Lotta Anderson

A top Scandinavian designer explains Swedish foods, her urge to stockpile and how her son is made of sprouted wheat.

You might expect an artist known for spare, Scandinavian-style prints to eschew making any kind of mess in the kitchen, but Lotta Anderson—aka Lotta Jansdotter, the design company the Swedish expat started in California in 1996 under her maiden name—isn’t afraid to let the dill-flavored potato chips fall where they may.

Anderson’s work—she’s a brand name in the design world, regularly dotting the pages of lifestyle mags like Real Simple or the Style section of the LA Times—adorns bags, fabrics, bowls, aprons, napkins, toys; has led to several books on crafts, sewing and printmaking (with one that includes her recipes in the works); and has made her a bona fide lifestyle star in Japan, to boot.

She and her husband, Nick, moved from San Francisco to the Waterfront Garden District near Red Hook four years ago. Their small Brooklyn kitchen isn’t nearly as cluttered as it used to be, thanks to a recent spell of whittling down the objects Anderson has a penchant for collecting for inspiration and that her husband, an architect, has a penchant for wanting fewer of. And, yes, in case you were wondering, some of those do come from IKEA.

Your refrigerator is really full.
I’m having a Swedish-themed party on Saturday. I was born on this island between Sweden and Finland, but I grew up in Sweden. My fridge is grossly, incredibly stocked right now. Which is a little bit how I shop, which is another thing my husband and I have a thing about: When I go, I tend to buy tons and tons, and we never have enough room for everything. I think it’s a comfort thing. I love piling up my grocery cart. It’s very satisfying.

It looks healthy in there.
I would say I am not a purist. I would love to be a purist, to be buying all organic. I don’t, because I am a little bit thinking of the wallet. I just bought some eggs that weren’t, and I was like, “Ooh, ooh, I don’t want to eat them.” It’s probably all psychological. The milk—those stories about 10-year-olds getting breasts too early really wigged me out.

Do you feel that as a cook, you are a Swedish cook?
We eat a lot of open-faced sandwiches, and we have cheese on bread quite often. Every now and then I make meatballs. More in baking, maybe—cinnamon rolls and little cookies and birthday cakes—that’s more when the Swedish comes forward. And the holidays: I make a lot of casseroles. Potato casserole with anchovies in it—very good with beer. Really good.

Your two-year-old son, August, helps cook?
Yes, we think it’s a good thing on so many levels: having him feel like a responsible member of the family. When he cooks he’s very proud, you can tell, so we are rolling meatballs together, he’s really good at that. And when he’s made the food himself he’s much more willing to eat it. It’s super, super good, so we try to involve him more and more. He was helping me with the gravlax and putting sugar on it, and sugar got everywhere on the floor, and, I’m like—it really doesn’t matter, it was so great.

“I made mead”
We had a party and I made mead. I like those bottles, so that’s why we still have them. It’s not like mead as you think of beer mead; this is almost more a frizzy lemonade—it’s really, really tasty. I used to drink that a lot as a kid. But they have it on the evening of Wallpurgis Night, the night of April 30—the next day is the first of May—and they have these big fires and sing and there’s mead. It’s just honey and lemons, and you put yeast in it and let it ferment, and you put raisins in it and know it’s done because the raisins have popped up to the surface, really plumped up.

You are what you eat
This is the bread we always have. We’ve had it for six years. Every day. Always have it. We don’t go a day without it. It’s the best bread in the world. It’s pretty much what August is made of, because when I was pregnant all I ate was eggs with this. It’s sprouted whole wheat. It’s so good.

Rites of popcorn
One of my favorite machines in the house is my popcorn popper. August and I, we eat popcorn a lot. Because I can’t hold out for dinner, I am really hungry, so I usually have a beer and popcorn and we sit on the floor. We sort of have a little ceremony.

Papered over
When we moved in here, this was mirrors, really weird mirrors. You would look in the corner and you’d be like “What the hell is going on?” So, since it’s a rental, well, we have to do something, but we didn’t want to spend a ton of money, like retiling or anything. We just need an economic solution to fixing it, so I was like, well, “How about contact paper?”

Metal detector offender
That’s a Finnish pot that costs an arm and a leg. That’s super special, from Sweden. It used to be my mother’s. She’s no longer with us. It’s one of those things that you pass down. It was funny because I hand-carried it with me in the airport and I had it in my backpack and it’s solid cast iron. They were like, “What is this?”.

Cookbook and cookie book
Here’s my cookbook. Oh, look, here’s the recipe for mead. It’s in Swedish. That’s like gold, right there. I started it probably 15 years ago and glued pictures in and now it’s falling apart, which is really distressing me. My mom did write some recipes in there and she’s no longer alive so it’s very, very special.

Another really classic Swedish book is this book of cookies, it just got put out in English. Like every woman, not my generation but my mother’s generation and grandmother’s generation, they all had this book. Because having fika, which is coffee break in Swedish, we all do it all the time and we eat a lot of cookies and cakes. I bought this at the Swedish church in Midtown. August and I go on Fridays because they have singing groups. I’m not really a churchgoer but that’s where they sing, and that’s where they give you the free cinnamon buns.

August’s felt pizza
You have onions, you have sardines. You have olives. It was a birthday gift. My favorite is the onion. And then they have cheese, too, which is like this little yellow felt specks.

Crayfish, mild
So IKEA is, you know, heaven, or our second home for Swedes. A great deal of their sales is their Swedish food section. The crayfish here are spicy. These are in dill sauce and they’re very mild.

Stella no more
I’m really into Sam Adams—used to be Stella, but after I had August I couldn’t drink Stella anymore. So strange. Kind of a loss. Sam Adams is good. I’m having a little bit of a midlife crisis right now so I thought I should drink Sam Adams Light, which I abandoned after a while. I thought, “That’s just insane.”

Dinkel Bröd Crispbread Rounds
I bring it with me from Sweden. Also we have Wasa. Wasa you can find anywhere. They’re spelt. Good for you. It is really beautiful, it really is.

Too many vessels
We don’t have any room. It’s nuts. I have to take it all to my studio and call it props these days. To my husband, I’m like, “They’re props.” He’s like, “Yeah, they’re props.” I love bowls, and you can have bowls for so many different purposes. I made my own bowls and I also like some of the bowls I got in Japan. This is the precious one I have right now that is hidden. ‘Cause what if it breaks, right?

The funny fork
I have some things that I don’t even know what to do with. I don’t know what this is. What is it? It’s so funny. It’s a fork, but funny, right? I got it at a yard sale.

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Rachel Wharton is the former deputy editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She won a 2010 James Beard food journalism award, holds a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University, and has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and reporter. A North Carolina native and a former features food reporter for the New York Daily News, she edited the Edible Brooklyn cookbook and was the co-author of both Handheld Pies and DiPalo's Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy. Her work also appears in publications such as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Saveur.