Have you been invited to a crayfish party? Lucky you! This is a very special Nordic tradition which started around the 1870’s as the upper class picked up this fashionable habit from Central Europe. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, crayfish were a sophisticated, seasonal food for the rich upper class only. Crayfish were exported all the way to St. Petersburg and sold there for a good price. Peasant crayfish pickers could earn one year’s income in a few months.
Still at present, crayfish are so valued that the crayfish party could be described as a celebration of this tasty crustacean. Crayfish is the honorary guest of the party, where human guests sing and drink to its honor.
The feast is of joyful and playful nature, because it is difficult to eat crayfish in a civilized manner – no matter how hard you try. The guests need to wear a funny bib protecting their clothes from getting dirty.
The crayfish are so valuable that usually the host has reserved a certain number of crayfish for each guest. It is quite typical to tell it to the guests so that everybody knows what their fair share is. Often the supper begins with a soup or salad, and only then the crayfish are served. The guest will join their host for a song to welcome the crayfish.
Good hosts have printed the lyrics of the songs so that everybody can join in. Don’t be a spoilsport! Sing along, no matter if you know the melody or not. You will see that the more you sing, the better you get. You may also get more drunk, because after each song you are expected to drink some schnapps.
Those who are experienced crayfish partiers, know that you don’t really have to drink bottoms up each time someone completes a round of singing and toasting. Instead it might be a good idea to pretend to drink. Just raise your glass and smile.
Eating crayfish is a bit demanding. Ask the person sitting next to you to show how to do it. It is OK to be a beginner! Take one or two crayfish on you plate. You are allowed to use your hands. First take off the head and suck the juice from it. Then remove the meat from the tail. You may also break the claws of the crayfish and dig the meat out of them. In this phase, the special crayfish knife may become useful. Spread some butter on the toast and place the meat on it. Sprinkle some dill on the toast and enjoy the taste. The plate full of water and lemon slices is for cleaning your hands. The empty shells can be discarded to a single plate reserved for it. Sometimes a main course is offered to fill everyone’s stomachs after the crayfish have run out.
To give you an idea of what this fun costs, here are current crayfish prices:
- European noble crayfish caught from Finland cost 4-5 euros each in supermarkets
- European crayfish cost 10-20 euros each in restaurants, imported crayfish and American signal crayfish caught from Finland are somewhat cheaper.
Enjoy the party!
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