Words by Veronica Mike Solheim
Photography by Marte Marie Forsberg
One of the best things Marte Marie Forsberg knew of as a child, was watching her mother cook. She can still remember what she wore, how her hands sank into the dough, flour everywhere. Already back then she looked at food and cooking as something visual—a story to tell—but it wasn’t until after many years of travelling and studying, that she realized that these two components made the perfect recipe for what not only turned out to become her career, but also a place called home.
I met Marte Marie in a dimly lit room in Oslo. Even though it was the beginning of August, the weather felt more like late autumn, yet suitable for a morning like this. It was something about the dusky rain, jazz humming from the speakers at the café—the somewhat gloomy feeling you only get right before the snow falls. We both had a warm cappuccino, and I could tell that Marte Marie not only appreciated the weather, she was a part of the moment; the feeling of drinking warm coffee and having a conversation with a person she just met. She saw the visual value.
Marie, as she prefers to be called, grew up on a small farm with a creative family in Norway. Her mother and grandmother were fashion designers, and they had a space upstairs called The Blue Room, with all kinds of equipment for knitting and weaving. Her father, also a creative soul, had a room downstairs where Marie could craft all sorts of things. She would come home from school, and just play creatively without limits.
Marie gesticulates with a sense of rhythm when she speaks. She takes pauses looking around the room, trying to find the right words. Her presence reminds me of drinking tea under a blanket, listening to Yann Tiersen on a Sunday morning. It’s as if her passion for visual storytelling is what molds her. Like when she described how she used to watch her mother cook as a child.
"I didn’t make much food with mom, I usually just observed her making it. Looking back, I now realize that her cooking must have been very visual to me, like I saw it with a photographic eye. I remember what she wore, the apron, how the light came in, how her hands sank into the dough, flour flying around. I loved it. I helped her from time to time, but mostly I’d just watch her doing it. It was the most exciting thing; my mother being in the kitchen."
Even though Marie’s mother was passionate about food, it took some years of traveling, and a great amount of homesickness, to make Marie interested in cooking. She lived in the US at the time, where the food scene wasn’t much to brag about, as she puts it. She started making her mother’s recipes, traditional Norwegian food, and it soon developed into a passion of her own. It wasn’t just the taste she missed, it was the whole European culture around food: the slowness, the approach to quality, the feeling of enjoying both the cooking and eating together with others. Not just to eat.
"I started experimenting with ingredients my mother used, such as cottage cheese, kefir, Norwegian meatballs, gravy, mutton stew. As I had traveled a lot I mixed these traditional foods with spices, inspired by France, Italy and Japan. It was exciting."
Marie has traveled a lot and lived in many places. When she was seventeen, she lived in Japan, where she worked as an au pair for a Norwegian family. After finishing school the year after, she decided to study Fashion Design in Milano, in Italian. Her curiosity and love for studying brought her to the US, where she took a class in Hebrew and Middle East Politics. This, however, made her miss her creative heritage, and she decided to take a six months course in photography. "The pieces just fell into place. Suddenly I could create the whole visual story, from the styling to actually taking the picture. I used my dad’s old press camera, and that was the beginning of my career as a photographer, she says with a humble smile," she says.
Her photography skills have taken her around the world, where she has done editorials for several books and magazines—a lifestyle many of us can only dream of. Yet, after fifteen years of traveling, a part of Marie just wanted to slow down and live a normal life. She was searching for something. Most of all, she was searching for a home. Literally.
"For one year I had lived at a farm, one hour outside of London, traveling around the world every week. I liked England, and decided it wasn’t the right time to move back to Norway, even though I wanted a change. So I sat down at my computer and googled ‘house for rent in England.’ At page twelve I saw it: A little house with white bricks and a thatched roof. I was like ‘I live there, I just don’t have the keys yet.’"
The day after, Marie drove to this tiny village, a place she had never been before, two hours outside of London. She signed the papers, got the keys, and moved in right away. "It was one of those moments when you realize there is no use asking questions. All you have to do is act, and time will eventually answer the questions you had. I had found my home."
Even though this decision was somewhat spontaneous and crazy, considering that she didn’t know England at all, it was the best decision she ever made. For Marie it has been the perfect place to build her life, a home, and also a company she didn’t have a clear path for. Now she runs her own photography company, trying to do her own projects and be her own employer. At one point, she realized that she’ll only live once, and asked herself, ‘Do I want to work, or do I want to live?’
"Traveling was fun, but I want a rather ordinary life. I want to live in my hobbit-house. I want to be with friends, with family, to walk my dog in the rain, to ride a bike, to climb, to be active, and to make a lot of food. A simple life, so to say."
Her dog, Mr. Whisky, helped her slow down. This hyper rescue dog needed her to stay home a lot more, and turned out to be a great companion and life buddy. And as the home part fell into place, so did her vision for her company. Marie has, in a way, made her lifestyle into a job: running her own food blog, posting pictures on Instagram, taking pictures for books and magazines, inviting people over for workshops on creativity and food, and sharing her own story online. For the last two years, this has taken place at her cottage in England, but she recently bought a house in a small town in Italy, where she wants to offer the same workshops, just not that often.
"I can’t believe I bought this house. I just freaked out about it to my mom. When I bought that house, I bought myself the lifestyle I didn’t want anymore—the one where I needed to travel a lot. My mom asked me why I was so frustrated. ‘Why don’t you just go every three months,’ she asked. And I was like, ‘okay, yeah.’ I don’t need to go every other week. It’s like we make up these scenarios that make everything harder for us. We need to let go of expectations, and just let things happen and do the things that make us happy."
The Italian house sounds wonderful. It’s small, in an old village, with the Alps as a backdrop. Here she wants to invite people for workshops, cooking, yoga on the roof terrace. Just a place to rewind and gather inspiration from others. She is positive that it will be a wonderful place, but for now, her little house in England is where her heart is.
I can almost smell the food market and see her street. The bakery, with organic flour from a farm right down the hill. The ancient churches where you can find fresh vegetables on the staircase, left there by local old ladies who had too many. Her walks with Mr. Whisky, past gardens in the neighborhood, where one lady with red currant bushes leaves a pot or two out for you to grab, as longs as you drop a penny in the mailbox. And on the other side of the street, there is a man who fills his mailbox with duck eggs for anyone who wants them. One pound for six eggs. Then she’d go home and make duck eggs and bacon for breakfast.
"Once or twice in a lifetime, you find a street, an area, or a person, who fits you so well, you just know it from the first moment. For me it began with the house. I loved it, and then the whole area turned out to have all the things I didn’t know I needed. But I now know that this is what makes me feel like I’m breathing fresh air into my lungs. This place makes me feel alive."
It’s almost too good to be true, and Marie feels lucky that she found this place completely by chance. It’s this lifestyle that makes Marie happy, it’s what she has made into her business, and she invites people to be a part of it—either through her photographs, her workshops or by tiny squares on Instagram.
"At one point I just started asking questions. What kind of life do I want? What kind of person do I want to be? Where do I want to go? Where do I want to spend my life? These are tough questions to answer, but all I needed was this google search. Every question was answered when I found this little, white house, where I can both unwind and stay creative. I want a normal everyday life. Traditions, rhythm, routine. It makes me happy. I have definitely found my home."