Jack's Roulade

Despite coming from a family that cooks regularly and enjoys cooking and preparing food as much as eating it at the table together, I never really learned how to cook during my childhood. I have many memories of my mom decorating some of the most elaborate birthday cakes for my sister and myself, which to this day I have yet to see cakes more beautiful. I have memories of my dad using literally every baking dish in the house to make such an array of Christmas cookies that that would bring a smile to even the Scroogiest of holiday folks, and of course, there are our many memories camping while my parents made exquisite gourmet meals with just a fire and a little gas stove, as well as just simple home cooked meals in the evening after work/school. But that’s not how I learned to cook. Instead, I learned by fumbling my way around the kitchen in college and grad school, and oh yeah, by starting this little blog here :) But until that point when I decided to learn to cook, I ate a lot of not-awesome stuff after moving away to college. When I was younger, I had taken my family’s cooking for granted and didn’t really understand its value until I realized that I wanted to cook myself and all of a sudden noticed that I hadn’t the slightest clue how.

I spent one summer during my undergrad doing chemistry research in NYC – my roommate and I, not having a lot of cash floating around, were determined to figure out how to cook meals for ourselves. Knowing that ingredients were important, we found markets to go to and a small cheery organic foods store nearby. Of course back then there wasn’t the kind of proliferation of food blogs as there is today, and owning not a single cookbook we just decided to experiment and see what happened – the result was a lot of meals that were barely edible as we tried to figure out what flavors worked with what, and what I consider today to be simple mundane tasks, such as how to scramble an egg, proved a near insurmountable challenge. But – we had a great time and there was a thrill of figuring out how to taste and enjoy food, and a sense of pride in calling a dish our own.

And it was really not until after that New York summer that I was determined to figure out cooking – that fall I started calling my parents a lot more asking questions, and by the time I went on to grad school I had half of my parents’ cookbook collection in my little 500 sq ft. apartment – Marcella Hazan, Gourmet, the entire Cooking with Bon Appetit series that I think was as old as I was, Joy of Cooking, Betty Crocker, some family/church recipe compilations, and my favorite instructional magazine series, Cuisine at Home. Learning to cook became something that Ryan and I enjoyed doing together when we started dating, and that love of preparing food has remained a solid foundation in our daily lives ever since.

So when I heard that the Masterchef TV reality show had a “junior” competition, I was really curious to see what these contestants would be preparing, and the snippets I saw totally blew me away – here were mere children, some not even middle school aged, pulling out dishes that I’ve seen few adults be able to master.  I was in complete awe, and I’ll admit also a bit envious that these kids had such a profound relationship with food and cooking at such a young age. On the TV show, one of the contestants, a firey personality named Jack, had been eliminated in the finale after presenting what looked to be a gorgeous prosciutto wrapped chicken roulade which he had stuffed with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives. At that moment I thought to myself, “wow, it really says something to the talent of these contestants that such a beautiful flawless plate (at least to my untrained eyes) was grounds for elimination.


I hope to teach baby girl a love for cooking early on. Right now she is a bit small yet, but she is intensely curious about what exactly we are doing spending so much time standing in the kitchen every day.  I let her help me pick up veggies and put them in a bowl, or one of us will hold her up so she can watch the other prepping and cooking food. “Here, this is spinach,” and I hand her a leaf. I eat one first (because she’ll try anything that she sees her Mama eating), and encourage her to do the same.  She picks it up, tastes it, and spits it out smiling. So we haven’t quite gotten up to leafy greens yet – but once cooked with mushrooms, as long as I remove the spinach stems first, she seems to be a big fan. I figure – and now I’m winging this as much as any other first time parent, so I have no authority here – that letting her be a part of the cooking process as much as possible will help her develop a healthy appreciation for the food we eat. Will she be on national television one day whipping out Michelin-star quality dishes for all to see? Who knows. But I at least hope that she decides that she likes to spend time in the kitchen, and tasting a variety of foods.

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Black Truffle Risotto

For the first time in four years (i.e. the first time since I’ve been in Switzerland), we’ve actually had what this New Englander could call an Autumn. There has been some actual color on the leaves, Fall temperatures, and that invigorating brisk chill in the air while the sun lights up the color of the landscape. We’ve been enjoying it by taking long strolls down by the lake shore, because I’ll never get tired of seeing the rays of the sun shining through the clouds down onto Lake Geneva.

Lake Geneva

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Isla Cristina, Spain

by Jenn on October 22, 2013

in Photography

Isla Cristina is a bustling little shore town close to on the border of Portugal near Huelva in the Southwestern corner of Andalucía, Spain, and a popular holiday getaway among the locals.  In October though when we visited, most of the activity was from the active fish market and warehouses sorting and selling the day’s catch.  Walking around, it was great fun to try to capture the essence of the city, and oh yeah, try something at just about every tapas bar we walked past!




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finca diptych2

Wow, what a week. Last week we traveled to sunny Andalucía, Spain, to La Sierra de Aracena for a week-long getaway and food photography workshop (this Autumn has been the season of workshops for me – first Amsterdam, and now Spain!) with Tim Clinch. We stayed at Finca Buenvino, a gorgeous countryside B&B run by Sam and Jeannie Chesterton, who provided such great company, food, and hospitality. And spending five days learning from Tim was amazing – not only was he an excellent instructor but also a charismatic tour guide of some of the best that the area around Aracena has to offer. Suffice it to say, it was both an extremely relaxing and transformative week for me, and I think this experience will affect my entire outlook on how I approach photography from here on out.

But first, let’s talk about this amazing tortilla that Jeannie whipped up for lunch for us on the first day!

tortilla diptych1

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by Jenn on October 2, 2013

in Photography

Every once in a while… I like to take a little course to improve my food photography… and travel to a new place as well…

Amsterdam Canalway

Actually, it has been well over two years since I last took a course related to Food Photography – back in 2011 I joined Meeta, Ilva, Jamie, and Jeanne for the first Plate to Page (P2P) workshop in Weimar Germany. Since then I had also gotten to know Simone, a fellow participant at P2P, and so was thrilled to hear when she and Meeta, along with Sandy announced a Food Photography workshop in the countryside of Almere, Netherlands. As you likely know, I am totally in love with photographing food and place, and welcome any opportunity to improve my craft, especially if it is in the presence of friends new and old :)

Open Faced Sandwiches Figs

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Pesto Tomato Tart, Gluten free

When I was younger, I hated waiting (ok, I still do – I was born with a serious deficiency in patience).  Every event in life felt like one slow tedious step to the next – must pass this test to get this grade, must advance through this year to get to this college, must do these things to get this degree, must get this degree to go back to school… and before you know it, a significant chunk of life has passed you by while you were so busy impatiently preparing for the next step. Having a vision and a plan is great – and for the most part, even something to be encouraged. As society we view aimless wandering as a detriment, and taking too long to accomplish a goal is indirectly punished by loss of opportunities and time.  If we were all robots, this would be fine,  however I think the human mind – the soul – needs a little bit of freedom (and fun!) in order to thrive.

[Baby girl decided to add some thoughts of her own to my post:] sxc xssww1ZZMeursault

Sometimes I was lucky enough to recognize those precious carefree moments in action – the ones where life just felt so alive, so real, where I felt comfortable and confident enough to actually let go and just be my true self, free of any insecurities or second guessing. Sometimes they consisted of a fun weekend out on the lake with friends, a backpacking trip along an empty beach exploring the nothingness with a childlike wonder at the complexity and sheer amazement of our natural world, or that romantic meal where I first realized I was falling in love with my husband. But what I have noticed as I have gotten older, is that the planning and structure of life tries very hard to thwart such moments.  We worry about money, about jobs, about the future – we talk with friends and family who worry with us, and all of a sudden somehow it seems all of life is about waiting/hoping for something to occur again. We look back on those fun and free moments, and sadly just think fondly on them realizing that after all this worrying and planning we simply don’t have the energy to break out of our current paradigms on life.

Olivier Leflaive L'Auberge de Vieux Vigneron

But it is a tough balance, no?

How do you move yourself back into the present, embracing our time in this world as it comes, while still maintaining some sense of security for the future? How do you do one aspect of life without ending up regretting not doing enough of the other?

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