I would tell you that the best thing I ate in 2014 was a piece of blueberry pie, but then you would picture a buttery, flaky crust and juicy, sweet filling packed with tender blueberries and that would be incorrect. In fact, I don’t even know if my best bite was blueberry pie. It may have been bilberry pie. I didn’t ask.
During my trip through Scandinavia in June, I made it a point to sample all sorts of delicious foods that I’d never seen before and doubted I’d ever see again. I tried reindeer, salt cod and Norwegian waffles. I tried rye nachos, viili and nøkkleost. But my favorite was a thick slab yeasted dough topped with delightfully gummy fruit from Vanha Kauppahalli in Helsinki. Sold in rectangular slices large enough to feed a small army, it more closely resembled Italian pizza al taglio than all-American blueberry pie. The pale dough was yeasted, yet remained dense and pleasantly chewy with the faintest whiff of sweet cardamom. There was little textural difference between the crust and the topping, which was spread on thick with a jelly-like chew. Unlike blueberry pie, which can quickly become cloying, the filling was nearly sour. You could eat it with a fork and knife, but it tasted better when you surrendered, cut off a small piece and ate it with your hands, revelling in the messiness and blue tongue that followed.
I’ve tried to search for this pie and recreate it with no luck. I’ve thought about it obsessively, figuring out what the x-factor was that made it my most memorable bite of 2014. Was it the not-pastry pastry that was chewy more than crispy? Was the distinct lack of sweetness, which favoured more nuanced spices and sourness? Or could it have been the addictively chewy-wet filling that was like nothing I had ever had before, yet completely familiar? I’m not sure. Perhaps next year, after pondering these questions for a few more hours and consuming a few more kilos homemade pie in attempt to find a substitute, I’ll have my answer. Until then, I’ll remember my Finnish blueberry pie as the best thing I ate in 2014.