When you have one of the best food photographers/food bloggers/pastry chef/French wonderful women coming to stay with you, it can be a little intimidating to make breakfast.
Luckily, she has recently gone gluten-free as well. Danny and I figured she’d enjoy some pancakes her first morning here with us.
Do you know Helen? You probably know of her. She’s the amazing force of nature who writes and takes photographs and creates recipes for Tartelette, one of the most loved food blogs in the world. Her resume is tremendous.
Her kindness is enormous.
Here she is, watching our Little Bean eat and play at the table as we all shared lunch together. Look at those eyes. That’s a real mensch.
We first met through each other’s websites, these places of conversation and sweets passed across the table. Long before we were in each other’s presence, we read each other’s thoughts and shared habits. By the time we could finally hug at the BlogHer Food conference in San Francisco, we were already friends.
This visit was much more quiet than the frenzy that was that fabulous weekend in the Bay Area. Helen flew into Seattle to teach workshops on how to make macarons and take delicious photographs, which she had just completed in Los Angeles as well. She stayed with us on the island as a sort of refuge, a still point in the midst of the whirlwind.
We talked. We ate. We shared stories. We read books to the Little Bean. We watched movies and told more stories and laughed. We drove around the island, looking at beaches and green trees. We lived.
Life’s been pretty full-tilt around here. I can’t remember the last time I took an entire day off from the computer. With Helen here, I had more reason than ever.
It felt good to breathe.
I feel blessed to have friends who are impassioned photographers. This last year, I feel like I’ve been soaking up photographs, living on Flickr when I can, watching the way other photographers look at the world. At BlogHer food, I took photography seminars from some of the best: Todd and Diane, Heidi, Matt, and Lara.
(We are so honored to have Lara Ferroni as the photographer for our cookbook. I can’t wait for you to see it!)
In California at Kingsford University, I learned more about my camera and how to use it from watching Todd and Diane, plus my outrageously talented friend, Jen Yu. After watching the way they shoot, and peppering them with questions, I’ve been keeping the camera near me, all the time, and looking through that lens as often as I can. Taking photographs is a way of listening, a place without words, a solace.
With Helen here, I learned again. Have you seen her photographs? The woman takes my breath away with her light and colors, the details, the openness. Look at this swiss chard, goat cheese, and prosciutto tart. (And it’s gluten-free.) Her talents seem so far beyond my reach that I might as well put the camera down.
However, if you want to see something truly inspiring, look at Helen’s photographs from March 2006, the first month she started the blog. Wow. Helen, you have come a long way, baby.
It’s a transformation almost as incredible as a frightened girl who has just learned she has to go gluten-free to the woman five years later, joyful and alive, sitting with a French friend by her side.
I never know where life is going to lead me. Raising the camera to my eyes helps me to see my world, right now. Like this wall of canned tomatoes at The Monkey Tree, the vegetarian café where we ate lunch with Helen on Monday. How many times have I eaten there before and not seen this image?
Having Helen here helped me to see differently.
They do have lovely baked goods at that café. Sigh.
And that bakery space. What I wouldn’t give to have that rack for baking pans.
Helen and I both stood there, taking photographs. The island is a quirky enough place that people didn’t even ask us why.
We forgot the baked goods we couldn’t eat when we returned home. We pulled out the scale, various flours, sugar, and butter.
(we didn’t use all that butter in one recipe, though.)
Can you guess what we were making?
Together, Danny, Helen, and I are going to conquer gluten-free puff pastry. I don’t know when. You’ll see it here, and on Tartelette, when we three feel like it’s right. This first batch showed promise. We had layers and flakiness. But not yet. We have work to do.
(This did, however, make a wonderful pie crust afterwards.)
Anyone who thinks that living gluten-free is drab should have hung out with us this weekend.
Anita made this addictive pork chile verde for us. (Little Bean looked up from her first bowl and said, “Yum yum yum!” This made Anita happy. And then the kid went back for seconds.) There were warm tortillas, sparkling lemonade, and sunlight coming through the window.
Nobody missed the gluten.
And seriously? Are you kidding me? Chocolate-hazelnut pot de creme with fresh whipped cream.
I don’t need no stinking gluten.
(Jeanne’s recipe for this is right here.)
Life, it seems, has been too busy lately for gatherings of the good women in my life, the ones who tease me and sustain me both. This weekend, thanks to Helen visiting, I reconnected.
And when the unexpected moment of March arrived at our front door, Helen and I both had our cameras ready. Little Bean, seeing her first snow.
Thank you, Helen, for being here. For helping me to slow down. And for showing me how to notice it all again.
p.s. There will be more slowing down for the next week. Danny, Little Bean, and I leave for Arizona tomorrow, for indolent days with eagerly waiting grandparents. We’ll be playing in warm sun and reading on the back porch. Next week, we’ll be back with new recipes.