Friday, 28 October 2016

Reading with my Persian

Reading with my Persian · Lisa Hjalt

I have established a Friday routine that I now cherish. At a certain hour I put on comfy clothes and spruce up the home for the weekend until it's time for a coffee break. This is the point where our Persian cat usually appears, jumps on the coffee table, squeezes himself between the books and takes a good time to find the right spot. He watches me while I read and drink coffee and we 'talk'. He starts purring and I stroke him, then he gets up, moves around in circles until he finds the perfect spot again and falls asleep; sleeps for hours in the same spot. I snapped the photo around noon before he fell asleep and about five hours later he's still sleeping! The kids have come home from school and watched Netflix in the living room and it makes no difference, nothing disturbs his peace. So precious.

Today I was reading two books: The postman has finally delivered the memoir Avid Reader: A Life by editor Robert Gottlieb, which I put on my latest reading list. Last Friday, about an hour after I shared my list, the postman rang the bell with a package, a gift from travel writer Francisca Mattéoli, a copy of her Map Stories: The Art of Discovery - such a beautiful book with vintage maps and wonderful stories. I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I will share my review later.

Have a good weekend!

Friday, 21 October 2016

№ 5 reading list: Booktober 2016

Most delightful conversations between authors took place at a Lannan Literary event in April when Zadie Smith and Karl Ove Knausgård shared the stage. Karl Ove was there to read from his work Some Rain Must Fall, the fifth My Struggle book, and Zadie to introduce and interview him. She started the conversations with a witty story: At the airport, on her way to the event, she heard a woman saying to a friend: 'What kind of a person even says that out loud?' And she thought: 'I'm gonna go meet him now. I know exactly who it is.' Those who have read Karl Ove's revealing-it-all autobiographical novels are probably smiling now or laughing. At least the audience was. Book 1 is on my Booktober reading list and I'm so glad that I finally took the plunge. I wasn't sure the My Struggle books (Min Kamp in Norwegian) were for me, plus I'm always a bit skeptic about works that become immensely popular. But there was something that kept pulling me and when I realised that I had more or less listened to every other conversation with Karl Ove on YouTube I said to myself, This is getting ridiculous, knowing so much about these books and not reading them. I have hardly put the book down but I'm saving Book 2 for my next list and instead reading another work by him. Here is my list, which will stretch well into November:

· A Death in the Family: My Struggle 1  by Karl Ove Knausgård
· A Time for Everything  by Karl Ove Knausgård
· White Teeth  by Zadie Smith
· NW  by Zadie Smith
· Americanah  by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
· Purple Hibiscus  by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
· Avid Reader: A Life  by Robert Gottlieb

I have followed Zadie Smith for a long time - she has such a charisma on the literary stage - but never read any of her works until now when I bought her first novel, White Teeth, and borrowed NW at the library (sometimes it's all about the timing). Her new novel, Swing Time, will soon be published and I'm spotting Zadie-features all over the media, e.g. an interview in T Magazine by novelist Jeffrey Eugenides. She graces the cover of the latest The Gentlewoman, issue No. 14, Autumn and Winter 2016. I wanted to buy it but haven't found it in my town. Another author with charisma is the Nigerian Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I loved Half of a Yellow Sun, read it twice and will probably read it again. I have wanted to listen to conversations between Zadie and Chimamanda at the Schomburg Center in Harlem in NY. I started watching and loved them together but before continuing I'm going to read Americanah, which I bought this summer. When I'm done with the novels on my list I'm reading editor Robert Gottlieb's memoir that was just published. As I write this, my copy is on its way in the mail and I'm so looking forward to holding it in my hands.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Black Cross with Stars and Blue, 1929

In August, when we were in London, my older daughter and I went to see the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition at Tate Modern; one of the reasons for the trip. She had learned about O'Keeffe in art classes and it was my first O'Keeffe exhibition. Seeing many of my favourite paintings close up was a thrilling experience. One of them was Black Cross with Stars and Blue, 1929, which you can spot in my images:
This painting depicts a cross of the Penitente sect of Catholicism, frequently sited within the New Mexico landscape, but viewed here against the outline of Taos Mountain, a sacred site for the local Native American community. The composition thus emphasises O'Keeffe's understanding of the layering of cultural identity on the American landscape. As she described: 'It was in the late light and the cross stood out – dark against the evening sky. If I turned a little to the left, away from the cross, I saw the Taos Mountain – a beautiful shape. I painted the cross against the mountain although I never saw it that way.' (Tate, p. 68)
Another painting was Abstraction White Rose, 1927. I swear I had to stifle a scream when I saw it; my heart was beating faster when I stood in front of it. The exhibition closes at the end of October and I encourage you to see it if you are in London.

Booktober reading list in the making

images by me | Georgia O'Keeffe art via Studio International

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Curried bean stew with coconut milk

The best moments in the kitchen happen when I have all the time in the world and no one is waiting for dinner. I let a film or a TV show run in the player while chopping vegetables for, let's say, a bean stew that I allow to simmer even longer than needed. On Sunday I had such a moment when preparing my curried bean stew with coconut milk, a favourite in this house. While preparing it I listened to conversations with the author Zadie Smith on YouTube (from 2010, part of the series Live from the New York Public Library). I forgot myself completely and cooked it for an hour, which was fine. Now that autumn has arrived there will be plenty of these moments. The list of ingredients seems long but the stew is easy to make. All you need is time.


1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
2 peppers, red and green
2 celery sticks
75 g trimmed green beans
150 g frozen, diced sweet potatoes (about 1½ cup)
100 g frozen, diced butternut squash (about ¾ cup)
1 can (400 g) kidney beans (14 oz)
1 can (400 g) cannellini beans (14 oz)
4 teaspoons (vegan) vegetable bouillon powder
1 teaspoon tandoori curry powder

(or 1 teaspoon mild curry powder and ¼ teaspoon chilli powder)
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon red chilli flakes
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Italian herb mix
1 can (400 g) tomatoes (14 oz)
1 can (400 ml) coconut milk (14 oz)
optional: a handful of spinach
Maldon sea salt flakes to taste

Start with preparing the vegetables and beans: Peel the onion and garlic, chop and finely chop. Remove seeds and dice the peppers. Finely slice the celery sticks. Slice the trimmed beans coarsely. In the stew I use frozen, diced sweet potatoes and butternut squash. If you cannot buy them frozen use fresh ingredients. Rinse and drain the kidney and cannellini beans in a colander.

Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan on low-medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic for a few minutes until the onion has softened. Add the other vegetables and cook for a few more minutes, gently stirring with a spoon. Add the beans, bouillon powder (or 2 stock cubes), spices and herbs, and combine before adding the tomatoes and coconut milk. Increase the heat and bring to the boil while stirring gently. Cover with a lid and let it simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. Stir in the spinach, if using, then tilt the lid to allow the steam to escape and allow to simmer for another 15-20 minutes. Taste with Maldon sea salt flakes if needed.

Serve the bean stew with perhaps sourdough bread or stone baked baguette.

Uppskrift á íslensku.