I recently was in the area where I spent my honeymoon over 30 years ago. While enjoying the exceptional fall foliage decorating the forests, I decided to explore up an old dirt forest road, which once took me to my summer home on a Forest Service Fire Tower, named Red Plume Lookout.
Although the day was chilly, a bright blue sky reflected in the waters of the reservoir as the sun shone golden on the native grasses and gold-needled Western Larch trees.
As I drove I reflected on that summer so long ago, when as a young woman and newly wed bride, I felt I had life solidly in my hands. Returning home this week, I dug into my photo album from that time, and pulled my ‘childhood’ steamer trunk out to retrieve some of the journals I kept from my time on Red Plume Lookout.
When SF Editor Stephanie gave me this months COOK THIS column assignment, and told me the issue was devoted to grandparents and family traditions, I knew exactly which food to feature. My grandmothers’ buttermilk biscuits!
As I prepared to make the recipe and shoot the photos, I gathered grandma’s 1894 The Housekeeper cookbook, vintage baking props, and all the ingredients. I started taking notes for this article as I progressed through her biscuit recipe. It was only as I was cleaning up while the fragrant aroma of fresh baked bread wafted from the oven that I had the realization of the fact that most of our SF readers are much younger than I, and that their association with grandparents would be of my own mom’s age or even younger. I mean, after all, I’m a grandmother myself!
So I pulled my mom’s 1956 Betty Crocker cookbook off the shelf and also grabbed my 1975 Doubleday cookbook, to compare buttermilk biscuit recipes over the generations.
The most notable difference wasn’t in the ingredients, but in the baking. Since electric ranges weren’t common in most rural areas like my Grandmothers Minnesota farm, until the early 1940’s, the recipes did not use “preheat, bake at 450 degrees” nor even suggest how long the biscuits should bake as cooking with wood was such a variable heat source.Read More »
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
“I’m in love with Montana.”C.D.D.
My Subaru is loaded with the essentials … tripod, cameras, lens, notebook, map, and GPS. Oh, and a backpack with a few clothes and other essentials. So off I go, heading east over the Continental Divide to my road trip hub for a few days and nights–the Sacajawea Hotel in Three Forks.
The Sac was built in 1910 to service tourists traveling through on the railroad. Now on the Register of Historic Hotels, this white clapboard beauty is pure bliss. So when I got a call to come stay and review it, naturally I said “yes!”.
The lovely covered front porch is lined with white rocking chairs, scattered wool throws for guest use, and season appropriate floral arrangements. Greeted with a smile and a glass of chilled champagne, I am escorted to my room on the third floor. Up the original wooden stairway, past hall windows and the rustic wood doors of other guest rooms.
Barely taking the time to drop my things off, I hustle out to capture the late afternoon golden hour for some photos.
A good friend sent me the link to a food photography contest with encouragement for me to enter it, combined with lots of compliments on my food photography. I went to the website, read the rules, and jotted a note in on my calendar to fit this challenge in before the end of the month deadline.
Let me tell you a little about this unusual and oft times stressful September I’ve had. First of all, my sweet, little community has been bombarded with forest fire, smoke, soot, and ash since mid-July. Twice, I’ve been ordered to evacuate my home–mandatory–within 10 minutes. The first time it was for 12 days. The second time it was just for an afternoon. But I’ve lived with the evacuation warning threat for over a month.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been charged with deciding what possessions are the most important to you but its a very hard thing to do. Especially if you’re at all like me–not a hoarder–but a collector of fine things. Until recently I had a wonderful vintage store where I sold the unusual and treasured home and garden collectibles. Naturally I’ve kept the things that I just couldn’t part with. I’m also a watercolor artist so my walls are filled with a lifelong collection of moody sepia toned cowboys, horses, and cattle drives.
And as a mom, I’ve got three kids worth of treasures, and a grandchild’s treasures–gifts to me that their little hands have fashioned and created. Of course, the usual can’t leave behind items, like photograph albums, grandma’s cookbook, grandpa’s pocket watch and hundreds of other family heirlooms.
Did I mention my antique classics book collection? Leather bound, many first editions?
And I’m trying to make time to enter this great food photography contest!
As I first realized the threat, back when the forest fire was just thick smoke looming up from behind the mountains near our home, I made a rational and reasonable list of the treasures I would take. But each hour of each day found me adding to the ‘can’t live without this’ growing pile of boxes. I debated on just packing up my whole house except for the easy-to-replace things like the printer, table lamps, and canning jars. Reason won as I gave myself the mature-toned voice of “everything’s replaceable” speech.
All’s well that ends well–my house didn’t burn, though the beautiful forest in the mountains around me are ruined for many generations to come. And I’ve spent the past week trying to move four pickup loads of valuables back in. Did I mention I had a huge yard sale at a friends house last weekend? There’s a few boxes of remnants from that fiasco–things she had that I decided I needed. (I’m really just a collector, not a hoarder!)
Then my son fell from a ladder, broke his wrist bones in multiple places, requiring surgery. So I volunteered to be his nurse and driver for a few days.
I work managing two vacation rental homes–both of which are closing down for the season last week and next. Packing, moving, cleaning. Two. Houses. Maybe I kept a few collectible things, but not as much as I could have!
During this month I’ve also gone camping for 3 nights, attended one funeral, had two crowns replaced on my teeth, had 6 girlfriends for a sleep over party, made it to my masseuse once, physical therapy twice, and oh yes, my lawn mower and pickup truck both broke. We had our first snow already–I won’t even get started on what preparations are needed for this weather phenomenon. (It put out the fires! Yay!)
And I’m entering a photo contest!
Today the sun came up over a bright blue sky. Through my soot covered windows, as I appreciated the warm, bright beams of light, I decided that the time was right for me to do the set up for my photo entry. Did I think about going back to review the rules? No. Never even entered my foggy brain. I’d already made the #cutthecheese2017 sign and laid out my favorite trendy cutting board. But now I removed the grapes I’d laid on it a week or so ago, because they were too shriveled to merit tasty food quality photography.
Grabbing my salami and a few cheeses left-over from my camping trip, a few plums scored at Farmers Market this morning, and some my sweet vintage silver, I quickly fashioned a lovely cutting board vignette. Moving it around from counter, to coffee table, to dining table to capture the best sunlight and shadows, I took about 30 photos from various angles, heights, and settings.
The phone rang–my mom wanting to chat. As I transitioned to daughter talking to her mom, I remember making the semi-conscious decision that I was finished with the photo contest shoot, and could now proceed to eat my beautiful arrangement. It was, after all, past noon.
Slipping my camera’s memory card into my Mac, I opened the website for the John Boos Cutting Board Food Photography Contest to upload my best photo. Opps. Now I remember! I was supposed to take a documenting photo of me shooting the food photos! And I was encouraged to take a few shots of my set up to help other would-be-food-photographers learn. Well I certainly messed this one up! No more food, no more wonderful light, and no more time to do it again.
So the lesson I’d like my readers and food-photographer students is this; Review the directions before disassembling your model. And stay focused on the job rather than talk to your mother. It might also help if you eat before the shoot so the temptation from your stomach doesn’t over-power your brain.
I’ll submit my photo because I really need to tell my friend that I did what I said, and entered the contest.
Thanks cuttingboard.com and John Boos cutting boards for putting on this fun contest. I’d be thrilled (and floored) if I won, but who knows … they did suggest humor and my harried, over-wrot, weary self took them seriously without intending to.
Here’s to a relaxed October with no stress. Cheers!
I shoot RAW with my Nikon D810 camera, using my 50 mm lens, and my Manfrotto tri-pod. I shoot in my home using natural light. I do not own reflectors or bouncers or a light box, though if I win this contest, those will be quickly purchased!
As my blog intro explains, I’ve been passionate about photography since I was a young girl. As my blog attests, I love to cook (and eat) and photograph food as I journey through this fun life.
I hope you’ll consider following my Instagram feed — Montanacarole as I’d love to meet you and see what you’re up to as well! And I encourage you to enter this contest also … but you’ll need to act fast as there’s only 5 days left! Be sure to mention that I sent you!
Earlier this year, I had opportunity and joy in joining a Dallas girlfriend for a springtime road trip through some wildflower strewn Texas hill country. We meandered down back roads, stopping at every food truck we could find. Easter dinner was a flavorful Crawfish Boil along the highway!
We enjoyed some amazing foods but the best of the best, was the watermelon slushy I bought from a food truck at Chip and Joanna Gaines’ MAGNOLIA MARKET in Waco.
Montana has a rich western past, with endless trails and tales of cattle, cowboys, and camping. This yummy choice gives tribute to our past with a recipe that does double time as a salad or appetizer. Some call it “Cowboy Caviar”, while I like to call it a ‘must serve’ at every summer get together. It’s just that good!
Mix the dressing together in a pint canning jar:
1/3 c. olive oil
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. chili powder
1 TBL fresh minced garlic
Put a lid on it, shake well, and set aside for a few days to let the flavors work their magic.
This is not a make-ahead dish, as the avocado’s will brown and the cilantro will wilt. So, 15 minutes or so before eating, prepare the salad part of this caviar.
In a glass, medium sized bowl, add 1 can (drained) of sweet corn and 1 can (drained) of your favorite bean. I’ve used white beans for this meal. Chop and add to the corn and beans, 2 large ripe tomatoes, 2 large ripe avocados, 1 bunch of fresh cilantro with stems removed, and 3 green onions.
Lightly mix the ingredients while slowly adding the dressing. Serve immediately over a few crisp lettuce leaves for a salad course, or with chips, as an appetizer salsa. The rich flavors and delightful crunch of corn make cowboys (and girls) coming back for more!
Serves 4 as a salad and 8 as an appetizer. It tastes amazing whether you’re sitting in the saddle, a deck chair, next to a campfire, or floating around the pool!