Charlotte Gudmundsson is a Swedish/Icelandic illustrator and visual artist based in Brooklyn, NY. Charlotte has had work featured on the streets of New York, in Vogue Italy, possibly a wine you drank recently, and many other places. I’ve been a fan of her art ever since I saw the Jane’s Closet mural located at 135 Grand St. (and was inspired to shoot pictures infront of it this past fall). She is the first artist to be featured here, and I’m extremely excited to welcome her to the Great Pumpkin!
Charlotte is going to be collaborating with Brooklyn Fork and Spoon, along with several other artists, at the beginning of March to throw the Brooklyn Fork and Spoon One Year Anniversary Party! Brooklyn Fork and Spoon is a vegetarian supper club based in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. On Thursday, March 1st, Brooklyn Fork and Spoon will throw their Anniversary Party at New York City’s best beer and wine bar, the Diamond in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Charlotte took some time to talk to me about her life, food, and a little bit about Brooklyn Fork and Spoon too! More details about Charlotte’s work and the party can be found after the interview.
Where did you grow up and spend your formative years? How have those experiences affected your love for food?
My childhood was a fairly unconventional one. My mother is Swedish and my father is from Iceland, but since we speak Swedish at home, that’s what I identify myself as, even though I was born in northern California. Since then, I’ve lived in 7 more countries, moving every two or three years because of my dad’s job as an engineer working for a Swiss company. As a result I was exposed to a wide variety of exotic foods from a young age – after moving from CA when I was four years old, we moved to Turkey, which in my opinion has one of the most incredible cuisines.
In your opinion, what makes Turkish food so wonderful?
The amazing thing was how seasonally dependent cooking is there. In late summer for example, cherries are incorporated into EVERYTHING – cherry juice (vishnu), fresh cherries in salads, and my favorite, which was a delicious cherry sauce/compote that was poured over every kind of kebab you could get in a local restaurant – Doner, Adana, Iskender.
Did any other cuisines have as much of an influence on your tastes as Turkish food?
Later, we moved to South Korea, Switzerland, Thailand, Syria, Sweden, Sri Lanka, then Sweden again, before I moved to Paris for my first two years of college. Of all these places, Turkish and Syrian food was always what stuck with me, because of the complex spices used that weren’t necessarily spicy – just wonderfully aromatic. It was the same thing in Syria with seasonal influences in the food. There it was the pomegranates I remember – they would sprinkle pomegranate seeds on everything and on top of all the small meze plates – tabouleh, kibbeh (which is a spicy ground beef, either served raw kind of like hummos or fried in balls), or also on kebabs.
Did you think about the foods you were experiencing as a child like this when you were young? Were you into the variety of food that you were exposed to, or were you a picky eater?
The funny thing is that it’s only in hindsight that I appreciate all this variety in food I was exposed to. Living abroad as a child I had a picture that swedish foods like Polar Bread, cheese and Ballerina cookies were the best thing ever, or american fast food. When we lived in Bangkok Thailand, my twin sister Amanda and I would beg my parents to take me to american fast food places like Domino’s, Taco Bell or Wendy’s, places I wouldn’t even dream of going to now when I actually live in the USA. When my older sister came to visit us in Thailand on school leave from Switzerland, she would bring us Kinder chocolates that the 11-year old Amanda and I would reverently share, rationing out a tiny square each day and enjoy solemnly together.
When did you move to New York City?
I’ve lived in New York for four years, and I have loved every minute of it. It’s really a unique place in the world because of the immense patchwork of communities and cultures it’s made up of, that coexist peacefully. With my unconventional background, I feel at home here more that I’ve felt at home anywhere else – even Sweden, where people are always quick to point out that I speak with a slight accent. Where else can you find a place like B&H Dairy, a kosher vegetarian diner from the 1940′s (on 2nd ave just south of St. Marks in East Village), with an Egyptian guy as the main cook, making pierogis and borscht? It’s the proverbial melting pot.
Do you have any dietary restrictions that have reared your eating habits?
One thing that has shaped my relationship with food immensely is the fact that I was diagnosed with type 1 Diabetes at age 14. I went to a nutritionist regularly for a year, learning how to cook well-balanced meals and how to cut out unnecessary sugars and fats out of my diet. Yet even so, it hasn’t stopped me from enjoying sweets on occasion – I just make sure to be moderate with my intake. I think that food should always be enjoyed, and not be fussed over too much either.
Do you cook at home often? Has the exposure of so many types of food in your childhood spilled over into your own kitchen?
I do cook and bake at home quite a bit – I often make salads with some sort of grain like quinoa or rice to go with it, or maybe a veggie stir-fry. Even though I eat meat, I definitely don’t cook a lot of it at home. I also love making big brunch breakfasts, with minty fruit salads, omelettes and scones. I think middle eastern food has left me with some habits in my cooking. I put plain yoghurt on everything, and I always add about 3 more cloves of garlic than it seems necessary to any recipe calling for it. I also love parsley and za’atar, which is this dry spice blend of a middle eastern herb similar to oregano, sesame seeds and sumac. You just mix it with some olive oil and spread it on a pita – it makes a great snack.
Scones are delicious! What are some of your favorite combinations?
I love baking scones, it’s so easy to make and easy to vary! I much prefer savory scones over sweet ones. sometimes I make them with cornmeal and cheese, or fresh rosemary and sea salt sprinkled on top.
I love za’atar, but I don’t have a reliable place to get it. Where can you find it in New York?
There’s a store called Kalustyan’s, 123 Lexington Ave (between 28th st and 29th st) where I get things like za’atar. It’s a bit of a trek to get there, but it’s definitely worth it – they have a fantastic selection of middle eastern condiments and spices.
If you do eat out what are your favorite spots? What do you order?
Some of my favorite spots to eat in New York are definitely B&H Diner, which I already mentioned. I pretty much always order the feta and spinach omelette or their Borscht, and I always make sure to get some slices of their heavenly buttered challa bread, baked in-house all the time. It’s really some of the best bread I’ve had – and I’m a complete bread addict. Another favorite for brunch is the Lodge on Grand st. and Havemeyer in Williamsburg – I love love love the chorizo corncakes, and the egg sandwich for $8 is a pretty great price – it’s also super delicious! Also, they you can’t really beat their 2-for-1 mimosas or bloody marys. Lastly, if I really want a treat, Blue Stove bakery on Graham ave and Withers St. in Williamsburg has the best muffins I’ve ever tried – blueberry buttermilk, or if you want something savory, the cheddar bacon corn muffins are incredible.
Have you eaten any adventurous foods lately?
I think one of the most adventurous things I’ve ever tried (although it wasn’t that recent I’m afraid) was with my Icelandic grandfather on 23rd of December a couple of years back. Traditionally on that day in Iceland, you eat fermented Skate, which is a type of sting ray. It’s probably one of the most foul things I’ve ever eaten – imagine a white goopy slimy mess that smells like pee, and on top of that you pour melted sheeps fat as a sauce. The worst part was that it was alkaline, so eating it gave you the same sensation as when you eat too much wasabi – a burning sensation in your nose. My grandfather just laughed at me when I complained and told me it was good for colds and runny noses.
You are going to be collaborating with Brooklyn Fork and Spoon for their upcoming Anniversary Party. How did you get involved with the supper club? What will be involved in your collaboration?
I actually met Mardi from Brooklyn Fork and Spoon at my current job, where I’ve been working as a graphic designer for almost two years. I’ve gone twice to their dinners and loved it! My boyfriend keeps bugging me each month to bug Mardi to see if there are any spots available in the next supper. I became involved with Fork and Spoon’s Anniversary Party because Mardi asked me if I wanted to exhibit some of my work. Of course I jumped at the idea, and I’m very excited to work with them. I’m going to put up something crazy and concentrated into a small format – there won’t be too much space I can fill with stuff!
Do you feel that food has an influence on you as an artist?
In a more abstract sense my approach to food is similar to my approach to art. I like to try new things and I’m not really afraid of failing or messing up or not liking it – you don’t know if something will work unless you try it!
Charlotte Gudmundsson’s art along with pieces by Mia Berg, Well & Often, and Caycee Black will be on display at The Diamond for Brooklyn Fork and Spoon’s Anniversary Party on Thursday, March 1st. The Party is free. Drinks will be available for purchase at the bar, and small bites of food will be available prepared by Brooklyn Fork and Spoon. It will be an opportunity for the supper club to say thank you to their guests, and give people who have attended their dinners a chance to mingle. Everyone is welcome! If you haven’t attending a supper yet, stop by get some information, have a drink, and meet the people that are involved and the some of the people who have enjoyed their wonderful food. Both New York locals, and people from all around the world have attended Brooklyn Ford and Spoons’ dinners so it is sure to be a great evening of conversation.
The photo at the top of this post is a picture of Charlotte working on a mural at the St. Nick’s Alliance building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in collaboration with Amplify Brooklyn. This mural is located at the corner of Kingsland and Conselyea. Directly above is a 9-layer screenprint that Charlotte did depicting trolls in their natural habitat, the snowy pine forests of scandinavia.
Keep up with Charlotte and all of her projects through these sites: