, and then roofs of rural architecture as far away as Sweden and England. “Polli Talu is a place where seeds begin to sprout.”
Polli Talu Arts Centre, where Marika hosts arts groups and wellness retreats, became a training ground for the home cooking recipes she shares in her beautifully designed and lavishly illustrated book, alongside her comprehensive, step-by-step narrative guide to nutrition. Produce comes from its own garden, neighbouring farms, and the farmers’ market in Pärnu. After a decade of treating visitors to healthful and delicious food, Marika formalized her culinary skills by completing a program of study at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, a life-changing experience. Audiences at her lectures in Toronto were impressed by the logic of her ABC’s of whole food, and by the promise of carefully restoring balance to the meals and lives of individuals, families, and communities. “Today we need to differentiate between whole and processed foods as a matter of survival”, critically and creatively.
“Sweet Talk”, “The Psychology of Metabolism”, and “Whole Foods Create a Whole Body”: these were the titles of Marika’s minilectures at Estonian House, St. Peter’s Church, and Eesti Kodu, each in its way demonstrating the principle of balance in what we eat, how we eat, and the true meaning of whole foods and their conscious enjoyment. A Yin and Yang Balance Chart applied the Eastern concept of viewing life in terms of pairs of opposities to foods: some make us feel light and uplifted, others grounded and assertive. Concretely, it is easy to see how Tammsaare, for example, whose daily visits to the farmers’ market in Tallinn are legendary, could stabilize his food needs by venturing with few exceptions no farther away from the middle than temperate climate fruits and nuts on the yin side and fish on the yang side. By his own account, wrote Leonid Trett, Tammsaare did not eat meat and subsisted on milk and porridge, the latter possibly referring simply to old-fashioned peasant food. Avoiding swings from one extreme to the other, and with respect for the health and economy of regions, one could choose widely and well, then and now, from ‘yin’ leafy greens, seeds, root vegetables, winter squashes, pumpkins, legumes, and sea weeds, as well as ‘yang’ intact whole grains. Those who attended the Tartu College lecture, cooking demo, and VEMU dinner are no doubt grateful to learn that our knowledge need not be encyclopedic, ingredients too rare or too numerous to find and store, preparation time too onerous, or techniques too complicated, nor the results of our healthy diet and high quality lifestyle too unlike what we recognize with pleasure as home cooked!
The author has enjoyed whole and raw food courses in Toronto and Montreal. She maintains a yoga practice, and is a beneficiary of Chinese medicine, massage, and martial arts.