wear your veggies and have fun doing it ::::
I started celebrating the blog’s February five-year anniversary (today!) in November. It involved a unique photo shoot of which I was the focus — not something I do often on the blog. First, there is a strange incongruity with Georgia’s autumn, like the season in our life on the cusp “old” still passing for youngish. The rain is heavy and the trees still green. It feels like spring, a rebirth, when it is actually a dying- leading into a hibernation. The birdsong is fresh and light. Maybe it is springtime. It is ephemera, one season passing to the next.
Except that it’s really $&@%#*£ cold outside, the one weekend I plan on wearing a dress made from brassica and allium greens. As in cabbage, collard greens, and green onions.
I’ll explain. Bear with me.
It surprises me that so many people in our 40s, especially women, do not embrace this time, this “autumn” of our lives. We are losing that young fresh look that we remember in college. Time hands us the never-fading melasma of pregnancy on our cheeks, the ubiquitous crows’ feet and smile lines, a little more looseness around the middle, maybe a little weight, and hair that doesn’t seem to quite do what it used to. And we watch our children grow into what we remember our fresh faces used to look like.
I say embrace it. It is what it is. It is life. Why be addicted to Botox, the chemical peels, the plastic surgery. In the end, what is the point really?
And so I celebrate my aging, and the blog’s, with more photographs. When I turned 40, I did a photo shoot for my birthday and for the food blog. I am revisiting that experience three years later with a new creative focus.
Dressed in vegetables.
I’ve been thinking about doing this almost immediately after the first photo shoot in 2012.
First off, I laugh at myself after all of the planning and execution of my vision, expecting that I’d find some berth of information via Google on how to assemble clothing from fresh vegetables. Yeah, no. I found some great photos of other vegetable dresses and headdresses but no instruction on how to construct one. None! As such, there was an assumed period of trial-and-error in my dress-building trials.
A few examples:
My wonderful $80 IKEA sewing machine does not accommodate sewing leaf to leaf. The surface of the brassica plants I used is not smooth and slippery enough to slip between a sewing machine feed dog and pressor foot. I had to use a sandwiching of real cloth around the trimmed stems and leaves to make it work. I used a sewing machine and hand-stitching to connect brassica leaves to a slip.
The wilt factor. I had to allow some wilting in the final dress, as my preparation time the day of the photo shoot was limited. This means I had to assemble most of the dress two days in advance and expect the final flow and drape of the dress to look different than Day 1. In a perfect world, I would have done it the day of. The reality: I had other responsibilities and commitments that day (I was just getting ready to start my new position as a physician at Emory University — kinda busy). I also originally wanted to use kale exclusively. I experimented with various leaf placement, realizing quickly that kale was too curly for good body coverage. Cabbage proved better (a pseudo-petticoat of sorts), collard greens the winner by far.
It is really hard to make a bodice of green onions look sleek and fitted. I originally tried a belt of green beans strung together but they were too stiff. Movement was difficult — I ended up with broken beans when I tried to bend over. I opted for the placement of green onions in vertical lines to give the illusion of length. I stitched them to the bustier I wore under my wedding dress almost 17 years ago. Though softer and more malleable than the green beans, the caveat was still the stiff bulk of the onion shank at the waist. I couldn’t use the thin green onion tops because of the excessive wilt factor (leaf wilt on the skirt of the dress was okay but not the bodice) — I’m already brainstorming my next project on wearing food to solve this.
The day of the shoot presented other challenges. %#*$&@#! Cold! The cloudy sky provided beautiful gray light albeit with 50 degree weather and my chattering teeth. I had a hard time relaxing enough in front of lens to feel comfortable. The final photos I chose for the blog belie this. If you zoom in, you probably can see the goosebumps.
And then there was the issue of wardrobe malfunction and the fragility of the dress. Cabbage leaves and collard greens drape nicely for a tiered skirt; they do not hold up well sewn to a bustier, unless absolutely fresh. I moved around enough to dislodge and tear the handstitching on the bodice. Repairs were made mid-shoot. This also resulted in less photos to choose from for final blog posting. The photographer I hired, the wonderful Roya Ann Miller, did a beautiful job with my excessive shivering and fading afternoon light. The “failed” photos were no fault of hers: I need to work on my dress assembly and choice of vegetable fiber the next go round.The props and accessories were fun. I wanted a bouquet of various greens, especially herby ones, like a nosegay of fresh oregano (didn’t include the photo of this here), the willowy stems of chive flowers, and the piney scent of rosemary in my hair. I squashed cold, beady blackberries through my fingers. I wore a necklace of fresh red grapes. I deliberately chose items with varied textures, so you can reach out and almost feel them with your fingertips.
The choice of brassica was intentional also, not just for leaf size and coverage in dress-making, but for the vegetables’ history to nourish and last. Collards and cabbage have gained popularity in many cultures all over the world. They grow well in cool climates, they store well, and are very nourishing. They have sustained millions of people for hundreds of years. The physical plants wilt and fade, but rise again with a new generation.
This wilting and fading: it is just like memory. The ephemeral nature of the dress also enriched the whole creative process for me, an antithesis to my blog’s purpose of preservation. I often feel there is a force driving my creativity and writing for the blog, moving ideas down tracks to revisit various life events. There is an immediacy to record for posterity and blooming of remembrances for many of these events, appreciating the “gone-ness” yet hovering over the memories. Even the memories are ephemeral somewhat, the years of sleep deprivation and hurriedness of life stealing the sweet ones away. That is why I do this, why I write this blog, a years-long love letter to family and friends so that my ephemera and potential forgetting is someone else’s forever.
The lesson? Do something fun and creative, big or small. It is life-giving and memorable. This is how I celebrate my five-year anniversary on the blog, full of vim and vigor. Share the love! Happy fifth anniversary, blog!
My last photo shoot in 2012, to live out the dream of getting flour thrown in my face is on my “About” page. And cupcake sprinkles on my face and in my teeth!
All photos for my most recent shoot credited to Roya Ann Miller, except for the first three photos showing the dress-making prep. If you live in Atlanta, work with her! She is fabulous! My makeup was done by the lovely Nicole Marie.
Next post: back to cooking! See you next week.
What I made on my debut and other anniversaries for the blog:
One year ago: pandan chiffon cake
Two years ago: polenta chips with rosemary and parmesan
Three years ago: mulled cider with homemade spice sachet
Four years ago: cannellini bean, ricotta, chocolate torte
Five years ago: the first post! – debutante cake