it all started with a wish, part 3.

{ The first time I styled food and realized that I had created art, Hurley, NY. June 2012 }

The first time I commuted to Sarah’s apartment for work I panicked and took a nearly $40 cab ride to get there by our 10 am time. Part of it was that I hadn’t felt truly comfortable with the subway yet (it was SO confusing at first), and the other part of it was I felt it would be faster. Well, it certainly wasn’t faster than the subway, or obviously economical. I remember texting Sarah that I was worried I would be late and that I was in the cab on the way, and she responded with “…Enjoy the view! :)”. It was then that I realized what a lovely experience a long cab ride in NYC could be. I did learn to love the convenience and efficiency of the subway, and I am absolutely positive it helped me to stay within my budget this summer. However, there is something so romantic and special about all of the sights you can see out your window in a taxi cab around the city. As long as you aren’t in a hurry. Often after a night out with friends I would look forward to my cab ride home (it was always long because I lived uptown on the west side). The streets are relatively empty at 3 in the morning, and the way the city is lit up is spectacular when it’s near quiet and still.

The first lunch Sarah and I shared together was on that first day. Lunch time was something that she made sure we always took a break for. I love that she prioritized this and wanted to enjoy each savory and fresh bite as coworkers, and in time, as friends. We would eat all sorts of delicious things, and lucky for me, everything was vegetarian. Roasted squash and gruyere cheese sandwiched between grilled flour tortillas served with cold and refreshing watermelon was lunch one day, another was two bowlfuls of quinoa, sorrel, lemon, fresh green peas, a sprinkle of farmers cheese, olive oil, and sea salt. Our lunches were relatively simple but so incredibly flavorful. Fresh ingredients (majority came from her urban garden) were the beat to every mealtime song she sang. I always left work full, and it always beat the takeout I often bought at night.

It’s still kind of hard to wrap my head around all that I did this summer. I think in time it will be more clear, but for now I’ll start by naming the things that stick out in my head. Researching for recipe development (whether online, or in books, or even from experiences with meals I had once had), reading through recipes (always good to have a second eye with anything you write!), occasionally cross testing her recipes (even though I don’t have professional culinary experience yet, like her other recipe testers, I truly enjoyed this work the most), I truly enjoyed this work the most), managing The Newlywed Cookbook’s (Sarah’s first cookbook) Twitter account, creating a list serv for important Edible Living news and events, calculating amounts of food needed for our grocery lists (something I was terrible at, I truly believe I am allergic to numbers), sending emails and communicating with people interested or working with Sarah/Edible Living, assisting and shooting a couples cooking class that Sarah taught at the Institute of Culinary Education, accompanying Sarah during a radio interview to promote her brand and the Newlywed Cookbook, organizing Sarah’s published recipes, interviews, and on-air appearances in Excel, and finally my favorite, assisting Sarah at her cookbook photo shoot.

The Mostly Vegetarian cookbook photo shoot was easily the most rewarding experience of my life. During the first week of June, I traveled to upstate NY via bus (my first time!) to a little quaint town called Hurley { some pictures & words: }. For one, I had no idea New York was this beautiful green mountainous state. I guess I thought the majority was a polluted (but great) concrete jungle. My sunrise ride to Hurley was lovely and I arrived Monday morning ready to start with no real idea of what I was in for (other than knowing some of the ingredients we would be cooking and shooting because of the grocery list that I am sure I messed up). Sarah’s home is the ideal mountain escape. It has gorgeous natural lighting that beams through big glass windows into her white country kitchen, and shows off all of the reclaimed wood work her husband created for the interior. It is also the ideal place to shoot a cookbook that more or less focuses on taking vegetables and herbs from your garden and creating simple yet complex meals. Sarah has a perfectly kept garden that delivers everything from arugula to purple basil to radishes and zucchini. It was foodie paradise.

It was a team of 6 women. A very well established, small but mighty food photographer, her sweet assistant, a prop stylist, the assistant food stylist (my savior, check out this post, myself (the intern with no real experience doing any of this but was given the opportunity because of a very trusting and gracious boss), and of course Sarah, responsible for the overall vision and styling. We worked really hard, and for long hours. The kitchen was in constant motion. We alternated between the Beach Boys and 80’s Pop Pandora radio stations, and cooked (& often sang) our little hearts out from 7 or 8 in the morning until around 6 at night. All I can say is, I will never look at a food photograph or cookbook the same again. I now understand every stage of that photo your seeing. The perfect shot of those fluffy and inviting pancakes, with that oozy and delightful slow motion drizzle of dark amber maple syrup. The one that makes your mouth water and catches your eye, & hopefully, makes you say “I am going to cook that today”. Sarah wrote each recipe with so much thought, and love, but what I learned is that the photographs are nearly as important in publishing. There is the prep work, the cooking, the styling, the props, the lighting (always natural!), and the head note above it with a description that hopefully (along with the photo) allures you with it’s rhythmic alliterations. I find myself styling my plates and bowls of food all of the time now. There are simple techniques I learned that week (and the entire summer) just from watching, and I’ll keep them safe in my foodie brain forever :).

To be continued, in part 4!

Also, Happy Birthday Mom! I love you so much.


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