With the booming age of food photography, foodie blogging, cookbooks and food stylists, where does this leave the everyday cook? There’s no food stylist in my home, but lots of good food, fresh ingredients and homemade goodness. Don’t be intimated by the amazing world of food photography—instead, let it serve as an inspiration in your everyday life. Food holds stories, and this article is to celebrate the real, "homey" moments around my kitchen, and yours.
I tend to be a sentimental girl, and therefore, I love traditions. They’re the simple threads that bind us to our pasts, food traditions and memories being great examples. Food connects us all. Recipes handed down from generation to generation are priceless pieces to the puzzle that’s your life. They hold stories, the "Oh, wasn’t that just the best meal ever?" or, "Remember that year when the power went out in the middle of cooking the lasagna?" and, of course, the "No one makes applesauce like Nanny did!" stories.
They’re the go-tos, the must-haves, and the things we look forward to sitting down in front of and enjoying on those special days. They get named after the ones we love—"Dad’s German pancakes," and "Mom’s potato filling," "Nana’s salmon loaf—so even if their namesakes aren’t physically with us at the table, they’re there in spirit through the magic of food.
These are the tangible, "hold them in your hands" kind of memories of our own childhood. I can clearly picture my mom’s tin recipe box. The recipe cards, yellowed by time, in my mom’s perfect cursive handwriting, folded over, stained and splattered on. The dirtier the card, the more loved that recipe was. That tin box, and what it held, is imprinted on my heart. I’m sure, as a child, I had no real conscious thought of this, but now, at age 39, the fact that I can evoke the exact image of that tin box reinforces how important it was.
Now that I’m a mom, my hope is that I, too, am creating lasting memories for my little family through food. My favorite moments are all in the making. The gathering together in the kitchen, all hands in, sticky little fingers and flour-dusted noses—this is when the stories unfold, the stories of old and the new stories yet to be told.
Pie is one of our favorite things to make. I hope they remember how I let them draw in the flour as the dough rests, the weight of my hands on theirs as we roll out a circle, and how small tears in the dough are easily mended with a little water and a gentle touch. I want them to remember that no pie is perfect, but all are perfectly imperfect, and that slowing down, taking time and creating something homemade together brings us closer together.
My camera tends to look a lot like my kids’ fingers on baking days, flour-dusted and more than a little sticky; I would have it no other way. This is a celebration of the connectedness of food, the stories of family and the feeling of home, all captured through my lens.
Food itself is beautiful. I pick up my camera from start to finish of a project. From simple ingredients, to floury mess, to the oven, to golden delicious, to crumbs on my plate, and all the messy goodness in between. For this story, I captured my steps through making a peach pie.
STEP 1: INGREDIENTS
Celebrate all the beauty of your ingredients in their natural state. A quick rinse in a colander or favorite bowl, tomatoes warming on a windowsill, the gradients of color in nature, bags of flour, sticks of butter—stop and notice the colors and textures in this beginning step of creating something delicious. Pay attention to details, like the curve of a leaf or stem, the fuzz on the skin of the peaches or the way dry ingredients look beautiful. Notice the simplicity.
STEP 2: UTENSILS
Another fun step is paying attention to details and pulling out little pieces that are important to you—perhaps a recipe box handed down, a handwritten recipe card, your favorite Pyrex® bowl or your grandmom’s apron. All of these little details add to your photo story. Fresh linens, patterned fabrics, a well-oiled cast- iron pan, mom’s pie plate or dad’s bread pan. Or, create your own traditions with new favorite pieces all your own.
STEP 3: PREP
Keep your camera at the ready. (And keep a clean towel nearby to wipe your camera and hands from time to time. It’s bound to get a little sticky, and it’s best to be prepared.) Photograph the steps prepping your meal—washing the peaches, cutting the peaches, rolling the dough and flouring the surface—and picking up my camera in between, I capture the beauty in the process.
STEP 4: PRODUCT
Take a moment to capture your creation. For my pie, I stopped to capture it in its prebaked state, a sink full of dirty dishes as proof of my effort. This might make a food stylist cringe, but here’s where we diverge: I’m celebrating the "real" in my food photography. I like the intimate peeks of home and those dirty dishes that anchor my shot.
Then, of course, is the crowning achievement: my baked, golden-brown pie. Take that moment to celebrate your creation, perhaps sitting it in some great light on your kitchen table. Again, seek details—steam rising, the imperfect textures of a flaky golden crust and the details of the table or linens.
STEP 5: EAT!
Slice a piece and dig in! All your hard work has now paid off, so don’t forget to document the sweetness in the pie. Perhaps an image with your own hand on the fork and a glass of milk. Again, I like the real life sort of shot where there’s a bite—or two, or six—out of the final product.
TIPS FOR HOME-COOKED PHOTOS
|1) Pay attention to detail. Slow down. Savor the process from start to finish.
2) Seek out great natural light in your kitchen or cooking space.
3) Choose linens, utensils and cookware, paying attention to their colors and textures.
4) Don’t be afraid to get messy and document the messy! Cooking is a full-contact sport and you’re going to get your hands dirty.
5) Focus on the "real"—floury, messy, dirty dishes all included.
6) Hands are also encouraged. Capturing your own hands, and the hands of those helping, can be a beautiful detail to record.
7) Tell a story. By capturing from start to finish, you tell the story naturally.
8) Eat and enjoy! Don’t forget to document that first yummy bite or smiling faces around your table.
|KRISTIN ZECCHINELLI is a mother, a wife and an artist living on the coast of Maine. You can find her writing for SHUTTER SISTERS and Paper Coterie or musing about her everyday on her personal blog,
Maine Momma. Kristin is co-founder of NOW YOU Workshops. See more of her work at shuttersisters.squarespace.com.