Since the producer of this blog has been away from Helsinki for some considerable time, it is hard to guess how much her observations reflect her obsessions and how much they really do say something about the world. But it certainly seems that “local food” and “organic” and “consumer choice” (in Finnish of course: lähiruoka, luomu, kuluttajavalinta) (hmm, the last one is almost untranslatable, but hey, tradittore traduttore, as they say, eh.) have suddenly erupted on the Finnish scene. Even the usual source has taken up the issue of megamarkets and retail monopolies.
Could it be that the efforts of the Megapolis team (on this blog at the end of last month) might have had something to do with this? More long-term efforts are known, though, not just in Helsinki (Hakaniemen Halli, Laivurin Valinta (above), Ruohonjuuri all go back several years) but in the countryside.
Our protagonists had the pleasure of discovering this in Heinola: Local food market Heila, the name a sweet but, again, impossible-to-translate word-play. Suffice to say it evokes images of nostalgic summer fun and all things wholesome and (re)productive.
Inside were impeccable toilet facilities, a decent self-service canteen and a sizeable food market where everything was sold as a special item, whether as locally and/or organically produced or in some other form particularly Good For You. Mr. Protagonist dared to question how, exactly, “local” in this context was being defined.
No matter. There was obvious interest in the produce since the place was heaving and, indeed, was able to offer several interesting delicacies. There was also a sign advertising a full day of matters organic this coming Saturday, October 17th.
The thing, perhaps, that somewhat tempered our protagonists’ enthusiasm was no doubt the wider setting. Not, in fact Heinola as a conurbation but a retail “park” off the motorway. In the picture above you may catch a glimpse of the now ubiquitous ABC Asemat, now one of Finland’s largest chains of service stations and, not coincidentally, a major player in the contemporary food retail sector! The photos that we took in all other directions differ not at all from the usual retail expanse now to be encountered everywhere in the wealthy world, and so we won’t bother with them.
However, there was an uncanny aspect to the whole experience. The very organicness of Heila was accentuated by recollections of the North America our protagonist knew in the 1980s and 1990s. That was an ever-expandable universe of countless shopping “villages” and other variously self-conscious architectural postmodernisms. And weirdly Heila’s design, the aesthetics of the place also had that eery quality of American nostalgia. What do you think? Or was it just the Rotary Club sign on the wall?