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2004.10.01    

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Another installment of the poorly named Music and/or Storybook Thursday and/or Friday. Today is Storybook Thursday.

Unfortunately I can’t think of a good story, so I’ll tell a bad one instead. If you don’t come here for the minty fresh stories, skip it.

As some of you may or may not know, we have been working on a cookbook with an author/chef. He cooked for presidents and visiting dignitaries for 12 years. So he’s, you know, skilled.

Anyway, he’s been in this week making the dishes so we can style and shoot them. Once approved we can—here’s the best part—eat them.

So this week I’ve had some tasty morsels. The great part is that, not only is Heathrow the designer, but I built the chef’s web site, so Heathrow always lets me know when I can eat it, and this guy at least knows me. Because he’s rather gruff when cooking. People are always nervous going in to the kitchen when he’s working.

Also, doing these cookbooks really sends you on weird chases. For instance, the paté needed veal, chicken livers, pork fat, and back fat.

What the hell is back fat? It was impossible to find. Heather was at wit’s end until I suggested an old-school classic meat shop that supplies a lot of restaurants in the area. Sure enough, they had it. I went with Heather to pick it up. When we gave them our full order, the guy looked at us and asked what the hell we were making. We laughed.

On the first cookbook, we hired a food stylist. The client and chef hated everything they did. So we secretly started making and styling the shots ourselves. And they loved it. So Heather and I had to make a lot of the recipes. Keep in mind that, although I do cook and bake, I do not cook and bake often. And these recipes were not simple things. I was a bit terrified.

The first thing I made was a buttermilk lemon raisin pie. Like amateurs, we used a prepared crust and Photoshopped it to look homemade. Didn’t fly. So I had to—by myself—make a pie crust. Have I ever made a pie crust? Ha ha ha! No.

It worked though. Thank god.

I ended up making maybe a dozen or so recipes, including banana black-bottom cream pie (which is insanely good), homemade egg noodles (that was interesting), chicken and sausage gumbo (which was like crack, but was a nightmare to make), and corn bread (ever used lard before? me neither).

But perhaps the most amusing part was trying to style the shots. Photoshop heals a multitude of sins, but there are some things that can’t be faked. Luckily we have a rock star photographer.

But I have memories of trying to use a lighter to melt cheese during a burger shot, having to corral crabs that kept crawling off the set, continually re-wetting food with a spray bottle, trying to drizzle dressing strategically, blow torching things, and generally trying to create the perfect shot with imperfect food. I knew food styling was difficult, but man you have to do some weird tricks.