Posted on August 30, 2022

The Culinary Traditions of Mainland Europe’s Only Indigenous People

Joe Baur, Salon, August 28, 2022

The road into Huuva Hideaway narrows the closer you get to Liehittäjä — a village just south of the Arctic Circle populated almost exclusively by 22 relatives of the Huuva family. Liehittäjä is deep into Sápmi country — the cultural home of what many consider to be mainland Europe’s only indigenous people, the Sámi. Tragically, the narrative of modern Sámi history mirrors that of other indigenous peoples in the Americas and Oceania.

Although never the victims of a physical genocide, many Sámi do consider themselves the victims of a cultural genocide perpetrated by the nation states they suddenly found their homes in — namely Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Similar to indigenous peoples in the United States and Canada, Sámi were forcibly sent to boarding schools and discouraged from speaking their language or practicing their religion. Racial scientists would force Sámi children to undress for photographs and measure different parts of their body for “research.” Historically nomadic, many Sámi were also forced to quit reindeer herding and live in permanent settlements.

Today, there’s a resurging interest in traditional Sámi culture led by the descendants of those who were forced to bury their roots and heritage. They’re people like Henry Huuva, the son of a Sámi man whose lineage in the region stretches back generations, and his children who are rekindling their connection to their roots in their own way. There’s Erica, the silversmith herding reindeer with her husband in the northern mountains as her Sámi ancestors would have, Christian and Ramona, who’ve both studied the Sámi language in university, and the youngest, Maja, who recently completed schooling in a Sámi handicrafts program in Jokkmokk three hours west. (You speak in time, not distances here.)

Although the Huuva family could very easily keep to themselves in their remote corner of Sápmi, they’ve instead decided to open their doors and welcome travelers in to learn more about their culture — above all, Sámi cuisine.

Imagine sipping on a refreshing cocktail made of ingredients pulled right from the surrounding forest, which doubles as a pantry. Flames burst from the nearby grill as the suovas (smoked reindeer meat) hit the rack. All the while, the husband and wife duo of Henry and Pia Huuva are telling stories, sharing their home and food with visitors like me. Tucked deep into the pine and spruce forests of Sápmi, it’s easy to get swept up in the fairytale ambiance of their aptly named Huuva Hideaway.

The husband and wife duo first launched Huuva Hideaway in 2010 with the goal of sharing Sámi hospitality, culture, food, and storytelling. Following the pandemic, they came back with “Huuva Hideaway 2.1” to welcome guests from Dubai to India into one of their two guest homes.

The property includes a space where they host their outdoor dinners: here’s a lavvu, a Sámi tipi or tent traditionally made of reindeer hides and wooden poles similar in design to their Native American cousins, and a long picnic table next to a modest, rustic pavilion with a grill. At the head of it all, where the grass grows into a forest mixed with pines, spruces, and birch, is a small bar with a “Huuva Hideaway” sign hanging above.