This article examines the development of Finnish food taste during the nineteenth century when the process of canning, railroads, and steamships started breaking down the role of the environment as the principal factor in determining food habits. Food was one of the symbols that the Finnish national identity was built on before independence in 1917. The research is mostly based on the National Library's Digital Collections, which contain newspapers and magazines published in Finland before the 1920s. “National dishes” were mentioned in Finnish newspapers from the beginning of the 1880s. Highlighting the traditional Finnish foods attracted support, and newspapers tried, for example, to give talkkuna an authentic national significance. Finnish authorities were building a nation-state in the spirit of nationalism, yet the national food identity relied heavily on imported goods. Certain elements of Finnish food preferences date back to manufactured foods that came from other parts of Europe. Influences adopted from Switzerland were reflected in the popularity of Emmental cheese. By the beginning of the twentieth century, certain imported foods had become a part of the national food identity: coffee was considered the national beverage and rice and herring as supremely Finnish foods even though none of these goods were produced in Finland. Foods based on imported raw materials was marketed by emphasizing their “domestic origin” and Finnish brand in the early 1900s. Emmental was, for example, sometimes advertised as “Finnish ‘Swiss’ cheese.”

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