Catalyst Cooks

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The Desperate Search for Viili September 10, 2010

Yes, I am a nut case!

I’ve been making yogurt, and making mistakes making yogurt.

Not only does Neighbor Dave wave off my science experiments of late with a smile, but sometimes he actually has a great idea.

Like the idea he mentioned in mid August when I started the crazy yogurt making experiment.

He had a memory of homemade yogurt at the home of his Finnish grandma, his dad’s mom, who lived in Mass City in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

His memories of hanging out at his grandma’s are not many, since she passed when he was still a little boy.

But he does remember her speaking to him in exclusively Finnish.  And he remembers that Finnish yogurt, Viili (pronounced Filia- FEE lee uh).

So at that moment I began a quest.  To find the elusive Viili.

I researched.  According to Wiki, Viili is a “ropy, gelatinous yogurt with a sour taste” that originates from Nordic countries.  You can find websites that sell the starter and will ship it to you for $10 plus shipping.  Or, if you go to the (un)official website of the U.P. and search on Viili, in 2005 someone suggested just asking around in a Finnish community in the U.P.

We visited Dave’s parents earlier this week and I decided to try the latter.  Dave had mentioned to his mom that I was in search of a Viili starter, but she confirmed that she hadn’t had any luck finding one.  This was accompanied with a very sour face at the thought of Viili, which she likened to “a string cheese in liquid form” or “maybe like snot”.

I still wanted it.

And resorted to find it, via the infamous JAN TUCKER SHOW on wUPy 101.1 fm Ontonagon Michigan, which my inlaws prefer to listen to on the AM dial- maybe it’s the authentic crackle that gets ’em.  Anyway, Jan’s show is a pretty cool slice of Yooper life.  They talk weather, local sports (high school volleyball and football are hot topics right now), cooking, and she operates the non-computer-savvy person’s version of Craigslist directly from her program.  I figured somebody in her listening audience must have a Viili starter that Dave and I could pick up on our way back to the Twin Cities!

To set the scene: Dave was sleeping, and Joan and Rollie and I were in the living room.  Dave’s dad was in his chair, elevating his feet with his walkman- two earbuds!  and Joan and I were listening to the AM dial. 

I called.

Jan, mid-sentence, answered the phone and put me on the air so quickly I had to run to the back room to talk with her.  I said I was Jen Antila – she said, “Joan’s daughter in law?” Yes, and I’m looking for Viili.  I gave my number.  I ran out of breath and said goodbye.  I had been on the phone with the infamous Jan Tucker, whom I’d been hearing about since my inception into the U.P. family!

When I got back to the living room, Rollie ripped off his earbuds and said, “I heard you on the radio!”  Cute.

I stared at my phone.  Would it ring?  Would there be a Viili hookup?

Within 20 minutes my answer had come.  Viili! Ontonagon! 12:30!  Phone Company!  Sweet miss Connie!

Dave and I hit the road and enjoyed lunch at Syl’s cafe.  Then, at half past noon, our rendez vous.  We went to pick up the Viili.

It looks like yogurt.

next:  the making of the Viili- is it really like snot?  to be continued…

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3 Responses to “The Desperate Search for Viili”

  1. Katie Says:

    …the suspense is KILLING me…..really, it is! I love eating things that have a repugnant quality to them…I miss you, but have enjoyed peeking in on your life via Jen the Catalyst.

    Love, Katie

  2. […] read about my adventures getting a Viili starter earlier this month… so how did that turn out, […]


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