The MGM Production of Photo Shoots I'm back from 10 glorious days in Switzerland and eight dramatic days of book photography so there is much to catch up on, but before I forget the details I must tell you about the final round of book photography. First, though, I started a loaf of bread, and now I know that I will be grounded and quickly regain my sense of order and routine. I must add that it was especially pleasing to scoop into the bag of flour that was "my" flour, i.e. "Better for Bread" flour with my picture on the bag. Also, I noticed that Elliott's freezer bread section was nearing empty. The bread I chose to make is a whole wheat bread previously posted in the 50% version "for whole wheat wimps." But as Elliott is a whole-wheat super wimp, the one I make for him is only 18.5% whole wheat. It's still very delicious and wheaty. Elliott is not only a "super taster," he also has a great sensitivity to bitterness which he perceives in the whole wheat flour if it goes over this percentage. As I was mixing the bread, I realized that one of the best feelings that results from the process is a that of self-sufficiency, and how valuable it is-- always, but especially now in troubled and financially uncertain times. And now, for a brief description (it didn't turn out to be all that brief) of the incredibly intense eight final days of photography for the upcoming book.
The first photo session was back in March, and walking to the studio it was a joy to see green shoots and buds appearing everywhere. But this time it was autumn leaves and the start of colder weather. Now the joy was reconnecting with the team of extraordinarily talented professionals. We had learned how to work together during the first round, and this time it was seamless. It reminded me of a dance, or spider web, each detail intricately coordinated and resulting in a work of art. I could sense clearly that the goal of each participant was to get the best shot and indeed they did. Hats off to Liz Duffy, the food stylist. The organization of a shoot, particularly a baking one, is beyond comprehensibly detailed and time-consuming. The amount of things she had to coordinate was staggering. An expert food stylist such as Liz can make the food looked beautiful even if the recipes don't work, but what is perhaps even more of a challenge, is to work with recipes that have been carefully meticulously tested and have them not only looked beautiful but accurately represent the vision of the author. In order to achieve this, Liz and her assistants Jan and Janine had to work in close consultation with me and they were most gracious about it. Once again I learned that even though doing 'nothing' is so hard in its own way, it is necessary to be fully present mentally -- zoned in -- so that the mind searches and finds important often subtle details even though not actively participating. Roy Finamore, a former senior editor at Clarkson Potter, was brilliant as a prop stylist. He went way beyond selecting props for the photos. He advised on many counts including which steps to take to the for the process shots. My author portrait was planned for the last day, and I feared that by then I would look as exhausted as I was sure I would feel, but instead I was so thrilled that we had completed the project with such brilliant photographs that I look happy instead. Photographer Ben Fink made me look almost as good as my cakes! When I saw the picture on the monitor, I was so surprised and happy I immediately gave him a kiss. It also pleased me immensely that for one of the wedding cakes, Roy chose a dental plate from my mother's high-speed drill. This Firestone plate dates back to the 1930s, and as a child I spent several hours sitting under it as did many of my mother's other patients, peering in fright at the instruments that extended over the scalloped edges. Funny that now it brings back only happy memories. In the middle of the week, Pam's lovely assistant Rebecca Scherm came by to deliver something but really to taste some of the cakes. She went away with several samples as well! Another treat on the last day with the arrival of my editor Pam with her seven-year-old daughter Isabelle who came at my invitation to be photographed for one of the pictures. I was charmed that she spontaneously wrote a most touching note immediately afterwards, and entirely on her own. I'd like to share it with you: "Dear Rose, Ben, Roy, Liz, Jan, Jeff, Janine, & Elizabeth, Thank you sooooo much for making me feel comfortable at the shoot. I'll bet I'll be extremely happy when I see myself in the cookbook. The cupcake was sooooo yummy. I really liked the cake part. It felt sort of weird meeting everybody -- but then I started to get used to it. It was also fun making some of the cupcakes. Thank you! Love and hugs, Isabelle" Seven years old! Do you think she'll be a writer when she grows up? You'll see her in the book. The icing on the cake was the arrival of my dear friend Elizabeth Karmel, who is not only a gifted griller and author of "Taming the Flame" she is also an expert at makeup. She had promised me that when the time came, if she were available, she would do my makeup for the photo shoot. As I rarely wear makeup and prefer a natural look, I warned her not to make me look like a hooker! She assured me that the camera required extra makeup to look natural and healthy and I must say she did an exquisite job of doing just that. Coincidentally, she was working that day with her editor Linda, also from Wiley, and a good friend of my editor Pam, so Linda generously allowed Elizabeth to take a break and run over to our studio. When the final photo was taken, we ordered a great celebration lunch of barbecued brisket, chicken, ribs, sausages, and many sides from Hill Country where Elizabeth is consulting chef. All told, I've never felt more loved or better represented, or more thoroughly exhausted. The following day Elliott and I were invited to our friends the Beckers (the doctors who cook) for a Sunday brunch which lasted for four delicious and delightful hours plus one hour in the living room where I fell sound asleep. Dear friends that they are they didn't want to wake me. I'd like nothing better than to relive the many moments of last week (and I certainly have recounting all of this to you) get some rest, and put away all the cake pans and equipment that were used for the shoot not to mention all the makeup I'd been saving over the years in case of emergencies such as this one. But there is much to catch up on, including having gotten crammed by the phone company (lesson: don't file your bills without looking at them first, and if you've never heard of cramming, Google it! While you're at it, also check out slamming.) Also I must start a new project in the short time that remains before phase 13 of book production in January. It will be revealed in January or February. Hint: it has to do with baking.