Lapps (Encyclopedia of Food & Culture)
LAPPS. The Sami (Lapps) are a native minority of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula in Russia. Their territory was once much larger than it is today, especially in Finland. The Sami land is not homogeneous, but is divided into different ecological zones ranging from the coast of the Arctic Sea via the high mountains of Scandinavia to the northern forests. From a historical perspective, this territory supports various types of economies, with a focus on reindeer breeding, reindeer hunting, hunting combined with fishing in the sea and in lakes (in some regions combined with small farms), or pursuit of sea mammals. It is also important to connect the economy to different types of consumption with the emphasis on reindeer meat or milk, game and fish, and seal. Vegetables, berries such as cloudberries, bilberries, and lingonberries, and (infrequently) bread can also be seen as complements. Mercantile goods like flour, coffee, liquor, and horse meat, complete the picture.
The transition from hunters and fishers to reindeer herders began at different times in different parts of the widespread Sami territory. For example, the Sami practice of reindeer hunting combined with a nomadic lifestyle has existed in Sweden ever since the end of the Middle Ages.
The reindeer has long been the comprehensive symbol of Sami food culture, and today reindeer meat is exploited by restaurant culture of the Nordic countries, outside of the Sami territory. There one can find it on menus as roast reindeer (for example, under the name of suovas) or as small pieces of meat in a sauce with mashed potatoes and lingonberry (renskav).
Formerly the Sami used almost every part of the reindeer as food, including viscera, minced and cooked udder, hooves, and the brain (as an ingredient in bread). Reindeer cheese was once considered a delicacy, even as a commercial product, as were the tongue and heart. Reindeer milk could also be mixed with angelica and sorrel.
Samis traditionally boiled meat and fish. Dried fish (salmon and pike) were a replacement for bread and were also a trade commodity. In the nomadic society there was no oven in the Sami tenthe infrequently consumed bread was made of purchased barley (and later, wheat) on the hot hearth.
Breakfast was not a traditional Sami meal. In the nineteenth century it became a coffee meal or snack. Boiling meat and fish at noon and in the evening was the most common kind of traditional cooking. The principal meal was served in the evening. Traditionally, cooking in Sami culture was a male duty.
After the slaughtering of reindeer, a symbolic meal was traditionally served. This renkok (formerly and especially in gastronomic literature referred to as lappkok) consisted of marrowbone, liver, tongue, or heart boiled in a fat gravy. One can find such a meal at restaurants, especially in Lapland. Also, until the twentieth century, the Sami served a feast with boiled meat and a fat gravy after a successful bear hunt.
The money market has brought Western foodstuffs to the Sami food culturet first as status food but gradually more and more as basic foodut at the same time, reindeer meat has retained its strong symbolic value for Sami identity.
See also Canada: Native Peoples; Inuit; Mammals, Sea; Nordic Countries; Russia; Siberia.
Bosi, Roberto. The Lapps. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1976.
Fjellström, Phebe. Samernas samhälle i tradition och nutid [Lappish society in tradition and the present day]. Stockholm: P. A. Norstedt & Söners Bokförlag, 1985.
Ruong, Israel. "Sami Usage and Customs." The Sami National Minority in Sweden, edited by Birgitta Jahreskog. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International in collaboration with Humanities Press, Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 1982.
Vorren, nuly, and Ernst Manker. Lapp Life and Customs: A Survey. Translated from the Norwegian by Kathleen McFarlane. New York: Oxford University Press, 1962.