Out of My Element

Monday, 27 February 2012 / Published in Everyday Living, Inspirations

 Food—I love it. I photograph it. I eat it. I don’t cook it (usually)!

Marty and I were asked to bring dessert to a dinner party. Not just any dinner party, but the regular get-together with our wonderful dining group, the Society of Food Aficianados (SOFA). For 15 years, we’ve been part of this casual group that is serious about food, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. The elegant name is (mostly) tongue-in-cheek. Chuck Bernstein, a SOFA group member, explained in his article on us for The Washington Post in 1998, saying “SOFA” has “…all the right connotations: demanding of good food but not too snooty; comfortable with barbecue or beurre blanc, like dining on favorite sofas, in salons and TV rooms around the world. Plus [it’s] catchy.”

Every dinner takes its theme from the host’s main dish. I described to Marty, the chef in our family, what dessert I thought he could make that would go with Louise’s winter comfort-food dinner: Apple Galette, from the Chez Panisse recipe on epicurious.com. It seemed like the perfect match. In my mind’s eye I could see them clearly: warm and rustic, with cool, winter window light, shot from above.

There, job done… I’d contributed my aesthetic judgement to envision this, so I could move on with my day. But, the time came to make it, and Marty got into a work crunch. What? The chef was too busy to cook? We couldn’t let SOFA down after all these years—I had to step up and represent the family.

Yes, I whined and begged Marty for help…I can cook basic main dishes and simple sides. But baking desserts is so specialized—and seems so exacting and scientific—and people really look forward to them—so, the pressure was on. Feeling tragically out of my element, I found my comfort zone by photographing during the process.

For the apple galette, I used Granny Smiths.

After the annoying manual labor of coring them, I rewarded myself by arranging them in an amusing fashion to shoot.

So many distractions along the way, even the butter wrappers looked nice.

I also had some plums left from that day’s photo shoot for Chef Todd Gray’s cookbook. So, I decided to make a plum galette as well.

I roasted them to bring out their sweetness.

There are only two rules in SOFA: “Pull out all the stops”; and, “Make something you’ve never made before.”

Ha! I totally qualifed! The galettes looked just as I envisioned them—only, I never expected that mine would be the hands that realized that vision. SOFA said they really enjoyed it—and accused me of holding out on them for 15 years by hiding my baking talent!


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