I'm fortunate that I'll be on sabbatical in the fall. As a result, I've taken two drastic actions.

1) I died my hair blue. Well, technically, just a swath of my hair is blue, but it was still something I probably wouldn't do during the regular school year.

Kathee with Blue Hair
Kathee with Sabbatical Hair

2) I've moved back to Oslo. I'll be here on and off for a few months, escaping the heat, enjoying an urban environment, reconnecting with friends, studying Norwegian, and working on my project with very few distractions.

Although I've been back in Norway several times since living here, it feels different this time around. I suppose one of the differences is that most of my friends are on holiday for the month of July which means that I've been left to my own devices, to some extent. I've been reading a lot and started creating my sabbatical website today (I'll be working on a digital humanities project)--but every day, I make sure to take long walks, exploring both the immediate neighborhood and other parts of the city.

Today, my walk was incredible. I worked most of the day, so this evening, I decided to retrace my favorite walk from when I lived here: down Drammensveien and then along the fjord. However, when I got to the part of my walk where I usually turn back towards Aker Brygge, I decided instead to keep walking on Bygdøy peninsula, taking a path along the shore, then venturing into the more rural landscape complete with cow pastures. It was incredibly beautiful and I felt some regret that I hadn't taken these paths before.

Drammensveien and Bygdøy
Drammensveien and Bygdøy

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Julia Pastrana (1834-1860) once performed in the U.S. and all over Europe. Although she sang, the majority of people came to see her because of her physical appearance. Her body was covered with hair and she suffered from hypertrichosis. She was sometimes labeled "The Ape Woman" or "The Ugliest Woman in the World." After her death during childbirth, her husband had her body, and that of their son, who inherited his mother's condition and who also died, embalmed and stuffed. Their bodies were on display until the 1970's. After being stored in a basement of a hospital in Oslo, her body was finally returned to her homeland, Sinaloa Mexico, due to the efforts of artist Laura Anderson Barbata. She was buried February 12, 2013. Her son's remains were lost in the 1970s and have never been recovered. In this podcast, you will hear a poem about Julia written by poet Wendy Rose (Hopi/Miwok).

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Recently, I traveled to Norway to attend the American Studies Association of Norway annual conference. This year, the organization worked with Fulbright Norway to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Roving Scholar program, the program that took me to Norway during the 2008-2009 academic year. At the conference, I was able to meet and reconnect with a number of former Rovers. Although our presentations at the conference focused on our scholarly interests, between presentations and at meals, we told stories about our roving. We shared how many visits we'd made, which cities we'd visited, and what we had talked about with students. In some cases, almost 20 years separated our experiences as Rovers, yet we could still connect on some level.

Moreover, we talked about future collaborations--in fact, last week at a conference I attend every year, I had dinner with one Rover, Laura Turchi and her husband Peter (and my wonderful friend Debbie--who merits her own entry--joined us, too) and we talked about organizing a panel for next year's National Council of Teachers of English conference.

There are many things I appreciate about my experience as a Fulbright scholar, but I didn't anticipate how, three and a half years later, this experience would continue to bring intelligent and thoughtful people into my life.

Watch the video I've linked above and help spread the word about Norway's Roving Scholar program.

As I planned a recent trip to Finland, I didn't necessarily think that the cuisine was a big draw. I'm happy to report that I was absolutely wrong. Finnish chefs are creating exciting food, riffing on traditional cuisine by combining classic ingredients with a contemporary twist. Mind you, I didn't read that anywhere, those are just my findings after about a week of "research."

My first night in Helsinki, I ate at my hotel restaurant because I was too tired and it was too late to find anywhere else. I ordered the potato pancakes with smoked salmon, creme fraiche (I think), and dill. The waitress brought out three tiny, beautiful pancakes. The salmon tasted like no other smoked salmon I've ever had: rather than the velvety texture I've come to expect, this salmon was tender with--I don't know how else to describe it--a little bit of crunch on the edges. I think this must have been lightly smoked and the result was divine. The delicate fronds of dill on top each pancake gave each a slightly herbal taste--and a beautiful appearance. I was wowed.

The next night, I met my friend Kris for dinner at the Elite, a restaurant she recommended. We were both delighted by a starter that we chose almost as an afterthought which combined reindeer sausage with some kind of creamy topping. Kris thought the sauce had chunks of apples in it. I have no idea what else it contained, but it provided such a nice contrast to the smokiness of the meat. This restaurant was the most traditional of the places I ate, and I enjoyed the meatballs I ordered as my main course.

While in Finland, I also traveled to Turku. I did do some reading about the restaurants there, but I also had great luck just choosing where to eat randomly. My first night there, I had a surprising salad that combined lettuce, 4 olives, slow roasted tomatoes, and pomegranate seeds with a light lemon vinaigrette. This was so refreshing.

The next evening, I tried Blanko, just a few steps away from Tinta, the restaurant I'd eaten at the night before. More lightly smoked salmon with a salsa verde, a Spanish tortilla, and a good salad. If I had to be hyper-critical, I'd say this meal seemed more mass produced and less nuanced than the other food I ate in Finland. Still, I enjoyed it a great deal.

These first two restaurants in Turku were ones that were recommended. The next night, I happened to choose to eat in a restaurant that, I found out afterwards, was associated with another highly respected restaurant. I ate at E. Ekblom (all three of these restaurants are on the river Aura on a lovely tree-lined street). At this last of my experiences eating in Turku, I again loved the food. I ordered hummus, which had a fresh taste and was topped with sliced pea pods and radishes. I'm pretty sure that it wasn't made with tahini, or at least not much of it. It was light and simple and so satisfying. I also had a fantastic leek quiche that was served with a fennel salad. I enjoyed the salad, although I have to admit that the tamari soaked fennel didn't quite go with the rest of the meal. Still, the food was so good here!

My last night in Helsinki, I arrived at Juuri, another place highly recommended by Kris, just after they opened, hoping they could squeeze me in (as Kris told me that one usually has to have a reservation). I was lucky enough to get in, and this was my best meal in Finland--best even though I was crazy about everything else I'd eaten on the trip. Juuri serves what they call, sapas, a Finnish version of tapas. They divide them up into fish, meat, and vegetable, and the restaurant staff recommended I order 5-6. I decided to order 4, but I actually wish now that I had ordered more. Each one was tiny, but perfectly constructed, a tribute to commonly used Finnish ingredients or traditional dishes. My sausage with vodka-infused mustard was divine. The pike cake with horseradish cream was clever and layered. The potato pancake with garlic butter and lovage was yummy and the fried willow herb was out of this world. In appearance, willow herb looks like tiny fronds of broccoli that have been oven-roasted. But the taste was much more delicate than broccoli.

At some point, I'll return to this post to edit, post links, and give the addresses of restaurants. But for now, I wanted to describe these culinary adventures while the memory is fresh. I am very impressed with contemporary Finnish cuisine and hope to learn more about its history and recent development.

I frequently have short-lived obsessions with particular dishes. One of my more long-lived obsessions is with guacamole. I love the recipe that I learned from a former boyfriend--and right now I also love the guacamole sold at Fresh & Easy. But this blog entry is not going to be about guacamole . . . although the version served at America's Taco Shop is exactly the kind I love: chunky with small pieces of tomato and lots of garlic.


Rather, this blog is going to be about my love for corn on the cob. I love this time of year when fresh, sweet corn is sold at roadside stands and farmer's markets. A few weeks ago, I stopped at the Fresno State market to buy some corn. It's so delicious with just butter, salt, and pepper. At America's, they serve a much less healthy but quite divine version of corn on the cob; it's coated with a fine layer of mayo, rolled in cotija and served with lime and chile sauce. Wow! My obsession now will be to try to figure out how to make this . . . or to find a restaurant that serves it in Fresno.


America's also serves quite tasty tacos. I had two with carne asada that were quite yummy.


But, oh that corn. I wish I had a piece to eat for lunch right now.

America's Taco Shop
4447 N. 7th Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85013
Tlf. 602-515-0856



Somehow over the last year, my friends and I have ended up dining frequently at a trio of Fresno bars: Sequoia, the Red Wave, and Livingstone's. I've even developed favorites at each place: the sliders at Sequoia, the great tacos at the Red Wave, and the pizza served at happy hour at Livingstone's.

On my recent trip to Phoenix, my friend Jamie suggested that we meet her at Carly's Bistro, a bar/restaurant in central Phoenix. I only wish that the food served at the places I frequent in Fresno would serve food this good.

When I looked at the menu, one sandwich jumped out at me, the pear, brie, prosciutto panini. Since neither Jamie nor I were terribly hungry, we decided to split the sandwich and salad combo with the beet salad as our choice. Although this meant that we each only got a quarter of a sandwich and a quarter of a serving of salad, the meal was still quite satisfying.


If I lived in Phoenix, I'd make my friends adopt Carly's as their second home.

Carly's Bistro
128 E. Roosevelt St. - Phoenix

602-262-2759

Tom, Andre, and I have a long tradition of turning into foodies whenever we're together. This dates back to my visits to their apartment in Brooklyn. They knew so many great, moderately priced restaurants in New York--and I happily went to whichever restaurant they suggested. I was never disappointed.

A couple of years ago, Tom and Andre moved to Phoenix. I love that they live closer to California and that they live in what still feels like my hometown, and they've discovered some really great restaurants in central Phoenix. I recently went to visit them, excited to finally see the house they had purchased last winter--and to eat with them.


The first night I was there, we went to St. Francis, a new restaurant on Camelback. I love restaurants with dark wood, brick, and soft lighting, and there was a nice outside bar that projects episodes of Julia Child's cooking show.

I like a small menu--I guess because it seems like the chef (in this case, Aaron Chamberlain) can focus on making a few things really, really well. Big menus make me crazy--it's usually hard for me to decide and it feels like the restaurant is trying too hard to please everyone. St. Francis is the kind of restaurant that just concentrates on getting a few dishes absolutely right.

Andre had a dish called "Forbidden Rice," composed of sauteed vegetables, ginger, garlic, and a sweet and spicy dressing. He loved it--and it looked so healthy to me.


Andre and I both had the corn chowder. I especially loved the veggies that were used to garnish the soup.


I also had the chopped romaine salad: romaine, summer vegetables, and smoked bacon dressed with buttermilk cheddar dressing. I loved everything about this salad.


Tom had what I would have ordered if I'd been hungrier: the french onion burger topped with smoked bacon, gruyère, and crispy onions. He gave me a bite--and it was fantastic.


I recommend this restaurant. It has a comfortable ambience, attentive wait staff, and delicious food.

St. Francis
111 E. Camelback
Phoenix, AZ 85012
Tlf. 602-200-8111


Recently, I made a quick trip to New York City, a city I love and a city I love to eat in. One evening, I had vouchers to see A Winter's Tale at Shakespeare in the Park. I traded my vouchers for tickets, sat in the park awhile, and then decided it was time for dinner.

I have a lot of favorite restaurants in New York, but none are on the Upper West side, so I used the Yelp application on my iPhone to explore nearby eateries. One looked especially intriguing to me: Kefi (which, according to the restaurant website, means "bliss" in Greek). It was relatively close, so I dashed through the rain that began en route and took shelter in a bright, inviting restaurant. There were many, many things that looked interesting on the menu, but one thing in particular sounded so appealing: sheep's milk dumplings with tomatoes, pine nuts, and spicy lamb sausage. I don't really eat lamb, but I decided to go outside my comfort zone and try this dish out.

I was so glad I did. The dumplings were so smooth and delicious which counteracted the delicious sausage's spiciness. And the pine nuts were an enjoyable addition to the meal. I think the dish also had spinach in it--which added a pleasing flavor. I ate every bit of this dinner; it was so delicious I couldn't stop myself. I so recommend this charming restaurant.

P.S. Just found a recipe for this dish:

Sheep's Milk Dumplings with Tomato, Pine Nuts, and Spicy Lamb Sausage

Yield: 6 people

Ingredients for Gnudi:

1 lb of sheep's milk ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp of salt
Pinch of white pepper
1/3 cup of pecorino Romano
1 egg
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

In a large mixing bowl, combine ricotta, salt, pepper and pecorino and mix well with a spatula. Beat egg and add to ricotta, folding in well. Sprinkle a third of the flour onto a clean, flat working station. Transfer ricotta onto flour. Begin to incorporate flour until it pulls from the surface. Let rest for 10 to 15 min. Cut into 4 equal parts. Dust the station with flour and begin to roll into logs ½ inch in diameter. Using knife, cut logs into ½ inch long dumplings. Transfer to a tray lined with parchment paper, dusted with flour. Continue until all dumplings are complete. You can freeze dumplings for 3 to 4 days. Wrap in plastic on the tray spaced far enough apart so air can flow in between.

Ingredients for the Sauce:

1 lb. Loukanika Greek sausage (Sweet or hot Italian sausage can substitute)
3 garlic cloves chopped
1 shallot chopped
3 Tb. Extra Virgin Olive Oil + 1 teaspoon
1 Cup tomato sauce
1/2 Cup chicken stock
4 oz. triple-washed fresh spinach, shopped
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1/4 Cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 Cup sliced sundried tomatoes marinated in extra virgin olive oil

Remove the sausage from its casing and crumble. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat brown the sausage lightly in the olive oil. Add garlic and brown lightly, then the shallots. Deglaze the pan with chicken stock and add the tomato sauce, sundried tomatoes and the spinach. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the gnudi for 2-3 minutes. Add the cooked gnudi to the pan of sauce, season with salt and pepper, and toss. Plate the dish, sprinkle with crumbled feta, drizzle with one teaspoon of olive oil, sprinkle with pine nuts and serve.

Kefi
505 Columbus Avenue
New York, NY
212-873-0200