I was indeed blessed to start this year of our Lord with a great backlog of biscuits, a number of generous patrons having sent me new specimens over the last few weeks. Special mention must be made of the hand-iced ‘bee’ biscuit procured by my sister from an artisanal baker and some home-baked mint chocolate chip cookies courtesy of my friend Dana in the Golden State. Our biscuit today comes from even further North as a gift from my friend Gareth in Latvia. These Doris Tryffeli (Doris Truffles) hail from Finland and are popular there and in the surrounding countries of the Baltic region. Described by its manufacturer, Fazer, as ‘the classic biscuit at feasts’, Doris promises to ‘win your heart over with its soft truffle flavoured filling and delicious cocoa on the sides’, so it seemed a good choice to mark the Feast of St Valentine…
There’s no denying that little Doris is a bit of a show-stopper, from its decorative base of gently cocoa-flavoured biscuit to the exciting icing centre which somehow manages to appear perfectly set on the outside and perfectly gooey when you bite into it. The random speckling gives it a naturalistic look and the ornate chocolatey edging an elegance I can only describe as Rococoa. To be honest I’ve never seen or sampled a biscuit like it; the tartlet casing is reminiscent of a Chocolate Bourbon, but the filling could be straight out of a Mr Kipling’s Festive Bakewell.
Whether or not it has the capacity to win hearts, Doris has certainly won the admiration of the friends I’ve introduced it to so far and is a rather intriguing emissary from a country I know very little about. I know still less about Finland’s medieval history, but the way Finns mark this red letter day is rather wonderful: Ystävänpäivä, as they call it, means Friends’ Day in Finnish and is marked by celebrating one’s friends with little cards and gifts. Forget the Romantic Valentine’s Day or even Galentine’s Day, Ystävänpäivä is a feast for everyone who has ever been a friend to anyone, and how better to celebrate it than with a Doris?
But shouldn’t this be a feast for lovers, you say? Isn’t the whole concept of True Love medieval? Well, yes and no… Of course we have Master Chaucer to thank for the association of romantic pairing with this feast and many fine (and foolish) traditions associated with it, but Valentine’s Day itself was celebrated long before Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls in commemoration of a Roman martyr. An elusive figure historically, we don’t know much about Valentine except that he died helping others to live, which leads us back to Finland, biscuits and the sacred offices of friendship as, as Jesus himself put it, ‘Greater love hath no-one than that he lay down his life for his friends.’
Learn more about the different ways Valentine’s Day is celebrated across Scandinavia.
Despite his Roman origins, Valentine has some interesting links with medieval England and North Europe. Read more about the medieval Valentine’s Day – or mine some poetry to help you celebrate with your sweetheart – courtesy of the Clerk of Oxford.
Bored with all this talk of courtly love? Read Master Aristotle on friendship.
Feast your friends in the manner of Bodleian Library MS Bodley 264:
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