Interview | Laura Wright
WELCOME LAURA! THE FIRST MESS DOES SUCH A WONDERFUL JOB OF PORTRAYING, DARE WE SAY NORMALIZING, WHAT LIVING LIFE IN CONNECTION TO OUR FOOD LOOKS LIKE. IN A WORLD WHERE TERMS LIKE LIKE "SLOW-FOOD" AND "FARM-TO-TABLE" ARE COMMON VERNACULAR WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR TAKE AWAY THUS FAR?.
Well thanks! And in answer to your question, I guess I feel like the vernacular sometimes confuses the whole point of choosing local/in season foods. I grew up with all of those terms as natural motions, rather than distant conceptual ideals. My father runs a local produce/local foods market, so since childhood I've known that the really good peaches come in August, the apples start getting sweet in October and that there's no prettier sight than a heap of fresh pea pods after a long winter. This frame of reference isn't so built-in for others, and explaining the goodness of what's available locally in terms of 100 mile sourcing or levels of pesticide in whatever particular fruit isn't always helpful. You have to start with taste and the undeniably superior quality of something grown close to home. That concentrated sensory experience--that's where the connection to good food starts.
On your blog you say that "being in the world" gave you more experience than simply attending culinary school. Were there any specific experiences you can remember that taught you the most?
While I was attending culinary school, I volunteered at a community food centre a couple times a week. The organization was typical in that it had a food bank for those in need, but more importantly it focused on educating and empowering individuals by connecting them to food. I helped with the after school program and on any given day we were teaching kids and teens how to use a chef's knife, how to make hummus or applesauce, how the apples from that batch of applesauce arrived at our door, what "fair trade" means and why that could be important, and on and on. A lot of these kids might have had a sit-down family dinner once every couple weeks. They had no remote inkling as to how convenience foods might be prepared. Maybe I was naive about the whole thing, but it was shocking to me all the same. And yet, a lot of people come from this place.
You have been featured in quite a number of reputable publications! Although we are certainly not surprised, do you feel there is a difference for you between writing on your blog and writing for other media channels?
Yes for sure. I mean I always cook true to the style that I would like to eat, so that stays the same. When I'm developing a recipe or photographing food for a magazine though, it's usually several seasons ahead of publication time. A couple weeks ago the summer sun was blazing outside, and I was hunkered down in my kitchen roasting squash and beets, making carrot soup, pear compotes and other wintery things. The house was so hot! But doing these kinds of things makes me grateful for the cooking that I get to do on my blog--which is very specifically seasonal and 100 percent what I feel like eating in the moment. I also get to share some more bits from my life on my blog, which is where some of the really awesome engagement with readers comes into play. I love that interaction.
As a magazine both on and offline we understand that communities come in all different shapes and sizes. What has been your community experience on and off the internet?
I've been able to meet a lot of bloggers whose work I admire, so that's always a treat. It's funny when your first connection with someone is in the online world, and then when you meet them in the real world, it feels like you're picking up from a point of familiarity. We all share some degree of our lives in these online spaces, so every first meeting has a bit of that "old friends" vibe.
What are your favorite cookbooks and why?
I love Gwyneth Paltrow's It's All Good. I know that a lot of people have given her some flack on it because there a recipe for a singular fried egg and avocado toast in there. And sure, those are basic techniques, but the beauty of the book is that it celebrates simple preparations of inherently delicious--and very healthy--foods. It makes healthy living approachable and at the same time the photography gives the food a gorgeous sense of time and place--something every good cookbook communicates in my opinion.
Do you have a favorite meal?
Honestly, I'll love anything if the company's good and there's a glass of wine nearby. Generally speaking if I get some thoughtfully prepared vegetables, I'm really, really happy. And more specifically, homemade pasta gets me in the gut every time.
You explain the meaning behind the title of your blog saying, “The First Mess” is taken from M.F.K. Fisher’s An Alphabet for Gourmets, where she refers to the arrival of the first run (or mess) of peas in early spring as “the day with stars on it.”. If you had to sum up in M.F.K. Fisher terms what fine living and eating was to you how would you say it?
There is a passage in The Art of Eating where she talks about the intertwined nature of food, love and security. You cannot think of one of those concepts without also recalling to mind one of the others. Food is most often prepared with love. Love is the ultimate sense of security in this world. Security is having access to food and enough of it to thrive. A connection to what you eat is at the heart of all good and necessary things. It implies those notions of fine living, sure, but at the core food is familial connection, the strength and capability to take care of your own, and a sense of identity.