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Norwegian publisher and literary chef Christian Kjelstrup shows us his edible ‘Leo Toastoy’. Photograph: Paal Audestad
There was the angel who appears to Moses in biblical flames, there are the occasional sightings of Jesus in bits of toast. But when Christian Kjelstrup saw the face of Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa in a pan of sausages, the Norwegian publisher was struck by (divine? delicious?) inspiration, embarking on a project to create portraits of writers using ingredients that were puns on their names.
Fernando Pølsoa ... a portrait of Pessoa made of sausage, bread and sauce by Christian Kjelstrup. Photograph: Christian Kjelstrup
From Fernando Pølsoa – a pølse is a hotdog in Norwegian, and the sausages are used to form Pessoa’s moustache, eyebrows and hair – to Margaret Spinatwood, Doris Dressing and Charles Duckens, Kjelstrup has made 100 punning literary food portraits. They are brought together in Uroens Kokebok – The Cookbook of Disquiet, a reference to Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet. Kjelstrup’s book is a self-published title that has become an unlikely hit in Norway, selling more than 2, 000 copies since its release in December, he told the Guardian.
“My children have eaten quite a lot of these portraits, ” says Kjelstrup in the offices of Aschehoug, where he works as an editor. “I made them all, usually in the middle of the night. Pesto is nice to work with, because it’s dense, so I used a knife to shape it.” (Pesto was used to make Fyodor Pestoevsky, the edible Dostoevsky).
Kjelstrup embarked on the project, after various other Pessoa-related endeavours, in August 2015. “Everything was quiet, but inside, in me, there was disquiet, ” he says. “When we were having pølse at work on a Friday, I had a realisation – I saw the face of Pessoa in a sausage. I kept it to myself, but took a few sauces, and a lompe [a wrap used for pølse], and a new plate, and I made a Pølsoa.”
Related: From Margaret Spinatwood to Doris Dressing: author portraits in food – in pictures
He put the image on Facebook. “I didn’t expect anything, but I got enormous feedback, ” he said. He began to post an image every Friday, and by October, he realised that the portraits could form a book.
The concept was “quite strict” according to Kjelstrup: the portraits can only be made “using an ingredient which rhymes on or at least is reminiscent of the name of the writer”. So there’s Honning Makrell, created using honey and mackerel. James Juice, Cornac McCarthy and Leo Toastoy, amongst many others.
Taking the pen name Christian Ketsjup [Ketchup], Kjelstrup published Uroens Kokebok in December, selling the title from a pop-up shop and becoming an unexpected media sensation in Norway.
The project is not Kjelstrup’s first eccentric venture – and not even his first with links to Pessoa. Two years ago, he spotted a vacant shop and decided to rent it for a week, naming it The Bookshop of Disquiet and selling only one book from the premises: Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet. The store “almost overnight turned Pessoa’s rather complicated and not very well known book in Norway into a bestseller”, Kjelstrup explains.
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