European Commission designates sklandrausis as traditional speciality

The sklandrausis, a small, almost bite-sized pie made of rye flour with a filling of potatoes and carrots, has received a “Traditional Speciality Guaranteed” designation from the European Commission, according to the commission’s representative office in Rīga.

The designation “increases the market value of the products of economic operators, by guaranteeing that they are distinguishable from other similar products or foodstuffs,” according to the European Commission’s description.

The sklandrausis, described on one recipe website as a Latvian vegetable tart, earned the designation based on a December 2011 application (PDF, 1.1 MB) from the organization Zaļais novads from the Dundaga region.

The application explained the meaning of the word sklandrausis:

The word is a compound of skland- and rausis. The word rausis (“pie”) is derived from the verb raust (“to rake over or strew”). This suggests that the pies were baked in a primitive fashion, by raking hot hearth ash or oven coals over them. Sklanda is an ancient word derived from the Couronian language (proto-language of the ancestors of the modern-day Courlanders, inhabitants of western Latvia) which means “fence-post, wattle fence” or “slope, declivity”; in this case, it refers to the upturned edges of the pie’s crust (Karulis, K., Latviešu etimoloģijas vārdīca (“Etymological dictionary of the Latvian language”), Vol. II, 1992). There is a special type of fence in Courland known as a sklandu žogs.

While the sklandrausis is the first Latvian product to earn special designation, it may not be the last.

The European Commission also has received an application for “Traditional Speciality Guaranteed” designation for salinātā rudzu rupjmaize (sweetened rye bread).

The Latvian Bakers Association (Latvijas Maiznieku biedrība) notes in its application (PDF, 1.0 MB) that the bread is distinct because of the way it is made: Hot water is poured onto the flour to make it sweet.

Meanwhile, an application for “Protected Geographical Indication” is pending for Carnikavas nēģi (Carnikava lampreys), according to the European Commission. The town of Carnikava boasts about its lampreys and even hosts an annual festival for the eel-like fish.

Logo for Traditional Speciality Guaranteed

The sklandrausis has earned the European Commission’s “Traditional Speciality Guaranteed” designation.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

Baltic presidents visit U.S. president, but Syria overshadows coverage

Latvian President Andris Bērziņš and his counterparts from Estonia and Lithuania met Aug. 30 with U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House, but the news hardly registered in the United States.

The meeting with Berziņš, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė was meant to highlight the changes the Baltic countries have undergone during the past two decades and to underscore the Baltics’ close relationship to the U.S.

In the Baltics, of course, the meeting was big news. It was prominently displayed on Internet portals and the evening news.

However, the continued speculation about if and when America might strike at Syria dominated coverage in the U.S. A CBS News report about the pending attack, for example, briefly showed Obama flanked by the Baltic presidents, but did not reveal why they were in the White House.

The Washington Post, in a story focusing on White House reaction to Russia nixing a U.N. resolution about Syria, closed with a reference to the Baltic presidents:

Obama also met Friday afternoon in the Cabinet Room with the presidents of three Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — that are on Russia’s doorstep and often act as an irritant to Moscow.

Obama told reporters that the Baltics “are among our most reliable allies in NATO, and our commitment to their security is rock solid.”

Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves then offered Obama a friendly boost on Syria: “The use of chemical weapons is deplorable. The attack demands a response. Those responsible must be held accountable.”

The White House website also published a blog entry about the Baltic presidents’ visit, but devoted most of the space to Obama’s remarks about Syria:

The visit underscored the close ties between the United States and the Baltic states, which are grounded in our shared values, ideals, and interests. The leaders highlighted ongoing cooperation on issues including defense and security, trade and investment, energy and the environment, and global development.

The transcript of the news conference with Obama and the Baltic leaders—including remarks from Bērziņš—is available on the White House website.

One outcome of the meeting with the Baltic heads of state is a joint statement, the text of which can be found on the Latvian president’s website in Latvian and English. The statement notes that “the United States has a profound and enduring interest in the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and security of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.”

The Baltic diasporas are mentioned in the last paragraph of the joint statement:

The Baltic states remain grateful to the United States and the American people for their non-recognition policy during the Cold War. Our warm relations are anchored by close interpersonal ties and the rich contributions that the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian diasporas have made to the multi-ethnic culture of the United States.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

Police in Michigan investigate murder of Latvian émigré

Police in Kalamazoo, Mich., are investigating the suspected murder of an 88-year-old Latvian émigré who was found dead in his home on Aug. 23.

Alfrēds Minka lived on Brookmont Street on Kalamazoo’s northeast side. Police were sent to the home at 10:27 p.m. and found Minka dead on the floor.

Police are continuing their investigation and are seeking the public’s help, Kalamazoo Public Safety Lt. David O’Strander said in a press release. Anyone with information about the crime is asked to contact police by telephone at +1 (269) 337-8994 or anonymously through the Kalamazoo County Silent Observer program at +1 (269) 343-2100 or

Minka’s wife, Gaida, died in August 2012, according to an obituary in the Kalamazoo Gazette. The couple married in 1951 and raised four children while being active members of the Kalamazoo Latvian community.

Alfrēds Minka served seven years as head of the Kalamazoo Latvian Association (Kalamazū latviešu biedrība), according to the American Latvian Association’s Immigration Documentation Database (Amerikas latviešu apvienības imigrācijas dokumentācijas datubāze).

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.