I love quirky things, I love objects with an Asian theme, I love pink things and red things, I love spoons and I love art!
I love jobs that are different to the norm and recently I spent a couple of days working on a project that I can honestly say I have never done before for a client, although I had done a similar shot once for my own portfolio. I do quite a bit of work with the creative agency BMF and I was asked to work on a project for the agency themselves, rather than one of their clients. I helped create an entire cookbook where only one dish was actually cooked and the recipes were all written out on blackboards by Roger, an amazing signwriter. My part of the job was to help design each board then arrange all the raw ingredients onto the board to create the ‘recipe’. The actual recipes had been contributed by the team at BMF but I had to make each recipe come alive on the board. Working with a great fun team from BMF, we worked our butts off but it was seriously worth it. Here are some of my favourites from the day – what do you think?
I have a feeling lots of BMF’s clients are going to be asking for future work in the style of this book.
Here’s Roger working on one of the boards. Sometimes he could do the words and images before I put the food on, but often it wasn’t practical so he had to work around the ingredients. A couple of times there was a last minute spotting of a spelling mistake that involved intricate rubbing out, rewriting and ‘smudge’ removing.
Luckily the two mistakes on this board were spotted before it was finalised!
The finished cookbook “Beautiful Mouthfuls of Food” is the Christmas gift to the clients of BMF and I really hope I get one in my stocking too! Thanks Gav, Rita and the rest of BMF and happy Christmas!
What a great day I had yesterday. As a freelance food stylist and food writer I am always interested in new challenges and I’ve found a brilliant new area of work that I’m loving and felt I needed to share the love! I’ll apologise right now, this is quite a long post, so sit down with a cup of tea and read on. It’s worth it.
I’ve started doing some work for OzHarvest. For those who don’t know who OzHarvest are, they are an Australian charity that rescues quality excess food which would otherwise be discarded. This excess food is distributed, at no cost, to charities providing much needed assistance to men, women and children. (Yes that was taken directly from their 2012 annual report – but I couldn’t have written it any better!)
Here are some amazing/shocking figures:
- Since they began operating in late 2004 they have delivered approximately 21 million meals, diverting more than 7 million tonnes of GOOD FOOD from landfill.
- Australians throw away food worth $7.8 BILLION which equates to about 178 kilos of food per person each year.
- On average people throw away 1 in 5 of every shopping basket-worth of food they buy.
I am getting involved with their “Cooking for A Cause” programme. This is a brilliant progamme because it engages the corporate community, but not just in terms of money, in terms of people too. Teams of volunteers from corporate companies either come to the OzHarvest kitchen (donated by Goodman+) or they prepare and serve a meal at one of the charities that OzHarvest delivers to. The volunteers then get into teams and cook up some of the food that has been donated. The menus are planned around what has been donated that day or the day before, so Travis, the head of Cooking for a Cause, is constantly having to come up with brilliant dishes that are nutritious, delicious, interesting to make and easy to transport. This programme is fantastic in so many ways – it teaches new cooking skills, provides volunteers with time away from their corporate environment, teaches them about food excess and how to prevent it and really importantly at the end of the day several hundred meals have been cooked. These meals are then quickly whisked away to one of the many charities that benefit from OzHarvest.
The logistics of this charity are phenomenal. In Sydney they have a team of drivers, driving 12 refrigerated vans constantly on the move ready, as the phone calls come in about available food, to pick up and deliver to over 500 recipient charities. Charities that include women’s and children’s refuges, homeless shelters, church missions etc the list goes on. Using this system the majority of the food is delivered directly to the charities without having to be stored by OzHarvest. The van drivers are also educated in food safety and will check the food to ensure the food is suitable. I must stress that the food that is ‘rescued’ isn’t food that is bad or going off, it is just excess. Maybe a corporation has hosted a barbecue and they rather over-catered and have 60 kilos of sausages and buns leftover – so who you gonna call “OzHarvest” of course. Top Sydney restaurants, fruit and veg shops, hotels and catering companies, businesses like Bourke Street Bakery, Thomas Dux, Harris Farm and Lindt Cafe to name a few examples, all donate their excess food. Many TV cooking shows (Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules) also donate all that beautiful food that is used in those stunning sets but is never used and where possible food photo shoots are helping too.
So back to my day! Yesterday was a little bit different again, I was involved in Cooking for a Cause, but this time not only did it involve a corporate group, it also involved a group of 13-15 year old indigenous kids who are part of a scheme being run by the University of Technology Sydney called ‘How big are your dreams?” The kids arrived, got aproned up and after a few quick lessons on general kitchen safety and knife skills were straight into cooking fabulous meals. My role isn’t to cook, it’s to guide and encourage. Two boys were allocated to making pizzas for everyone for at the end of the session and what great guys they were.
The pizza was fabulous and although I’m not sure they’re going to be making pizza every night, they did seem genuinely proud of what they had achieved. We also made beef kofta which the kids squished and squashed and formed into hundreds of patties and we made flat breads from scratch, vegetarian kofte from donated lentils and a huge pile of vegetable couscous and masses of chicken salad wraps. With just a very few exceptions all the ingredients had been donated.
I also learnt something myself, a cool trick for how to get pomegranate seeds out easily. Bash it all over with a wooden spoon, then slice it open over a bowl and bash the seeds into a bowl – how cool is that – so much easier than picking them out one by one!
In chatting with the kids it became very clear that most of the kids cooked at home on a regular basis for their brothers and sisters and I was hearten to hear most of them say they enjoyed it.
Here’s a pic of what we achieved. As I mentioned, this day was slightly different to others as its aim was also to engage the kids and show they what they can achieve, it wasn’t just about producing hundreds of meals – but in actual fact we did both.
I’m so pleased I’m involved with this charity as I’m very aware of how fortunate I am in life and this charity it a perfect fit for my love of cooking and education and my hate of food wastage. Saving and distributing excess food has been something I’ve been doing for a long time. Way, way back when I worked on a London magazine I used to package up food (and plastic knives and forks) leftover from recipe testing and hand it over to homeless people along the River Thames. It wasn’t always easy nor were my meals always accepted but I couldn’t bear throwing the food away. I also remember the sheer joy on my 8 year old neighbour’s face when I handed him a 10 litre tub of ice-cream left-over from an ice-cream shoot!
So next time you go to throw away some food think twice and see what you might be able to do with it. Only buy what you really think you need and if you absolutely have to throw away fruit or veg at least put it in a compost bin or worm farm and nourish the ground if you can’t nourish your body!
If you want to find out more about OzHarvest go to http://www.ozharvest.org/index.asp or contact your HR department and see if your company is already involved and if you can get involved too.
And lastly I will leave you with something to really get you thinking – every day in Australia 1 million children go to school without breakfast or to bed without dinner. OzHarvest is helping to change this and maybe you could too either as a volunteer or as a corporate sponsor.
My book has been out for just over a month now and what a fantastic month it’s been. The publicity has been amazing and my book has been received with open arms by shops, newspapers, magazines and radio shows. So many people have said to me that I’ve hit a nerve – writing and styling a camping cookbook that contains fresh, healthy, easy to make recipes that look delicious and use minimal cooking equipment. I’ve also had so many positive comments about the photos of family and friends who appear in the book. I was a little worried that it might be too much, but it seems not. I always wanted these kinds of shots in the book to make it genuine and add some reality. And as a bonus, what an amazing record our family now has of this particular time in our life.
So, pretty much every Australian state newspaper has done a review or asked me to write an article, several women’s magazines including marie claire, taste.com.au, NW and Women’s Day have reviewed it, an article I wrote about cooking while camping has been taken up by tonnes of fantastic websites and I am currently in the middle of a busy schedule of radio interviews. Wow, what more could I ask for?
The radio interviews were nerve-racking to start with, but I soon realised that there isn’t anything controversial in my book for the presenters to trip me up on, the radio presenters are interested in it and I’m the expert! The questions have been varied and apart from forgetting where one campground is (yes I know, I know Honeymoon Bay is in Jervis Bay!) I haven’t faltered in any of them. The only slightly off-putting thing that happened was when the airport changed the flight path schedule just as I was about to do a live phone-in interview, so every couple of minutes a plane would take off rather loudly pretty close to our house. At one point, the presenter interrupted me to jokingly announce “there goes flight QF77”!
I’ve also been having lots of fun finding my book in the shops and, of course, rearranging it to give it pole position. Move over Jamie and Nigella that’s my spot!
So a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has bought, or who is intending to buy, my book, to all the newspapers, magazines, websites and radio presenters who have been plugging my book and for all the lovely comments I’m getting, it’s been a wonderful month.
Now, time to get started on the next one!
Photography Natasha Milne (copyright Explore Australia Publishing)
Like many stylists I love typography and I have various random letters and words scattered around our house and once I even picked up a very large discarded letter ‘U’ during an early morning walk!
But it isn’t just the alphabet that fascinates me, I also love shodo – the Japanese art of calligraphy. I was lucky enough to study this while living in Tokyo and find it a very peaceful way to relax. I’m not normally one for rules, but I really appreciate the strict rules that govern the pratice of shodo – once you commit your brush to the paper there is no going back, if you make a mistake you start all over again. Of course I could break that rule but somehow I never want to. The end of each stroke and how you finish it is very important and it can be so frustrating when you have almost completed a complicated, multi-stroke kanji only to mess up the very last flick! Sadly white-out is not an option!
As a leaving Tokyo present, my shodo teacher, Waka had my own personal ‘rakkan-in’ made for me. This is essentially my signature on a stamp. Every Japanese person has their own personal hanko (stamp) which they use in place of a signature in everyday life and shodo artists have their own too, but it is called a rakkan-in rather than hanko. They use it to ‘sign’ their paintings. If you look at a piece of shodo you will see, usually on the bottom left and usually in red ink, a square containing some characters. This is an artistic interpretation of their name. This is mine:
My friend Jane Lawson (cookbook author and fellow Japanophile) asked me to do some shodo for her latest Japanese cookbook and although the thought terrified me, I felt an amazing sense of achievement when I finished those six kanji. I shalln’t tell you how many pieces of paper it took to get the six, but it was worth it!
Although I don’t get much chance to practise my shodo at the moment, I recently themed our book club evening to the Japanese book I chose and along with preparing Japanese food I also wrote everyone’s name in Japanese and then got them to try and pick their own name. Every time I take the time to do some shodo I realise how much I love it and think I should do more!
To see more of Jane’s stunning cookbook/seasonal food journey Zenbu Zen here.
With winter coming to an end at the bottom end of the globe, it was time to make the most of the lemon and lime crop, so I wrote some zingy lemon and lime recipes for the October issue of marie claire magazine.
I spent a fair bit of time getting the amount of lime just right for the delicious lime and vanilla panna cotta and then a friend suggested a twist on a Portugese tart – so the Portuguese lemon tart was born! There’s also a fabulous recipe for light as a feather lemon and lime souffles and finally a healthy breakfast dish of quinoa with mango and lime. For all these recipes you’ll need to buy the October issue of marie claire, but if you’ve got a lime hanging around give this Vietnamese pork meatball recipe a try.
I’d known for many years that it was always The Rock Climber’s dream to live in a converted church, so when a just-about-affordable one came up for sale at exactly the same time as we were selling our house, it was a done deal, we were going to do everything in our power to make it our home and luckily for us we did.
I always have a bit of a chuckle when I walk past the front doors (which are no longer used as the front doors) as the door knockers are a skull and crossbones. We don’t know where they came from and I very much doubt they were on the door when it was the local Anglican church!
Coincidentally, we are known as the Jolly Rogers by some of our friends, so these knockers seems very appropriate!
And of course the doors themelsves are a fabulous backdrop for zombies on Halloween!
Along with my thing for Japanese spoons, I also love Japanese lanterns. I was fascinated by them from the moment we first arrived in Japan and was desperate to read the beautiful Japanese script written down the length of each and every one.
We moved to Tokyo in 2008 for The Rock Climber’s job. It was never somewhere I had ever had much desire to visit, but having lived there for almost 4 years it is somewhere I still think of daily and think everyone should visit if they get the opportunity. I am always hard pressed to describe what it is about Tokyo and Japan in general, that I love so much as it is a difficult place to describe. For me it’s a visual thing, but much more in the detail rather than as a whole. It’s what’s happening at street level. So for me when I think of Japan or am asked to describe Japan, it is the exotic paper lanterns that are foremost in my mind.
The script on this vibrant lantern says that this is a hand-made soba restaurant “te uchi soba”.
It was the lantern I spotted outside this udon restaurant in Kyoto that made me go inside and have dinner and very delicious it was too.
While in Kyoto I was lucky enough to see a geisha (or geiko as they are called in Kyoto), walking passed this enormous lantern!
A red lantern outside a restaurant generally indicates it is a cheap and cheerful restaurant. But there are millions of lanterns all over Japan in a multitude of sizes, predominantly coloured red, black and white. Traditionally the lanterns are made of washi paper, so to protect them from the rain they are often covered in plastic. It doesn’t make them look quite as beautiful but it’s practical.
Early on in our time living in Tokyo I found a shop that sold old Japanese lanterns and decided that I would buy one when we knew we were leaving – I thought it would be strange to have a restaurant lantern in our house while we lived there. So more than three years later, when I found out our time in Tokyo was drawing to a close I headed back to the shop all set to buy a lantern, accompanied by my Japanese friend Yuko. I had re-visited the shop many times over the years just because I loved the shop so much. Even though I had mastered a fair bit of Japanese I decided that I’d let Yuko do the talking and that’s when I found out that all these beautiful old lanterns weren’t actually for sale – even though they all had price tags on. They were simply examples of what you could buy BRAND NEW! I was devastated, but the shop keeper thought it highly amusing that some crazy foreigner wanted to buy some raggedy old, torn paper lantern. In the end I settled for this new black and white one and much to the amusement of my Japanese friends, I proudly displayed it at home for our final weeks. And what does it say – ‘eigyo cho’ which translates as ‘open for service’!
This lantern is another treasured possession that I found in an antique shop. The script on it is very old and even my Japanese friends couldn’t read it, so I shall never know what it says.
In our Sydney home my lanterns sit on an old red Japanese cupboard but when we eat outside I take all my lanterns and hang them in the trees, I’m not sure what I’ll do if a Japanese person walks by and thinks we’re ‘open for service’! ***
I’ve been writing the food pages for marie claire magazine for several months now and am loving the creative team I’m working with.
The August issue is in the shops now. Inside you’ll find 4 of the best Asian soups. Perfect for chilly southern hemisphere winter evenings.
Yet again I got to indulge my love of all things Japanese and used one of my gorgeous old sake bar aprons as a background.
Photography copyright Louise Lister.
Some are cute, others are stylish and some I just had to have but I can’t explain why.
I didn’t even realise I had a thing for small spoons until my husband suggested I use them as the design for my new business card. So I entrusted my collection of spoons to a local designer and she created the most beautiful image, one that is commented upon almost every time I hand over my card.
What I do know is that I have a strict morning ritual when it comes to my coffee and my spoons! It’s a short black (or espresso to the rest of the world outside of Australia) with half a sugar and I can only use one of my lovely teaspoons to stir and they mustn’t be put in the dishwasher.
My collection isn’t enormous and I don’t seek them out nor do I buy every one that I see, but I do love my spoons. Sadly my lovely red teaspoon is starting to shed its lacquer – I have a sneaking suspicion someone has been putting it in the dishwasher!