Who am I? I’m Melissa, and I am a foodie, chocoholic, photographer, baker, and cook, not necessarily in that order. I have no official formal education in any of these fields, but they’re all hobbies I have enjoyed for much of my life.
One of my earliest memories is playing with my toys on the kitchen floor while watching my mom prepare dinner for our family. With her oversight, I was mixing cookie dough and cake batter at a very young age, and I probably learned a lot of what I know today about baking and cooking, although I didn’t realize it at the time.
I was a bit older when my dad first allowed me to use his camera for a summertime photography class. (I clearly remember him handing the camera to me, hands outstretched to catch it even after I took hold of it, saying, “Don’t Drop It!!!”) That was the beginning of my interest in photography. Years later I was fortunate enough to receive a camera of my own from him as a graduation present – that gift deepened my interest in the art. Later, I worked in the industry during and after college, and most of what I now know I learned during that time.
What am I up to now? I live with two cats, and am currently calling the metro
St. Louis ( ) area home. Whenever possible, sunny Saturdays are spent outdoors (I love to bicycle and enjoy camping), while rainy or snowy weekends are spent inside cooking and baking for this blog. Wherever you see gaps in my blogging frequency, it’s because I was talked into catering food for a large group or a special event and my efforts were focused on planning, preparing, and recovering from that event. (I did have to take a several-month hiatus for both personal and work reasons, but outside of that, I’m normally pretty good about posting at least once a week.) What’s my real job? My work supports the aviation industry and I love it. Missouri
What camera do I use for the pictures in this blog? I shoot primarily with a Canon 5D and a 24-70 f/2.8 L zoom lens. Although I have a Speedlite 580EX flash and even a full complement of studio lights, I rarely use them because I am fortunate enough to have the best possible source of light: several giant windows in my kitchen. I try to use the natural light they let in whenever possible. I rarely pull out the studio lights – too cumbersome – but if it’s a particularly dark day, I’ll supplement the sunlight with the Speedlite. When I’m shooting food, I almost always use a tripod. My photography wish list includes a lens that has a closer focusing distance, and some day I hope to have a video camera!
You definitely don’t need a big fancy camera to take good-quality food photos. You do need a camera that has at least some basic manual adjustment capability, and for the sharpest-possible photos, a tripod. Neither of those items needs to be very expensive to get the job done. You’ll also need a good source of indirect or diffused light. This could be from a window, from a flash, or some other source. One of my favorite easy and inexpensive ways to turn bright light from my sunny window into evenly-lit softer light is to use a large piece of white posterboard propped up on the dark side of my subject, just outside my camera’s field of view – it reflects the sunlight back into the shadows.
What about my kitchen setup? Other than my great kitchen windows, I don’t have a fancy kitchen or a wonderful stove (and you’ve all seen my icky blue tiled countertop!). I’ve accumulated a few good small appliances over the years, but I definitely don’t have one of those stunning kitchens fit for a magazine. Some day I’ll remodel my kitchen and get rid of the blue tile, but until then, I try to think positive and remember that it could be worse – the blue tile could be orange or some other terrible color. (By the way, if you’re ever thinking of tiling a countertop – DON’T.) I did make a good choice when I bought my four-door refrigerator – I love it because each section can be a different temperature. I’ll allow food to cool slightly on the countertop, then can quickly bring it to a safe storage temperature in its own compartment in the fridge, without ill effect to the rest of the food stored in the other compartments.
About my cooking: I try to keep weeknight dinners simple, but enjoy taking the time to make more complicated meals on weekends. You’ll see a mix of both types of recipes on this site. I almost never use prepackaged convenience foods (except good-quality frozen stuffed pasta), so you will rarely, if ever, see box mixes or other convenience ingredients here. I don’t like the idea of eating all those preservatives and would rather not eat the excessive trans fats found in so many processed foods. I am a big fan of my deep freezer and have been known to make ten batches of something and stow it away for later…my own version of convenience food, plus it’s extremely cost-effective. You won’t find any microwavable recipes on this site because I don’t own one – sorry. (There’s no room to put one in my kitchen…and besides, I would probably only use it to melt butter and chocolate and heat up milk for hot cocoa, so it’s probably not the best use of my kitchen dollar.)