In the year or so since I met Linn Anna Victoria Larsson, I’ve come to realize I don’t know anyone else like her.
The smart sensibilities that run through her direct conversation style, her clean and fun taste in fashion and her tireless creativity, all come together into a captivating person who I was instantly glad I met.
Linn’s demeanor is often slightly paused, the occasional seriousness of which lightly masks a playfulness and laughter that is always just a second below the surface. Linn seems as naturally complete as she is easy to like. I honestly can’t imagine her being angry.
Her small but stylish apartment seems to perfectly reflect her personality. So perhaps it’s needless to say that her kitchen is the focus and the center of her living quarters. Her MacBook is usually open on the table, surrounded by writing tools, a camera and something delicious she just cooked up.
Her bed, in fact, is tucked near the ceiling in a small loft, and her bathroom is the size of a closet. It’s as if sleeping in this place was an afterthought to cooking, writing, designing and all the other forms of creativity that effortlessly flow around her.
One of Linn’s personal rules is “Don’t eat dinner alone,” so we sat down for a talk and some grub, of course, at her kitchen table.
PHOTOS BY EMILY DAHL
Where I grew up in Louisville, kids get really excited when it snows so much that things are late or get canceled. But you grew up a few hours from the Arctic Circle. Can someone from there really enjoy the disruptive effects of snow. Do you ever get excited when it snows?
Yes! Of course! I think you still get excited when you can make snow angels.
And the last time I was excited about snow was when I was home during Christmas. We were running out – as the snow was falling – to make snow angels and kind of just jumping around in the snow. It is exciting. So, it’s not only you, Scott.
Good. It’s not only people who see snow just a few times a year?
Some people who see snow all the time, can still get excited about snow.
Yeah. But then I don’t understand this… because I know some people – I have some Asian friends in particular – who have asked me several times if they can be home from school if it is snowing. I think that is a kind of awkward question.
Yeah. That never happens in Umeå?
You always go to school when it’s snowing? Even when it’s up to your waist or if it’s a superstorm?
See, that’s what kids in Kentucky get excited about. Because if it snows even just a few centimeters, the city is totally unprepared and things get canceled or run late. So that’s pretty exciting.
We were not that lucky.
Well, you’re used to it and you’re prepared.
Yes. And we have those really thick pants and boots.
You cook a lot. Tell me about that.
As my mantra in life is to never eat alone, I cook a lot for two reasons, mainly.
One is because it’s so nice to do something with your hands so you don’t have to think about things. So it’s like a break while doing whatever you are doing.
Second, which is probably the main reason, is that if you cook people will come. And people are very… It’s nice to gather around food because you have to eat and therefore people will always have time to come and hang out and eat. So it’s as simple as that, I think.
Right on. Aren’t you afraid of getting fat?
[five second pause while she’s chewing a cookie, then laughs…] As I’m having another bite of this chocolate cookie that my father just brought. [laughs]
Well, I am a very lucky person – that’s what they say – I eat a lot and I digest a lot, so therefore I am not afraid of getting fat. No.
Is that very provocative? [laughter] Does that make sense?
I think that… Shit, I don’t know. I was gonna say that I think most of the questions I’ll ask you are probably provocative where I’m…
But, yeah, because I like to ask things that will get good answers.
Yeah. No, I see. Of course.
I used to never have to worry about getting fat. I could eat anything. Then after I turned 30 or so it started making a difference. I hope you don’t have that to look forward to. You don’t seem like you do.
Yeah, I mean probably, it’s gonna be like that. I guess so.
I think you’ll be lucky. I really hope the best for you! [laughter] I really want the best for you. [laughs]
We’ve talked before about the fact that a new cookbook is published in Sweden every 23 hours or something like that.
Is it that often?
Yeah. Does that effect your thoughts when you’re working on a book? That there are so many cookbooks in Sweden?
No. I didn’t know it was that many. [laughter]
Yeah, it’s more than one a day.
Do you know what? I realize that when I did the first book I was very young. I was 18. At that time I wasn’t thinking about anything and I wasn’t reading anything either. I was just picturing how I would like a cookbook to look. Then I just did it.
It was when I was starting to do the second book, I had already done the first one… This is what real authors and musicians also say, it’s that the second book is the hardest. I’m not one of them, because I’m not. I mean, I’m just making a cookbook.
[laughter] Are you saying writing a cookbook is not a real art?
I wouldn’t say… No, I don’t think about it that way. And it’s not for me to label it.
But I remember when I started doing the second book, I was thinking a lot. Not about how I wanted the book to be, but how other people would like the book to be. And that’s not always great, I think.
It’s not always great. But to answer your question, I think, no. I don’t… it doesn’t… I know that there is one book published every day or something like that, but I mean, I’m just doing this because I can. And that’s the only reason. I can and that’s why I do it.
Yeah. With your first book. When you’re 18 years old and you get a deal with a book publisher, how does that happen?
Oh! Well, it was great! [laughter]
I imagine. [laughs]
I did the book, and when I was making it, it was actually my final project in high school.
It turned out pretty well – thought some people [laughs] – among them, my father.
My father said, “You know what, Linn? You should send it to some publishers.”
So I decided I was gonna make some copies. I didn’t have any money, but I had a boyfriend who was a little older than me, so I asked him to make some copies. He made some copies of the book – he printed 20 or so books for me – and I started to sell them to people. Then I also realized that more people seemed to like it and I decided to send it to a couple of publishers.
One of them called me the day after they got the book. I was in class. I was sitting in the back of the classroom, as I usually did in high school [laughter], you know, doing things…
Things that were not high school work. [laughter]
Throwing papers. Burning hairs on one of the guy’s legs [laughs] so that everyone had to run out of the classroom in the middle of our science class and such. [laughter]
I took the phone call, and I was kind of under my bench answering the phone.
You know, I said it’s a “08” number, which was… People never called me from Stockholm at that time, so that was a big deal! [laughter] So I couldn’t just not answer. [laughs]
So, I answered and I said, “Hi, it’s Linn,” and I hear someone say, “Hej, hej, är det Linn? Eh, vi vill göra din bok!” So, yeah, “We wanna publish your book.” I said, [in a professional voice] “Oh, can you hold on a second?” [laughter] and I ran out of the classroom.
I asked him again what he said and he said, “We wanna publish your book.” I said, “Well, okay, that sounds interesting. [pause] Hmmm… Well, I have another offer, so I’ll think about what you say.” Then he explained what they could offer, “….and I will get back to you in a few days. Goodbye.” [laughter] Then I said thank you and he said thank you and goodbye.
Did you have another offer?
No, I didn’t. [laughter] He was the first one calling.
Then I had to think about what “the other offer” was. I thought about that, and I came up with something that I thought was pretty good. I called everyone I knew who could possibly have a book or published, or had published, I don’t know, a poem, to see if anyone knew anything about this industry. [laughs]
Then I, well, I prepared an offer from the “other publishing house,” the fictional publishing house and then I called them back and closed the deal with the publisher.
Not with the fake one?
[laughter] No. Not with the fake one.
You decided to go with the real publisher.
Excellent choice… You probably crack a lot of eggs when you’re cooking, right?
[laughs] Is that an expression or do you mean it literally? [laughter]
I’ll get to that. But you probably break a lot of eggs to cook the eggs. What is your egg-cracking strategy? Do you use one hand, edge of the pan, on the counter, two hands? How do you do it?
[smiling widely] As I like to impress people, it depends on if someone is here or not. [laughter] So if people are here I would do it with one hand – ding! poof! – the edge of the bowl, then open, then throw away the eggshell.
What if nobody’s here, then what do you do?
I take the “two-hand grip.” Very traditional. [laughs]
Yeah. And it’s always on the edge of the bowl?
Yeah. Edge of the bowl, then in the bowl, then I throw it away. Then there’s probably some eggshell in the bowl, so I will need to take my hand and pull it out.
Yeah, yeah. Okay.
Or sometimes – if I know I’m gonna have people here and I have time – I’ll do it like they do on TV shows. You know? You do everything beforehand. [laughter]
So you already have a bowl of open eggs. [laughter]
Yes! So you just open the lid and it’s like “ta-da!” [outrageous laughter] It’s prepared!
That’s fantastic. But there are no cameras here in your house. You’re not usually on TV.
Not usually. Okay. Is there any ingredient that you would never use in a recipe?
Actually the sweet chili sauce that my friend Caroline bought, I would probably never put in that. But, no, maybe I would. Any kind of ingredient that I wouldn’t use? Hmmm.
Is there anything you always see at a grocery store and you think, “I’m never gonna buy that.”
I mean there are lots of those stupid things. There are a lot of those things that you can make by yourself but people just don’t because they don’t know to do it.
There are pre-made things like pie dough or something like that. Oh! You know what? [laughter] I know the most stupid thing! Guacamole mix! [laughter] Have you ever bought that?
I bought it once because I couldn’t find avocados that were ripe in the store. I bought it and supposedly you would have to add avocados [laughter] and sour cream and salt to the avocado mix! So what’s in there? [laughter]
What’s the point?
So, that I’m not buying again.
Do you have a lot of friends?
Yes. I would say I have a lot of friends, actually. I used to not have a lot of friends. I am a very social person but I didn’t really need friends before. Then I realized that friends are really good to have. [laughter] So, then I started to collect them.
Do you feel like you have a pretty good collection now? Could it use some improvement or do you like the group?
Yeah. I feel like I have a pretty good collection. I think I like the group.
I have a lot of acquaintances and I have a lot of friends and I have some really… like three very close friends – then a lot of acquaintances and people to say “hi” to when I’m walking somewhere. I have a good amount of friends.
I guess that sort of answers my next question. Are you a guarded person?
Guarded? Like “reserverad?” Reserved?
Sort of. It’s just kind of protective of yourself. I guess you could be really social but still not let anybody too close.
Maybe. I mean, people would probably say that about me, because that’s usually how I have understood that I am perceived. [laughter]
Because I tend to ask people about their impressions about me, because I think it’s very interesting and I think you can learn a lot from it. But I think I am just what I am. I’m not sure that people around me would agree.
So, am I guarded? It doesn’t… [three seconds] I would say sometimes. I mean, I don’t have a good answer to that. Because I think I’m not, but I think people would think that I am – that I am reserved, that I keep a surface that is… [six seconds] rather solid.
Last week I was in Poland and we were with the student association and we were asking each other… We were doing this kind of fun and silly game – as games usually are [laughs] – where you ask people who is the most whatever. Like, who buys most clothes every week, then you point at that person.
So there were two things that were asked when people pointed at me. One of them was very flattering. Actually both of them were very flattering and also very interesting because I didn’t expect them.
One of them was, “Who has the most friends?” And they thought it was me. And I think it’s not me. I would say it’s not me. I think people’s lives are more social than mine. So it was interesting that that was their perception.
The second one was, “Who has the cleanest home?” That was also me.
Do you know what? Do you remember one time I was here I told you I think you’re one of the cleanest people I know.
Yeah, you know, I told them that after actually they pointed at me! Because I was surprised and then I told them that you actually had said the same thing earlier that week!
But I don’t think your home is clean. [laughter] I think that your person is clean. I think you look very clean. I mean, you always look very well groomed and your clothes are crisp and fresh.
So I wonder do you make a special effort to look really clean or is it just your body chemistry? Are you just lucky like that also?
Well, that was flattering. [laughs]
What I said? [laughter]
No. I don’t think I make a special effort. I mean, I wouldn’t… You know, I do things! I don’t wake up like this. Tonight I came from my yoga practice at ten past seven, then I jumped into the shower and then I basically jumped out.
Do you feel clean most of the time?
Yeah. I like showering. Yeah, I like feeling clean.
What’s the longest you’ve gone without bathing?
Oh. [four seconds] Not more than two days. [laughter] Not that I can recall, at least.
On the other hand, when I was younger we had a cabin. We still have a cabin, but then we had a very “old school” cabin without water. So maybe then, I suppose, I didn’t shower or take a bath for like four days or something.
But that was a lo-o-ong time ago.
Yeah. That was a long time ago.
You’ve kept yourself pretty clean since then. [laughter] Which is more important, cameras or pencils?
Pencils. I think the camera sometimes destroys the situation and I don’t like that. I think the camera is taking over moments too often today. I’m also contributing to it [laughs] but that’s mostly because it’s part of my job to do so, otherwise I wouldn’t.
In particular because I don’t ever look at those photos. I don’t think I’ve ever looked. I have friends who show me photos sometimes and I think it’s kind of fun to look at them, but it’s very rare that I will take out my phone to show you something, for example.
Because I think it’s more interesting to talk.
Yeah. [laughs] Have you ever noticed in the middle of the day that some of your clothes are on backwards?
Oh yes! [laughs] I mean, sometimes things go very quickly for me and therefore waking up in the morning… [laughs]
I don’t snooze, for example, so I set my alarm clock on the exact minute I need to wake up. [laughter] So if I put on a shirt and it’s backwards, I don’t have time to flip it [much laughter] …because I haven’t accounted for that when making my morning schedule. So if it’s wrong it’s gonna be wrong. And it’s gonna be upside down or inside out or back and forth. [laughter]
I see. How many James Bond movies have you seen?
I remember one with Halle Berry.
Okay. [laughs] So, maybe one?
Probably ten, but I can only recall when Halle Berry walks out from the water she looks really hot. [laughter] That’s the only scene I can remember.
That’s one of the recent ones with Pierce Brosnan, right?
It might be. I think it’s very impressive when this question comes up in quizzes – which it always does – and I should learn this because it’s makes a good impression when you know quick facts. The question is always, “How many Bond movies have there been since blah, blah, blah?” or something. Then people seem to be able to count each actor. “Oh, Daniel Craig? He was in two movies and then Halle Berry was in one…”
Right. “Then there was Moonraker and then there was For Your Eyes Only…” They’re like…
Yeah. “Pierce Brosnan was after that…” [laughter]
Did you know that the James Bond films are a family business?
The same people who are making them now are the sons and daughters of the people who started making the films fifty years ago?
There’s a little-known trivia fact for ya! [laughter] So, is your hair really that color?
Okay. [six seconds, waiting for more…] Do you wanna give any more information about that? [laughter]
Okay. Great. [laughter] How did you choose this hairstyle and how would you describe this hairstyle?
Actually, I was in San Francisco and I thought I would do something fun. So I Googled and I found a picture and I took it to the hairdresser. It was a picture of (Swedish singer) Robyn.
Yeah, she’s pretty fun.
She’s pretty fun, yeah.
Have you ever changed you hair because of a change in your life, like a break-up?
[seven seconds] No, but I think that the decision of cutting it, or actually, the decision of making it white was a step in my “rebirth” when I moved to San Francisco – part of my “rebirth” in San Francisco.
What is it about San Francisco that Swedish people like so much?
Well, I can tell you that, because I think I have the answer.
[laughs]Okay, good. Finally!
As you know, Swedes are sometimes a little reserved, to be kind of “nice about it.” Reserved, uptight, you know, all of those characteristics. San Francisco is the opposite. So for a Swede it’s like going to a different planet! Everything is new and everything is the opposite. Everything is how Swedes sometimes have a secret wish to be.
But I think if you ask anyone, they wouldn’t agree because this is too… This is too far outside of their acceptable comfort zone!
Yeah. So, this is my theory that I have accurately developed during several sleepless nights. [laughter] The theory of Swedes’ love for San Francisco.
I like it. You might be right.
Yeah, but I think it’s something like that. It is what this is not. San Francisco is exactly what Sweden is not.
And at the same time, it still has some of the things that Swedish people like about Sweden, like the very liberal mentality.
It has characteristics that we are supposed to have here but we don’t have. That would be the gay rights, for example. We say – and I know also from particular people who are foreigners here – we tend to say that we are very open and liberal when it comes to these things, but in the end, I mean, no one speaks English at the office. We’re not as liberal and easy-going as we claim to be.
What do you mean “nobody speaks English at the office?”
I mean, I was thinking about my friend who I met yesterday. She’s from Taiwan. She’s trying to find a job here. For her it is very hard because everyone speaks Swedish, of course, even at the international companies.
It’s supposed to be – at least that’s my perception of Sweden – that we’re supposed to be very open. We take in a lot of refugees and people also just for work. Or people just want to come here and hang out, you know. But I think, in the end, when it comes to getting a job or something, that job will go to a Swede.
Yeah. I think you’re right about that.
More likely. It’s gonna be an advantage, at least.
Yeah. I definitely think that, because when I’ve looked for jobs before I’ve thought, “I’m totally qualified but I can’t do that because my Swedish isn’t good enough,” even though I know everybody there speaks English.
Yeah. And why not?
Are you always nice?
Um… [six seconds]
I can see by that look on your face that, no, you are not. [laughter]
I think I’m very honest usually and therefore I’m not always nice. [laughs] If I think something is wrong then I tend to say that. Therefore, I’m not.
I don’t think that’s not being nice, that’s just being… It’s not opposite of nice. It’s just being honest.
Have you ever been so angry that you threw something and broke it?
Yes. But it didn’t break, actually. [laughs] So, no.
People with green eyes are pretty special right?
I have green eyes?
Yeah. I think they are maybe green, probably. I have a little, yeah.
A little blue, a little green.
Something like that. No, that I don’t think they’re special.
Is that a theory or…?
My eyes are kinda green, kinda brown. So, I always think that people who have green eyes have this special connection.
I was just wondering if you thought that, too. Apparently you don’t. [laughter] So, maybe I’ll just move on and find somebody else with green eyes who supports my beliefs. [laughter]