Blog Name: The First Mess
Category: Special Diets Blog, Editors’ Choice
Running Since: June 2011
Geographic Location: The Niagara region of southern Ontario, Canada (yes, near Niagara Falls).
How did you become interested in cooking with a focus on seasonal, local and natural ingredients? Was there a major life change, or have you always valued healthy eating? I’ve definitely always had respect for vegetables. I grew up with my dad’s local produce and garden center business, so I was fortunate to have family dinner every night, a big veggie patch out back in the summers, the dignity of hard work from a young age, and just a general emphasis on real food at home. I’ve worked in a number of farm-to-table restaurants over the years, so eating as the fields provide has become fairly ingrained at this point. When I went vegan for a number of years, my interest in cooking and experimenting with new natural foods ramped up significantly.
What are your favorite posts? I loved the feedback I got on the hurdles of food accessibility from the chickpea, spring onion and kale panzanella recipe I posted last spring. Last fall I tried to take up a raw food diet for a month, experienced some difficulty and wrote about it rather honestly, along with a recipe for a warm maca and raw chocolate drink that I love. The response to that one really blew me away. I’m really proud of the photos of this chocolate hazelnut torte with coconut cream and date caramel, and this cauliflower and roasted garbanzo “rice and peas” of sorts.
What is your process for developing a post? I usually have some semblance of an idea in terms of what I’m going to make, whether it’s a dish I turn to often or a completely new recipe that I’m trying for the first time—although it’s generally more of the latter. The angle I take for photos/writing always takes root in the season and what’s happening in my life. Maybe the photos will be on the moody side and the writing will be a bit more reflective because it’s a winter recipe, or I might include some shots from the garden because the evening light is particularly pretty and there’s lots of vegetables on the up and up. It all just depends, and it’s all very true to the seasons of my life.
What do you draw inspiration from? I literally draw inspiration from everything. Because my site follows a vague mission of food and overall life exploration/creative endeavor, I can be just as inspired by something I’ve read in passing or some moment in daily life as I would be by the first bunches of rhubarb at the market. In terms of concrete entities that are inspiring me lately? I’m really excited for Bryant Terry’s new cookbook called Afro Vegan and my friend Emma’s book My Darling Lemon Thyme. I’ve been cooking with a lot more coconut oil, millet, za’atar spice, tempeh, and mustard greens lately. We go to New York often and I always come back thinking that the food world is full of every possibility imaginable thanks to places like Eataly, The Butcher’s Daughter, Pure Food & Wine, and Mission Chinese Food. And there are some newer-to-me blogs that I’m finding inspiration from lately as well: Two Red Bowls and Princess Tofu.