This obviously is the first blogpost I’m writing for the ISA, so I guess I’d start with a popular phrase from one of my favourite games. “Never ever” did I in my entire life think I would eat so many potatoes anywhere in only a few months, so yeah, welcome to my world! Minu nimi on Meya Stephen Kenigbolo, Olen esimese aasta üliõpilane tarkvaratehnika ja ma tulen Nigeeria (My name is Meya Stephen Kenigbolo, I’m a 1st year Masters of Software Engineering student at the University of Tartu and I originally come from Nigeria). Tere Tulemast!
Back to the topic anyways, potatoes! The good old potatoes. I never believed that in just a couple of months I would have eaten so much potatoes that it will result to almost the same amount as the entire kilos of potatoes I must have had in my life. Before coming to Estonia I was a Rice junkie (and just in case you haven’t figured out yet, I’m a foodie… Yeah). I knew I was in for it when I heard the words “rotten potatoes” for the first time in my life and no, I didn’t hear it in a restaurant but rather a class called Agile Software Development which I was taking in my first semester (Also happened to be the first class I attended).
At this point I’m sure you’re no longer wondering why I decided to talk about potatoes. Someone somewhere reading this right now might already be thinking “Hey! What the heck is it with potatoes”? For the record, my first months were quite frustrating with almost all the restaurants having “potatoes this” or “potatoes that” on their daily specials. However, I never realized what I was really missing and the fact that it took me months to realize it actually makes me feel like crying right now….. Yeah right!
Fast forward to the end of 2015….. So when heading to Venice, Italy to join my family in celebrating the Christmas holiday (that’s a story for another blogpost…..whew!) I was seated next to a really beautiful Estonian lady. Considering what I knew (or probably thought I knew) about Estonian women, I preferred to keep to myself for the better part of the flight until she had an issue with her headphones and I offered her mine…..drumrolls!!! This marked the beginning of my unending love story with potatoes. So myself and my new friend (let’s call her Kaidi for the sake of this blogpost) got talking (Estonians are the most Amazing people when you get to know them and become friends, I give you my word) and the usual question “Why Estonia?” came up, of course. After several conversations we got off at Frankfurt and spent about two hours talking about random stuff before exchanging contacts and moving to catch our various flights.
Let’s fast forward the story this time to January 2016…… I’m back in Estonia and Kaidi has also returned from her vacation. Alas she has made it a target to make me understand the beauty of Estonian dishes made from (or with) potatoes (after listening to me, blab, about being tired of potatoes over and over again) and yeah, she did a damn pretty good job of it. From meeting her friends and friends of her friends, I’ve accumulated a lot of experience that I cannot imagine not eating potatoes. Today I have had so many different recipes of potato dishes that I cannot help but wonder why on earth I was crazy enough to complain about it in the first place. Not everyone can be lucky enough to have Estonian female friends who can actually cook, but the catch here is that the more you interact with locals, the more you get to understand a lot of things about where you are and experience some wonderful moments you ordinarily wouldn’t have if you are always with fellow International students.
Today I can say I have been able to make potato dishes that I ordinarily would have never seen myself eating, all thanks to this wonderful country and people I have met. Like the old lady at Otepää who had us over for dinner said “Hea toit toob pika eluea” meaning “Good food brings about long life”, I will also in like manner say “Kartul on vinge” meaning “Potatoes are awesome”. I’m grateful I discovered things delicacies such as “Pink Potato salad”, “sult” (actually boiled potatoes prepared in an amazing style)”, “hapukapsasupp with potatoes”, “Mulgipuder”, “Herring and Potato Salad” just to mention a few (Not sure I got the spellings correctly for some of them anyways). I’d sign out on this blogpost with these last words, “If you’re still thinking about coming to Estonia for Erasmus or your degree, stop thinking and just do it. You’d thank me later”.
P.S. If you’re in Estonia as an Erasmus or International student and still missing out on potatoes (Like I was earlier on), then you better find yourself some friends who are Estonians before you end up missing out totally on these amazing dishes. Hit me up if you need some tips.