This little fish is beloved in Finland. Muikku. Sano muikku translates to 'say cheese', even though muikku is fish and cheese is cheese. It's an expession used to get someone to smile when taking his or her photo. I found this wooden wall hanging in an artisan's market somewhere on the road from Jyvaskyla to Juonikyla some years back. Now it hangs cheerily on my kitchen wall, reminding me to smile.
We don't have muikku in Canada, or at least I am not aware if there are any. We have rainbow smelts. Every spring someone gives me a bag of smelts. I went smelting many years ago to the mouth of the Current River as it empties into Lake Superior, but you have to do that in the dark and when I saw the water rat run past my shoe, I wanted to go home. But still, that water rat did not compare with the tarantula that came to check out my shoe in Lebanon.
But smelts are not muikku. Smelts are small, too, but longer than muikku; muikku has bigger eyes. In Jyvaskyla, on the boardwalk by the lake, I saw large frying vats where these tiny fish were fried up by the basketful for drooling Finlanders. Saara, our host, laughed deliriously and shouted, You must taste muikku! They are delicious! The muikku's were scooped up and stuffed into paper french fry cups and then smothered in mustard, ketchup or other condiments. Everyone was smacking their lips on these fish fries.
No wonder the Finns say, "sano muikku". Brings a smile to your lips.