gardening

The Sacredness of Food.

tomatoes

I am one of those weird people who finds cooking therapeutic and relaxing. When I tell this to people, they often stare through me, as though I am speaking another language of sorts. Sometimes people mumble back to me, “how do you have time for all that?” or “I just can’t be bothered…too much work!”

I get it. I really do…there are many days that I feel like take out is the best option. But there is something so mystical that I get lost in during the cooking process. Somewhere in the rhythm of chopping, mincing, and mixing, I get a little lost from the thoughts that plague the reality of my life. I get lost in the sacred ritual of it all.

For me, cooking is very definitive. It has a beginning, a middle and an end that usually happen in hours - as opposed to the days or weeks some projects can take. Whether you are baking a chicken or making a cake, the results are instantaneous and tangible. While I can make a cake in an afternoon, it could take days - even weeks and yes, sometimes months - for me to plan, shoot, edit, and deliver photos to a client.

Mostly though, it’s the end result. Feeding someone is giving them a gift you made yourself. When I cook, there is a sacredness to making the meal…I think about what people love, what they need…what they crave. I put energy into sourcing ingredients - where can I get the most delicious produce? Who has the best meats? Who has the “right” food for the meal at hand? The mere process of combining flavors, textures, and smells together makes it feel like art - like a painting coming together in all it’s vibrancy. It’s carefully crafted and created just for them.

So next time you sit down to a meal that someone has made, give pause and think of what went into making it. Or, when you endeavor to make your next meal for someone, think of the gift in the creation of it all. There is a sacredness in the food itself. There is a sacredness in the presentation and the process.

And then, after you think about all of that, dive in with love.

An early spring

radish

It feels like we are having an early spring this year.

As much as I want to say "praise the maker," I am stuck. It's the same feeling you get when you didn't get long enough to spend in bed on the weekend because obligation rang. Or when a party ended too early. Or when you just weren't quite prepared for your guest arrival.

On the bright side of things, spring is my favorite season. It's gusty winds clear the dust from my aching soul. It's colorful parade of blooms makes me feel like life is colorful and clear and oh-so-alive. The early arrival of spring means a long, lingering season of amazing things...things like fresh, garden grown veggies. Long, lingering days that melt into extended evenings and deep conversations. Bonfires. Delicious meals. Friends. Beach evenings. The best things that life is made of.

Maybe an early spring - crisp and bright like garden radishes, crunching with peppery brightness - is just what I need after all.

Lately

raised beds

I have been more quiet than usual this fall and winter. I have been working on some exciting projects and new ventures. Thankfully, quiet = busy… at least for right now.

One of the projects I have hit the ground hard on is a book on saving seeds I am working on with my good friend Julie of Julie's Garden Delights. I liken this project to a type of step by step for seed saving gardeners which has taken me literally from Spartanburg to Charleston and everywhere in between. I have learned so much on this project - not just about seeds and gardening, but about myself and my work. I love when a project comes along and changes everything, don't you?

Here are some images for you to see. I have no idea what's been rejected, but images of vegetables never disappoint! Special shout out the the folks at Charleston Parks Conservancy for my all access pass to their gardens!

sprouts
chopping
carrots
seeding
magnolia garden-137.jpg

Hidden beauty

Tomatoes. Shot for  Plate South.

Tomatoes. Shot for Plate South.

There is beauty everywhere - just waiting to be discovered.

It's waiting to be found in the corners of your world. It's waiting to be seen in the most obvious of places. It's in the simplest of things and the most complicated places. It's always there...a part of life that eagerly and patiently awaits your discovery. You just have to want to see it.

Indeed, there is beauty everywhere. But it's your job to go and find it.

Foraging

Foraging from our backyard loquat tree

Foraging from our backyard loquat tree

He's cooperating, but very unsure.

He's cooperating, but very unsure.

I spent my summers slightly sunburned, running around outside in the fresh air, chasing fireflies, and picking perfectly ripened blackberries for my mom behind the watertower at the top of the mountain. We never heard the word foraging. We just did it. I lived in a neighborhood edged with forests and farms, so foraging for wild berries and wildly growing culinary treats just sort of happened.

When we moved to the south during my teen years, everything was different. We lived on a barrier island on the coast of South Carolina that looked more like a lush, tropical forest than the woodlands and farms I was used to. Everything looked exotic and exciting. And a little bit poisonous. And honestly, as a teen, I had better things to learn than what was yard berry was edible and what I should fear. So I stayed away from most things thinking I would suddenly die upon ingestion. 

As the years passed, I found myself longing for those blackberry bushes I foraged in my youth. For some reason, they seemed like a treasure that nobody knew about for years but us...like our own secret garden right up the road. It was a treat saved for a few short weeks every year. And although I loved eating the plump berries right off the bush, my pudgy fingers stained purple from their juices, I was always excited to bring them home to my mom to see what magic she would make with them - cobbler, pie, preserves. It was the stuff dreams were made of. 

Somehow this unfamiliar territory made foraged foods seem harder to come by in South Carolina. But as I learned more about the culinary south, I realized there was a whole slew of foods at my disposal right here in my own backyard. I moved into my current house about 11 years ago. On that day, I noticed a bush dripping with what looked like tiny apricots against a backdrop of fuchsia azalea blooms . Golden yellow in color, I had seen these bushes around the south for years. Little did I know I had a loquat tree right in my own back yard. The very start to my own little backyard farm.

This year is my first year harvesting these babies. They are tart and juicy and have a great texture - sort of peachy. So we will be experimenting with drinks, preserves, foods and maybe even a desert or 2 over the next few weeks before our quickly ripening bush goes to the hungry wildlife of the neighborhood.

I can hardly wait to see what goodness comes out of it all!

 

Homegrown

herbs

Each week, my share from Compost in my Shoe comes and I am always floored. The beauty. The care. The love that goes into these plants... it's remarkable. I have talked tirelessly about it recently. Shamelessly and tirelessly.

While I am a huge advocate from getting your food locally from people you know, I am also a huge advocate for growing your own stuff. This is not only good for you, it's good for the planet too! Pretty much everybody wins.

This is part of the share from this week. It smells DIVINE. I pull off this stock of herbs all week - putting them on fresh fish, in veggies, and in salad dressings. What doesn't get used up there gets tossed in a pot and turned into fresh juice or stock - vegetable or chicken. It turns into something we can use later. But it never, ever gets wasted.

I can't stress enough how happy I am that this is part of our life : fresh food, straight from the earth. If we get it from someone or if we get it from our yard. It's homegrown...with love...with purpose...with a mission.

 

Planning

seeds

On the coldest days of February, my favorite thing to do is plan a little for the warm sunshine and longer days of summer. Plan on which bed the tomatoes will reside and where the squash will (hopefully) flourish. Plan on what to rotate when. Mostly, I like to plan what will nourish me most and what will sustain me through those long, hot days of summer.

Project 365

Carrots from my garden. I am learning here too.

Carrots from my garden. I am learning here too.

I have long admired the discipline of people who do a 365 project. I just never got into one of my own. Often I am taken away from my desk for stretches of time on shoots out of town (I am unfortunately not a laptop user). I also seem to struggle with something that I have to do every day - like take a daily supplement, for example. And these projects always sounded like more work added into my already busy life.

Besides all that, I think the vulnerability of posting something every day to the world that might not be your "best work" is something all photographers struggle with. Will people like this photo? Is it good enough? Am I good enough? Will I look too narcissistic or (insert other harsh adjective here) if I just post stuff about my life all the time? Self doubt can stop you before you have even begun a project. And so far, for me, it has succeeded.

Fear is real. And putting yourself out there can be hard. But like everything, you just have to do it. Leap and the net will appear. You just have to show up and keep trying...keep practicing...keep working towards the goal.  A 365 project is just this - practice. It's there so you can keep working on that craft, so you can keep addressing the things you love to do, and so you can ultimately be better - be it gardening, yoga, photography or motherhood. Practice builds the ultimate confidence we seek out. 

So here I am, working on my very own Project 365. I can't wait to see what it brings. I can't wait for the mishaps and the hiccups and the trials and tribulations that comes with growth and learning. I can't wait to see what comes next.