Sometimes you just need to change life lanes and this past Monday morning quickly became one of those times. I woke up with the best intentions of getting orders shipped, photographs taken and desk cleaned so that I could get into the studio before noon. Instead, I opened up my email to find more than my fair share of customers with lost packages, potential customers wanting things I didn’t have, suppliers with delayed shipments (of those products the potential customers were wanting)…….you get the idea. I answered only those emails that were urgent (to me) and decided to turn the day inside out by heading into the kitchen and working with my second favorite medium – food. OK, it’s often my first favorite medium but it doesn’t exactly pay the bills. Being a local/seasonal freak I went very local (back yard) and very seasonal rhubarb for a therapeutic “jam session”.
While I have made jam most all of my life, I ran across a blog post last year that took the process from a bit of a boring chore to a truly sensory and creative experience. Here’s the link – http://www.nwedible.com/2012/08/how-to-make-pectin-free-jam.html . NWEdible is a great blog in general, but this post really turned me on to experimenting with flavors, textures and even colors that result in jams that are lower in sugar, bursting with flavor and an absolute delight to make. While concocting my Monday morning batch I realized just how similar my approach to cooking is to my creating with paper.
Let’s start with ingredients. There’s nothing like a truly fresh pile of ANYTHING from the garden can lead to creative cooking. Who isn’t moved to concoct a gorgeous salad with fresh butter lettuce and French breakfast radishes? And a big, beautiful bowl (preferably handmade pottery) of newly washed strawberries can inspire even the most reluctant cook…..even if only to slice them and serve with cream.
I take this attitude into the studio when I choose to work with gorgeous papers. Similarly, I choose adhesives and embellishments for not only their visual appeal but often their tactile properties. Haven’t really explored the olfactory thing, but scratch-n-sniff is something to think about. Oh wait! A few years ago I discovered this fabulous paste from Italy, Coccoina, that smells just like sweet almonds and I use it for all sorts of small projects (sometimes I don’t even need it – I just open the can and inhale deeply). Combine this divine Italian paste with some delicious Italian papers and you’ve got yourself quite a recipe.
The tools…..ahhhhhh. Nothing makes a task more pleasurable than working with good tools. In the kitchen, good knives, handmade cutting boards and my new copper jam pots are all very satisfying but my all time favorite kitchen tools are a collection of little demitasse spoons that I keep next to the stove for repeated tastings. How can one possibly cook without constantly tasting? These little darlings reside in a lovely salt-fired pot by Ginger Steele. Walk into the studio and you will find a receptacle on my workbench (this time an old swab container from someplace medical) filled with my favorite tools. Bone folder, horn folder, paper scissors (don’t even think about using them on anything else), an awl, scoring tool and of course a ruler are always close at hand.
Back to the jam. After a pleasant couple of hours simmering, stirring, measuring and tasting (of course) I had nine half pint jars of Rhubarb Jam with Green Cardamom and Orange Flower Water that is “slap your mama” good. All in all a satisfying morning and very effective re-boot. By noon two of the missing packages had shown up and customers were writing to thank me for keeping them informed on the status of their products. The desk was (and is) still a mess, but we can’t have everything can we?
Strawberries – hurry up, you’re next!