Eesti Elu
TÄNAVALT (From the street)
Meelejahutus 02 Jun 2011  Eesti Elu
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Keemia is a subject you learned at school – chemistry. The science of matter and the changes it undergoes. Yet these days, if something in Eesti is spoken about as being keemia, it's not good, at least not where food is concerned. A child wanting a bright pink popsicle might be warned "Ära seda söö, see on puhas keemia" – "Don't eat that, it's "completely chemical" (in make-up), i.e. a product of the chemical industry.

It's actually a good thing that Estonians are weary of junk food and pre-fabricated foods of any kind for that matter. It has only been 20 years since they were first exposed to such foods (one of the few benefits of living in the Soviet Union). Ice cream (jäätis) was pure, rich dairy and I distinctly recall my surprise and joy upon reading an ice cream label that listed the only red colour enhancer as beet juice! Now all such food colouring (toiduvärvid), taste enhancers (maitsetugevdajad), thickening agents (paksendajad) and preservatives (säilitusained) are preceded with the letter E on labels (E 102, E 403).

It is proudly said that Eesti is an e-riik, an "e-state", famous for its e-(lectronic) solutions to everyday tasks. And ironically also very aware of lurking e-substances (e-ained). My friend, father to a young son, carries a list of the most dangerous E-s in his back pocket and consults it when shopping. As is the trend worldwide, eating local fresh food has always been a mainstay here.

The Keemia sign in the photo is actually a street sign. Not a very attractive name for a street, especially since it's in the Lilleküla ("flower village") neighbourhood of Tallinn, where most streets are named after flowers or birds. But the next streets over are Metalli and Mehaanika; must be an industrial enclave. The only other streets I might not want to live on in Tallinn (simply because there are so many romantic street names) are Petrooliumi, Nafta (petroleum, oil) and Bensiini (gasoline) streets surrounding the harbour. Good thing sirelid and birds can't read and thereby discriminate.
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