This is the time of year when the minds of the very young turn to Santa Claus. Cookies and milk appear near the fireplace. Mall Santas experience full employment. And “The Night Before Christmas” gets recited ad nauseam. Eventually somebody breaks the news that there is no Santa Claus, but as long as the gifts keep coming, everybody’s happy except those who pay the credit card bills.
Early on in this blog, I was challenged about whether I had ever travelled outside of the U.S. Part of my problem in life is that I have spent too much time there for my own good as an American, although others have spent far more. I learned too much to be impressed by the boomer pseudosophisticates that overpopulate our country, so they cause me misery.
One of those places was Finland, which I had the thrill of visiting in January. In addition to flying to Helsinki, I had to take an internal flight north to Kuopio. We took off in a blinding snowstorm; they deiced the wings at least twice and even the Finns were getting nervous. (If you want to see a taste of the weather I experienced, take a look at a video I made while I was there).
I arrived there to find my luggage was following me at a distance. Replacing clothing in Finland was dreadfully expensive; my business host told the airline that I passed out when I saw the prices there in an attempt to get them to pay for the replacement clothing. (They did reimburse me.)
In the middle of all of this excitement, my host took me to a restaurant where I found out something that I never found out listening to Ray Conniff Christmas albums.
Rudolph is tasty. So are Dancer and Prancer and Comet and Vixen…
Yes, boys and girls, the Finns (and anyone else in Europe who orders the stuff) eat reindeer. It started with the Lapps, those hardy people who live above the Arctic Circle, and spread southward. Reindeer are raised for the express purpose of being eaten, just like cattle and sheep.
And the meat? It’s excellent, very lean, does not have the strong taste of venison, and contains nutrients absent in other meats. The Finns think highly of the stuff, which is one reason why it’s expensive even by Finnish standards. I agree, it’s excellent meat.
As a Christian, the whole Santa Claus thing smacks of deception. But eating reindeer puts the whole legend in a new light. For example, Finnair advertises itself as Santa Claus’ airline. This is more than a cute idea; since the Finns have devoured the reindeer, Santa doesn’t have a lot of choice. Besides, it’s a lot faster.
Getting this delicacy into most of the U.S. has been problematic. The Alaskans would love for the FDA to approve its distribution for interstate commerce, since the caribou is basically the same thing. Legalising this would help the native Alaskans, which is surely the equitable thing to do. (Opening up ANWR would do the same thing, but racial justice isn’t as high on the liberals’ list as they would like for you to think.) Unfortunately the caribou is considered an exotic animal, so for the time being dining on it is restricted to Alaska itself.
Chances are, getting this changed is probably an uphill battle in the land of the free and the home of the Braves. The whole business of Santa and his reindeer is too sentimental for people to think of the idea of children eating the reindeer before they have a chance to consider the possibility that they fly. We are a strange people; one minute we bawl about religious fundamentalists believing the things they do, the next we deny ourselves the pleasure of eating Santa’s prime movers.
But so it is. This Christmas, with visions of reindeer meat coming off of the grill, I will have to content myself with turkey while hoping that someday my countrymen will know the truth and the truth will set them free–and not just about reindeer meat.