October 3, 2012  |  Collection & Exhibitions
“Finnish” Your Lunch

Lunch is served: this week we’re eating creamy salmon soup, crispy rye bread with Finnish cheese and butter, sweet and sour dill cucumbers, and whipped lingonberry porridge

MoMA exhibitions rarely end at the gallery doors. There are publications and websites, symposia, family programs, and special events that extend the life, the interactivity, and the scope of projects big and small. With Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000, we’ve joined curatorial forces with MoMA’s Cafe 2 to dig further into the idea of “growing by design”—in the realm of food, nutrition, and, specifically, school lunches.

More than 31 million children in the U.S. participate in the National School Lunch Program, and the subject has been rapidly gaining attention, especially relating to Michelle Obama’s involvement in this year’s new healthy guidelines. The U.S. has a spotty (to say the least) history in this area—painfully so in comparison with countries like Finland, which is consistently recognized for excelling in all areas of public education, lunch included. (That country’s scrupulous care of children begins, literally, at birth, with the so-called Baby Box that—no kidding—doubles as a crib.) According to its National Board of Education, Finland was the first country in the world to serve free, regulated school meals to children on a large scale, starting in 1948. Today, balanced meals of local and inexpensive ingredients provide both energy and educational value.

From left: Chef Petteri Luoto with Chef Lynn Bound of Cafe 2 and Terrace 5 at MoMA. Aidan O’Connor discusses what school lunch has to do with design.

With the help of the Consulate General of Finland, our Cafe 2 is now hosting a series, this week and next, called Back to School: A Taste of Finland, giving adults a chance to enjoy a meal inspired by the school lunches (koululounas) of Finland. Hesitant about giving school lunch another go? Our lunches are prepared by one of Finland’s most celebrated chefs, Petteri Luoto, who has been associated with gourmet restaurants in Helsinki, Turku, and Göteborg, and who represented Finland at the Shanghai EXPO 2010.

The Marimekko tablecloth is as Finnish as the menu.

Our first lunch (on October 1) was a hit (Serious Eats agrees), and we’ve got more coming. If you’d like to eat with us, tickets are still available. Chef Luoto, Juliet Kinchin, and I will be there!