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A Cloudberry Love Story

Many years ago, some friends of ours who travelled frequently to Scandinavia brought back a delicacy and invited us to share it with them. It was a liqueur made from a fruit we'd never heard of, but that was common in those Northern latitudes, called "cloudberries". We were told stories of neighbor fighting neighbor in the far North over whose berry bushes were whose, and whether or not someone had been taking cloudberries to which they were not entitled. These berries, it was said, were so wonderful, that neither they nor any product made from them was ever exported.

It all sounded a bit unlikely, but then we tasted the liqueur, called "lakka", the Finnish name for the berry. Served ice-cold, it's a marvel on the tongue, sweet like most liqueurs, but also just a bit tart, with lovely strong fruit flavor. We immediately decided that, somehow, we had to get ourselves some of this stuff. But how, without flying halfway around the world?

In those ancient, musty, and primitive days, well before the invention of the web, when one spoke about "the Net", it meant the newsgroups, now almost forgotten bulletin boards on nearly every topic imaginable, with contributions from people all over the (connected) globe. Like most other techies, I read many of these groups regularly, and this gave me an idea about how to attack "the cloudberry problem".

I started watching closely the email addresses of newsgroup contributors, looking for one ending in ".fi", indicating Finland. There were more Finns connected in those days than any other European group other than the British, so it didn't take long to find a posting, in English, from some Finnish fellow. I wrote him a message directly, noting that he didn't know me, but explaining our recent cloudberry experiences and desires. Could he, I asked, receive some money from us, buy some cloudberry liqueur with it, and then mail it to us? Ah, said he, how wonderful! A foreigner with an appreciation of fine Finnish liqueur! But, he was sad to report, it's illegal to send spirits through the mail in Finland. So sorry. But then, he went on to ask, where in the United States did I live? Because he was planning a business trip in another month or so, to a town called Foster City, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Was I near there, by chance?

What luck! At the time, of course, we lived only ten miles or so from Foster City. Sure enough, a month and a half later, I met him in his hotel room there and received three bottles of genuine Finnish cloudberry liqueur, all of different brands, so that we could taste them all in comparison. And to top this marvelous bounty, he refused my payment for the same, saying it was his pleasure to unite an aficionado with some of the best goods that Finland had to offer.

Well, that was about 15 years ago, so naturally we long ago exhausted our supply of Finnish nectar. While in Helsinki a week and a half ago, of course, we replenished our supply; this time, we have four bottles of different brands and we look forward to many pleasant tastings in the years to come.


I also look forward to those pleasant tastings! :-)