Katrín is originally from Iceland and has lived in Copenhagen, Denmark, since 2002. Her blog Modern Wifestyle is filled with recipes from family style dinners to decadent desserts, but she also wants to focus on reinventing the word “housewife” to recognize that housewives come in all forms and shapes and to bring positivity to the art of being a home maker.
I am so happy to have Katrín Björk, of Modern Wifestyle joining me here today.
(*All images below are Katrín’s.)
On Her Definition of “Housewife”:
Housewife is someone who likes to take care of her family, her house, her home. Someone who likes to build up a life. It doesn’t necessarily mean only cooking and it definitely doesn’t mean someone telling you to cook or telling you to be in the kitchen. And for me to kind of . . . reinventing is a big word, but there’s a lot of negativity linked to the word housewife. I am proud to say that I am a housewife, but I’m also a photographer and I work full-time. And you can be both.
The world is changing and to me, to be a housewife, I’m also focused on to not be the type of a housewife my grandmother was. My grandmother, she worked a little bit but mainly she was taking care of the children, she was cooking, she was cleaning, and she didn’t necessarily like it. Now she’s living by herself after my grandpa passed and she doesn’t cook anymore. She eats take out and has her children to bring food and stuff like that, which I think is great but I also think it’s really sad that she now, at the age of 84, is realizing that you don’t have to cook and you don’t have to like it.
Here in Denmark where I live, Copenhagen, let’s just say that Danish men are really well-raised by their mothers. They all make bread. When I moved here from Iceland I was like, “What is going on?” It was like in a different world, you know, they all bake, they all vacuum and had really nice homes. It was so different and that was really inspiring to me.
On Taking Pride in Being a Homemaker:
Food has never been as popular as right now. Everybody’s cooking. Everybody has opinion on food now and people eat out a lot and I think there’s definitely a food revolution going on. I think the homemaker is within that as well. And then people are interested in cooking and then you get interested in throwing dinner parties. Then all these hostess-type of roles are coming back, which I think is great.
I see it as a hobby. I’m really interested in design, I’m really interested in architecture, and so I see it as a hobby. To create a beautiful space to live in, to create beautiful food for my family. It’s a hobby.
On Her Passion for Photography and Food:
Photography is my profession. That’s what I do for a living, that’s what I study, that’s my number one passion. And then as I said, food and homemaking is my hobby. So my blog is created around the images and it’s just a plus that I can cook and I can style.
Not always but a lot of the time, I do start with an idea of an image or a shape or a form and then I start thinking what type of food would fit into that, what type of food would fit with this table cloth that I really want to use.
When I started the blog I was doing photography and then I started blogging about food. Now it’s all kind of melted together and I’m basically only doing food photography now. I do a little lifestyle – big word – in between, but it’s mainly food and food photography that I do. I get a lot of jobs through the blog. If I create a recipe of pictures for a magazine I would put that in the blog later. So it’s changing a lot.
In the beginning it was all about starting fresh and I didn’t have any clients and I wasn’t really doing food photography. I was learning by doing. So it’s changing a lot now. But from an idea to a finished product, like a finished blog post or a finished article, it can vary. It can be a day. I can wake up in the morning and be like,” Yes, I want to cook a whole fish today,” and then I’ll just go out and get it and cook it and style and then photograph it and boom! It’s there. But other times I’ll go for days and think about, “What do I want to do? Should I do waffles or should I do pancakes? What is better?”
I have read a lot of cookbooks. I’m not a chef, I’m not a baker, I’m not a pastry chef, and I don’t pretend to be. I’m a home cook. So I’ve read a lot of books with technique and then I just practice, and then I figure it out. Now after so many years I’ve nailed down the basic techniques. It’s working out. But I test a lot. My recipes are definitely tested, I promise you that. Because you never know. But often, if I’m watching a cooking show on TV and they’re making something, I’ll go the next day and use what they did and do something similar. And often it turns out to be completely different.
On the Food Culture in Iceland:
The food culture in Iceland is . . . it’s a little old fashioned. They’re getting there definitely, and more and more beautiful restaurants are opening and serving delicious food. Iceland is a country with amazing products and produce. They have the best lamb in the world, they have fresh fish. They have it all, but they’re still preparing it in the old fashioned way.
Luckily I have a lot of readers from Iceland that I can inspire with either Danish food and they’re American inspired too. But yeah, I mean traditionally Icelandic food is pretty gross. I’m pretty sure you would not want to taste that. We’re talking fermented everything. A lot of fermented fish and not really delicious. But they’re definitely getting there.
What I think is most special about Icelandic food is that all lambs are born in late April and May. And then they’re let go freely up to the mountains where they just go. They eat berries and plants and then the farmers will go up to the mountains in September on horses and gather them around again, bring them down from the mountain and then they’re slaughtered right away. So our lamb is super fresh, really young, and spiced from the inside.
On How Danes Approach Food:
Danes are really into food and Danes have a great word that means cozy but it also means gather. It means basically everything that’s good. And they do that a lot with family. So they come together, they eat together for the holidays, every single day. And it doesn’t matter how old you are. If you’re 50 years old, you will still go to your mother’s house and have a feast with your whole family. It’s really impressive. They’re very family-oriented and big feast, big gatherings, they’re all for that.
Danes really love a dish that they call smørrebrød which is an open-faced sandwich that comes with various toppings. And they have rules about what they pair together and what goes on top and such. And these open sandwiches you can get almost everywhere. You can both go to traditional restaurants, both around the cities and in the countrysides, at bed and breakfasts and hotels. And then also in Copenhagen they are doing their modern take on this sandwich.
I think that is definitely something that people visiting Denmark and Copenhagen should try, because they’re delicious. They can have everything on them. Everything from pickled herring with apples, fried fish fillet with remoulade sauce on top and a little lemon and it’s delicious. It definitely contains mayonnaise, butter, and all these delicious things, so it’s not healthy but it’s definitely delicious.
You will definitely have ice cold beer with it, and probably a shot of Danish snaps. They have this snaps that taste a little bit like Caraway seeds. It’s super strong but yummy and kind of cleanses your palate, in between mayonnaise and butter.
This is it. It’s one piece of bread with either a thick layer of mayo or butter and then toppings on top. These can be super tall and they can fill out a whole plate with this one piece of bread. My husband and I will have smørrebrød for dinner on a lazy day. It’s like having a sandwich, just in a little fancier way.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
I watch, religiously, MasterChef Australia. Not U.S., not Canada, not UK, Australia. It is amazing!
I think there are five shows, five episodes per week, and it’s all about the food. It’s not about the drama. They’re all super supportive with each other, and they’re cooking amazing food, and there’s a lot of focus on the food and focus on techniques.
I’ll watch an episode of that and then I’m out in my kitchen and trying it.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
I’m going to say Two Red Bowls. Beautiful, I mean beautiful photography, amazing styling and delicious recipes. And I’m going to say My Name is Yeh, which is equally as amazing. Always with Butter. Chasing Delicious. Yeah, those four.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook that make you happy?
Oh, I follow everybody on Pinterest. I love Pinterest. But I also love Instagram, definitely. On Instagram I follow Nik Sharma. He is so talented and his images are great. So I follow him on Instagram and I’m really inspired by what he’s doing. I follow Molly Yeh from My name is Yeh. And I follow Ashley Marti from the Local Haven. She’s really good. She does a lot of cocktails, which is right up my alley.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
You know when you open a bottle of wine and then you maybe just have a glass, and then you have to have an extra cork to put in it? Because if you pull out the cork, they don’t always fit in again? I have this cork from my grandfather that has this huge golden horse head on top. I mean it’s so weird and strange and so not in style with my Scandinavian home, but I think that is the greatest thing I have in my kitchen right now.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
Cheese. I know, it’s so weird. I didn’t eat cheese as a kid. I wouldn’t touch it. I hated it. And when I grew up, it was embarrassing. It was embarrassing to go to parties, go to people’s houses, and be like, “Oh, I don’t eat cheese.” And being the type picking cheese off a pizza. I mean it was so weird. So I made an effort. I just said to myself, “This is a no go. You have to learn how to eat cheese.” So I did.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
Definitely The Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, definitely. I mean I’ve read it from one end to another, because it’s basic, but it’s so great, and it teaches you a lot. And then everything by Jamie Oliver. Huge fan of Jamie Oliver.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
I listen to a lot of jazz when I cook. Nothing special in particular, just a playlist of jazz. Just go on, Spotify, and just jazz. And then just pick a random playlist and play it.
It sets a good mood you know? It’s different.
If I’m cooking for the blog and working, I might listen to something more upbeat-y and if I’m cooking for a dinner party, it’s definitely slow jazz, because then I’m also having wine, for sure.
On Keeping Posted with Katrín: