Welcome to Tapestry, a blog where we explore the things that make life so rich: art, food, travel, literature, movies, current events and inspiring people. We’ll travel to a different country each month, and look forward to hearing your thoughts and impressions along the way.
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” – Anonymous
Our pick of the month? The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson. While this cookbook covers the entire Nordic region, and not specifically Iceland, we were impressed with Nilsson's reason for writing the book. He writes:
"I decided to write the book and to make its mission to explain how similar our Nordic cultures really are, but also how they differ, how everything is tied together by our mutual history and our present culture and how it can all be tracked through the food we eat. Food is an undeniable and unavoidable marker of culture and society. People have to eat, and therefore they also have to relate to food as a subject, regardless of whether they want to or not."
As tasty as many of the recipes sound, the photography and writing make this book complex and interesting -- far more than just a cookbook.
Our two favorite restaurants in Iceland were Fishmarkadurinn (aka Fish Market) in Reykjavik and Halldorskaffi in Vik. While they are very different in menu and style, both serve delicious meals and have great atmosphere. We highly recommend taking the drive (over several days) from Reykjavik to Vik. There is a reason why Iceland is known as the country of fire and ice -- the scenery is breathtakingly spectacular.
ART and CRAFT
KRAUM is not only the oldest timber house in Rekjavik, it houses some of the most beautiful and interesting art and craft in the city. We were struck by how many amazing artists and crafts people there are in Iceland with a population of only approximately 330,000 people! The store features work from over 70 designers including textile, jewelry, household items, and a variety of other objects. They are all selected by a professional committee to ensure a fair representation of Iceland´s best. A favorite find at Kraum is the ORIGINAL Fuzzy Foot Stool by Sigurður Már Helgason.
THE ICELANDIC SHEEPDOG
One of the best parts of our trip to Iceland was the discovery of the Icelandic Sheepdog.
Upon returning to the United States, we adopted our puppy Toothache (pronounced Too-ta-chee).
According to the American Kennel Club: "About 1,100 years ago, Norse settlers sailed west across the Norwegian Sea to Iceland. These seafaring pioneers set about creating a new Scandinavian country on the otherwise uninhabited island. Among the cultural touchstones they brought from Norway were the Nordic language and a taste for epic literature. Another was the spitz-type dogs the Icelanders used for herding sheep and rounding up ponies, forerunners of the modern Icelandic Sheepdog. Today, Iceland is still distinctly Scandinavian and the Icelandic Sheepdog is a beloved national symbol."
"Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm,
but to add color to my sunset sky."
-- Rabindranath Tagore
"The sole substitute for an experience which we have not ourselves lived through is art and literature."
-- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
TRAVEL: HOTEL AND MUSEUM RECOMMENDATIONS
A favorite Russian recipe is Beets with Walnuts and Garlic
4 medium beets
2 Tbsp. walnuts, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste
Wrap washed beets with foil and bake at 350F for about 50 minutes or until soft. When they are done let them cool. Peel the skin and grate them. In a separate bowl, combine mayonnaise, garlic, salt, and pepper. Add grated beets and finely chopped walnuts and mix again. Season with salt and pepper.
"The museum teaches and gives joy and is therefore somewhere, as is often said, between Disneyland and a temple. The general vulgarization of society and the diffusion of the right for everyone to judge art and culture have helped museums throughout the world careen towards entertainment. Experience has shown that museums must (and they are doing it) strengthen their role as temple and holy place. In our world we need certain intellectual and aesthetic refuges, sacred grounds, which have their own rules and where culture implements its own rights."
-- Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director of the Hermitage Museum
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent,
in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard
If you have the opportunity to visit Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, a fantastic place to stay is The Elephant Camp. As their website states: "The Elephant Camp is nestled on a ridge between the Masuwe River and the Zambezi gorges, giving guests an uninterrupted view of the breath-taking spray that swells above the Victoria Falls rainforest. Set against a backdrop of indigenous teak woodland, the imaginative use of eco-friendly canvas tents allows this unique camp to live in harmony with the surrounding environment." One of our favorite aspects of The Elephant Camp is Sylvester, a cheetah that was rescued at birth from a lion who had killed his mother and siblings. Raised in captivity, Sylvester thinks he's a dog and is even afraid of cheetahs in the wild.
Let's Don't Go to the Dogs Tonight, was the first book I read by Alexandra Fuller and I was hooked. Since then, I've read every book she's written with my favorites being Let's Don't Go to the Dogs Tonight, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, and Leaving Before the Rains Come. Born in England, Ms. Fuller moved to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) with her family when she was three-years-old. Her writing is real, honest, and relatable. So looking forward to the release of Quiet Until the Thaw this coming June.
Our pick of the month? The Soul of a New Cuisine, a Discover of the Foods and Flavors of Africa, by Marcus Samuelsson. Even though Samuelsson is not Zimbabwean (he was born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, and currently lives in NYC), and this cookbook covers recipes from the entire African continent, we wanted to feature it because it a fantastic book for so many reasons. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes, "I commend Marcus for recognizing the culinary gifts that Africa offers and for undertaking the huge and important task of documenting its cuisine and sharing it with the world so that people everywhere can experience the cuisine and hospitality of this stunning continent and its rainbow nations. His work pays homage to Africa's humanity. Let us break bread together and celebrate our diversity."
A favorite after-school snack is Banana Fritters (pg. 304).
3 ripe bananas
1/2 cup fine cornmeal
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 - 4 cups canola oil for deep-frying
2 Tbs honey
Combine the bananas, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in a bowl and mash with a fork until smooth. Heat 2 1/2 inches of oil in a deep pot to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Working in batches, add the banana mixture, a heaping tablespoon at a time, and fry until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking. Remove from the oil with a skimmer or slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Before serving, drizzle with honey. Makes 12 fritters.
"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral,
the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."
-- Desmond Tutu
"You may have the universe if I may have Italy." -- Giuseppe Verdi
A fun way to travel in Italy is by staying at an Agriturismo. According to Wikipedia, "Agritourism or agrotourism, as it is defined most broadly, involves any agriculturally based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch." One of our favorites is Agriturismo S. Alfonso in Furore, near Positano.
ALL THINGS LEMON
Lemon trees are in abundance on the Amalfi Coast. Indeed, lemons are celebrated and enjoyed in nearly every way imaginable. Liquor, ceramics, and soap are among the most popular. We love making this easy but delicious recipe for limoncello to remind us of Positano.
10 large lemons
1 bottle vodka (750 ml)
3 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups sugar
Peel the lemons in long strips with a vegetable peeler and place the peels in a bowl (be sure to remove the pith). Pour the vodka over the peels, cover, and let sit at room temperature for 4 days.
After 4 days, stir the sugar and water over heat until the sugar dissolves. Cool.
Combine the sugar-water and lemon-vodka mixtures. Cover. Let sit for 1 day.
Strain the limoncello through a sieve, discard the peel, and pour the liquid into a air-tight jar for storage. Chill for at least 4 hours.
Store in freezer or fridge until ready to drink. Yum!
Despite that, "In Other Words," by Pulitzer prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri takes place mostly in Rome, it's our pick for April on the Amalfi Coast as it transports the reader to Italy and the complexity of speaking Italian vicariously through Lahiri's experience. But, "In Other Words," is far more than a book about speaking Italian. A review in The Washington Post, states: “"In Other Words” is the most evocative, unpretentious, astute account of a writing life I have read. In part, this is because Lahiri so unabashedly asks and answers big and vexing questions: “Why do I write? To investigate the mystery of existence. To tolerate myself. To get closer to everything that is outside of me.”" In our opinion, it's impossible to read this book without learning about oneself. Enjoy!
"For us to go to Italy and to penetrate into Italy is like a most fascinating act of self-discovery."
-- DH Lawrence
“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson
Often, when one thinks of Cuba and Hemingway, the book that comes to mind is The Old Man and the Sea. Indeed, in 1953, The Old Man and the Sea was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and was cited by the Nobel Committee as contributing to their awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Hemingway in 1954.
Perhaps a lesser-known book is A Moveable Feast. Written while Hemingway lived in Cuba at Finca Vigia, but not published until after his death, it is a memoir about Hemingway's years as a struggling, young, expatriate journalist and writer in Paris in the 1920s. If you have not yet read A Moveable Feast, we encourage you to add it to your reading list. You won't be disappointed!
Our pick of the month? The Cuban Table, by Ana Sofía Peláez with photography by Ellen Silverman. This cookbook provides delicious recipes, beautiful photographs, and interesting commentary on Cuba before and after the Revolution.
AND, check out Ana Sofía Peláez's blog: hungrysofia. It's fabulously full of delicious recipes and beautiful pictures -- just as much fun to read as her cookbook.
One of our favorite meals while traveling in Cuba? Hands down, croquetas-de-jamon followed by ropa vieja followed by flan. Not exactly a light dinner, but delicious none-the-less. (A long walk is essential following this meal.)
ART and ARCHITECTURE
Hardly anyone visits Cuba without learning about Cuban art and noticing the exquisite and varied architecture. Three notable cities for art and architecture are Havana, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad.
"For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can." -- Ernest Hemingway
"Experience the beauties of nature, and indoing so learn about yourself."
-- Japanese proverb
Our pick of the month? The "Japanese Farm Food" cookbook. Not only does it contain delicious recipes, the story is entertaining as well. As Alice Waters writes, "I first met Nancy Singleton Hachisu several years ago when she came to Berkeley, and was instantly impressed with our shared commitment to the provenance of food. She was living on an organic farm in rural Japan, growing and preparing all her beautiful food with her farmer husband Tadaaki, and was leading the charge for the Slow Food Japan Convivium. In the years since, Nancy has been woven into the fabric of the Chez Panisse Community, and has become a vital bridge between farmers in the United States and farmers in Japan. This book is both an intimate portrait of Nancy's life on the farm, and am important work that shows the universality of an authentic food culture."
Should you find yourself in Kyoto, do not miss a visit to the Ippodo Tea Company store. Not only do they sell what many consider to be the best green tea in Japan, the beauty of the store itself is worth the trip. Kyoto not in the itinerary? You're in luck! There is now a store in NYC or you can order on-line. Enjoy!
BOOKS and MOVIES
ART and CULTURE
Yayoi Kusama exhibition at Washington, DC's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is not to be missed. This phenomenal exhibit opens February 23 and closes May 14. If you are lucky, you might just see the Japanese Cherry Blossoms in bloom as well!
"Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home." -- Matsuo Basho