In French they say “tout commence par un rêve” … “everything starts with a dream.”. I can assure you that everything I have attempted and undertaken in life has started with a dream. Often a BIG dream, as in the kind most people believe they couldn’t possibly do. Due to that itty bitty bit of doubt some folks display, they feel the need to tell me I dream too big. But I believe most others think too small so I tend to ignore them.
Dream big, think big, believe big, and the results will be big. I eat, sleep, breathe, and live that truth! So much so that I’ve developed the subtle art of not giving AF the second someone tries to belittle my dreams and ideas.
This past year I was able to live out one of those big dreams when I attended a food styling and food photography workshop at the chateau of Mimi and Oddur Thorrison. For one, it was a big dream because my photography skills were far far from that of a “real” food photographer, and I knew I would be attending the workshop with many of the great picture makers who undertake the pilgrimage to the Thorrison’s sleepy little St. Yzans village in the Medoc region of Bordeaux. So as not to embarrass myself too much, I set about practicing so that I would at least hold the camera the right way around when I got there!
To say it was the best decision I had ever made is an understatement. From the moment I arrived I was made to feel welcome in their home, and there were no skill testing questions to gain entry. Huge relief! The whole three day adventure was creatively stimulating and rewarding and I feel like I walked away from it all with new friendships and techniques that will propel me forward toward even bigger dreams.
Both Mimi and Oddur were consummate hosts. Our days were filled with all things promised: food, more food, wine, more wine, champagne, prosecco, cocktails, more food, and of course photography.
Every corner of their chateau held treasures to be put in front of the lens and captured. I think the secret to their beautiful home and workshops can be summed up in one word. Abundance! The two of them embody that word. Kids, dogs, love, life, they live it all with abundance and it shines through in everything they do.
Can I add how inspiring that is? Both personally and on the creative front!
Why have only a few tomatoes when you can have a crateful?! Why not use multitudes of seasonal fruits and vegetables in all their glory just as you would use flowers?
Their style is infectious and I know that I immediately came home and filled my house with things that used to seem mundane. Platters filled with aromatics such as onions and garlic were suddenly more enchanting to me than peonies used to be, and even though it’s been six months since my visit that definitely has not worn off. Abundance is key!
I also came home with a whole new appreciation for the fact that no amount of frou-frou, 96-ingredients recipes can hold a candle to a few simple, seasonal foods at their height of freshness. I am doing my best to embrace that concept even more than I did before. Gone are the temptations to cook out of season.
I could go on forever, but considering I have over 800 photos of that whole experience I will try to cut this a bit short and leave you with just one more collage of a still life setup and a series of shots that are easily my favourite amongst all I took. If you’re squeamish close your eyes. This is a fact of life in the country and was in fact what we enjoyed for lunch that day. Roast pigeon!
I can almost taste it and feel the hot sunshine on my back as I savoured it in the olive garden at the long outdoor tables filled with new friends. It was served with a beautiful linguini and fresh pesto sauce made by Francesca and made even more lovely by crisp cool Rose served along side it.
With that, I will leave you with a recipe for my Pear-Vanilla Walnut Cake I have adapted from Mimi’s cookbook French Country Cooking. If you are interested in easy, scrumptious, seasonal cooking I cannot recommend this cookbook enough. It’s rustic, yet elegant. Not to mention the photography and stories are a worthy read on their own!
PEAR-VANILLA WALNUT CAKE
WITH HONEY CINNAMON WHIP CREAM
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup fine berry sugar
1/2 cup pear-vanilla jam
1 cup walnuts, plus 8-10 extra for decorating
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons spiced rum
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar for decorating
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350F, grease an 8″ cake pan then line the bottom with parchment paper.
- Add the walnuts and berry sugar to the bowl of the a food processor and process until you have course crumbs.
- Add the butter, eggs, pear-vanilla jam, vanilla extract, rum, and sea salt and pulse to combine.
- In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and baking powder then fold in the walnut mixture.
- Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake until a toothpick inserted int0 the center comes out clean ~ 40 minutes.
- Cool the cake on a cooling rack for 5 minutes then unmold and cool completely.
- While the cake is cooling, whip the cream and slowly add the honey and cinnamon.
- Transfer the cake to a cake plate, dust with confectioners’ sugar, and decorate with a few walnuts.
- Serve with the honey cinnamon whipped cream and enjoy!
This is a dense cake that can definitely hold its own for afternoon tea, or after a light meal. Personally, I ate mine for breakfast this morning.
Because I dream therefore I do!
Bon journée mon ami!