Oppskrift for my Norwegian heart

Red, white, and blue

The American Lista

Photo: Mona Anita K. Olsen
The May 17th Parade flows through Brooklyn Square in Vanse.

Mona Anita K. Olsen, PhD
Cornell University

Each time I return to work on my family’s 1931 home in Borhaug, a quaint fishing area on the southwest coast of Norway, home of my maternal grandparents, I am asked the same question multiple times. Why would I change the paint color on the main house from canary yellow to carnelian red during renovations? I typically joke that the house is my Little Red in Norway; my job is Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and we are known as the Big Red. But foremost, I comment that it is not just the red, it’s the red, white, and blue together as an exterior paint palette.

This was the focus of the paint color change in the creation of Innovation Barn’s promoting the American Dream framework, an idea inspired by my time as a Fulbright recipient in 2013. Red, white, and blue symbolize many things to me from a visual perspective; most importantly, the color combination represents the oppskrift (recipe) for the creation of my Norwegian heart. Red, white, and blue are shared in flags for both Norway and the United States, a commonality directly aligned with the region called “det Americanske Lista.”

Innovation Barn

Photo: Mona Anita K. Olsen
Innovation Barn sports its red, white, and blue look.

Rooted in the history of the migration of Norwegians across the pond, “The American Lista” phenomenon continues to draw people to the area. NRK TV even created a segment on det Americanske Lista calling Lista “almost American.” Approximately a two-hour drive from Kristiansand and nearly three from Stavanger, Lista is as physically close to America as one can get on Norwegian soil. The region is home to its own Route 8, with an 8th Avenue Restaurant at Brooklyn Square in Vanse, an Apartment 9 Museum and exhibition showcasing American-inspired apartment settings from the 1950s and 1960s, a four-day American Festival during the last weekend of June, and an American-inspired department store called Trunken. This intersection of Norwegian and American popular cultures is hard to miss. Even the television reality show Alt for Norge visited the area and experienced the Norwerican culture along with the impressive views at Bausje Beach and Lista Fyr.

Lista Fyr is one of my favorite lighthouses to visit, especially for sunset and hiking the surrounding land with sheep and alpacas from Alpakka Lista. After a visit to Lista Fyr, you can say you have literally “Seen the Light,” the slogan for the lighthouse’s t-shirts and marketing. Recently, there has been a push to develop its information center to incorporate a café, overnight options, and additional tourist information and also to display gifts created by local entrepreneurial artisans.

On the way home from the lighthouse, I enjoy stopping at Bispen, a restaurant with a lovely outdoor patio where you can enjoy the harbor view. If on a weekend, Larsen’s Tarebua affords a destination to enjoy a beverage, some food, and participate in cultural activities. For example, in May, I went to Musikk Bingo with friends and reflected on how music truly is a universal language.

From Lista Fyr a visit to the Lista Museum is another option to consider. You can walk to a section of it called Nordberg Fort, built by the German occupying forces in 1942. Test your skills sketching a Viking ship and checking out the art exhibits. Alternatively, you can hike the rocks on the coastline at Snekkestø.

If staying overnight, there are a variety of options, but lately I have been watching the concept called Langhuset, which has not only provided overnight alternatives on the water in Østhasselstrand but has been a community retreat location for yoga events hosted by YogaLista.

The Long House symbolizes a modern approach to the idea of a Havnestua. As a child, my parents made a commitment to encourage my younger brother and me to spend time in Norway each summer with our grandparents and extended family. I distinctly remember watching my grandfather spend time at Havnestua, a community gathering point for fisherman and retired men. In watching the NRK program on Havnestua, I was reminded of the importance of watching this community building and engagement as a child and reflecting on how this has influenced the way I focus on community building as one of the three elements incorporated into every entrepreneurship and Yogibana class I teach. The Havnestua connection magnet equivalent for kids and tourists is the Havnekiosken, a fast-food place. Still open today, the Havnekiosken was the spot where we would close out the day with friends in the beautiful sunlight.

Havika Strand

Photo: Mona Anita K. Olsen
The blue ocean sparkles at Havika strand.

In venturing back toward the city of Farsund en route to one of the big cities off E39, I have fond memories of exploring Havika with not only my grandparents but also my mom in recent years at the Light of Lista, a cabin near the beach perfectly set up for reflective journal writing with a view or a thoughtful conversation with a thermos of coffee. A sublime afternoon includes a trip to Rederiet Hotell, member of Historic Hotels of Europe, for a coffee or a meal. I am fond of sitting on the balcony overlooking the harbor and enjoying Rederiet’s Hjemmelagede Fiskesuppe (homemade fish soup). If walking through the charming streets of Farsund, a stop near the church at Parken Kaffebar is a must. The retro interior inspires writing postcards to send around the world. This is a place where I truly embrace the recipes of my Norwegian heart with delicious Norwegian treats and an environment that allows me to reflect on the similarities and differences in perspectives between cultures in America and Norway.

You can find a gallery of photos from the area from a variety of trips I have taken to det Americanske Lista at monaanitaolsenphotography.com.

Mona Anita K. Olsen is an assistant professor at the School of Hotel Administration in the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business​ in Ithaca, N.Y. ​She is also the founder of Innovation Barn 58N6E and the 501c3 iMADdu (I make a difference, do you?) Inc.

This article originally appeared in the August 24, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Mona Anita K. Olsen

Mona Anita K. Olsen

Mona Anita K. Olsen, Ph.D. is a British-American entrepreneurial academic based in Norway. She holds an academic appointment as an associate professor at the University of Southeastern Norway. As a Ph.D. student, Olsen was a U.S. Fulbright Grantee to Norway in 2012-2013; she continues to follow her dream in progress to make a difference in entrepreneurial education in Norway as a fourth-generation owner of Innovation Barn in Borhaug alongside her daughter and husky named Buddy Grunder. Learn more at monaanitaolsen.com.