Do you ever find yourself on a site and get lost in some what of what I would like to call a cyber dream? Well this is what happened to me when I found New York times best selling author of The Forest Feast , a vegetarian cookbook based on her blog Erin Gleeson from the forest feast. Erin worked as a food photographer in New York City for several years before moving to a cabin in the woods near San Francisco in 2011 which inspired her blog and book. The Forest Feast is a unique cookbook/art book blend, featuring simple, colorful, vegetable based recipes that are presented visually, with minimal text. Erin’s own photography, watercolor illustration and hand lettering guide you through the steps to make each dish. The Forest Feast notary line was released in 2015 with stationery items like journals and art prints, featuring Erin’s watercolors and photography. She is currently creating two more cookbooks that come out in 2016, The Forest Feast for Kids and The Forest Feast Gatherings . Erin also teaches photography at the college level and works as a freelance food photographer and illustrator. Being from forest heavy Colorado, and the love of entertaining and cocktails naturally I had to then have the book, just to have, but I find myself going back to the site to what new fun project she will have next. I admire that she can use her love of photography, food and color and ability to create and teach others. I am beyond excited that we got to ask her a couple questions:
I feel like you are living the dream, you got to have the hustle and bustle of the city, and now are in a rural area full of nature and family, what was that jump like for you?
I really loved living in NYC, but I think the sudden quiet of being in the woods allowed me to take a breather, get back in touch with my creativity, and come up with the Forest Feast idea , which has taken my work in a whole new direction.
How did you get into food photography?
I studied art in college, then studied abroad in Italy at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna. That was the year I got my first “real” camera, traveled a lot, and began to take photography more seriously. I later went back to school in new York and got a Masters in Photography so that I could get better at it, and so I could teach it at the college level. After grad school, I taught digital photography at The Fashion Institute of Technology for a few years in NYC. It was fun to work with fashion students!
Where did you originally find your inspiration to mix art with food?
First of all, I love to eat!! But I think I was drawn to food for its vibrant colors and textures. My first big project was a dessert cookbook, and I saw the desserts as colorful little sculptures on a plate. I love the intersection of art and food.
I noticed you have a new book coming out please tell us all about it!
The Forest Feast for Kids (for kids to cook from) is out as of February 2016 and The Forest Feast Gatherings (menus for parties and entertaining tips) will be out September 2016.
When creating recipies do you start with an idea or an ingredient?
Usually an ingredient. A lot of what I shoot is inspired by what comes in our weekly local farm box. We’ll get an unusual combination of ingredients and I love experimenting in the kitchen to see what I can come up with. I am usually drawn to the most colorful produce and try to shape the dish around that.
We love that you embrace seasonal cooking, what is your favorite season to cook in while being guided by the ingredients?
While winter ingredients in California are quite generous, I can’t resist the bounty that summer offers! Fresh heirloom tomatoes sliced with a bit of cheese and fresh basil will win my heart
Do you primarily cook vegetarian or do you find yourself merging meat dishes with vegetarian?
I cook primarily vegetarian, but I like the idea that recipes from my vegetarian cookbooks and blog could be served alongside a meat entree and be served to anyone, whether or not they are vegetarian.
What would be your advice to a parent trying to find a meal that is not only healthy but satisfies the entire family?
I thought a lot about this when writing The Forest Feast for Kids (2016), and I think keeping the food colorful by using an array of produce, and involving your kids in the cooking process will make them more willing to try vegetables. Fun meals in the kids book include Curly Kale & Curly Pasta Salad and Butternut Quesadillas. Fun prep techniques help, too, like using a spiralizer to make my Carrot “Noodle” Salad.
What is your go to appetizer dish to bring to a potluck dinner party?
Guacamole Deviled Eggs !
I notice that you like to entertain, what are some tips and tricks to make it seem effortless when your guests arrive?
We love having people over! So much in fact that I am writing a book about it, with menus for parties called The Forest Feast Gatherings, which comes out September 2016. When guests arrive, I stop whatever I am doing and have a drink with them. The food can wait a little while it’s more important to make your guests feel welcome. Before guests arrive, I set the mood by lighting candles, setting drinks out on the bar, and putting music on.
How does your dinner menu differ from the city to the countryside?
Not too different, really! I think California produce offers more than NYC did year round. And the California weather allows us to be outside more often. But in terms of menu, I still strive for produce rich dishes that are colorful. And cocktails!
What’s your favorite guilty pleasure dish?
How did you get from cooking and photography to being a best seller in print?
About 6 months after I started my Forest Feast blog on Tumblr , a literary agent found it online and said she thought I should turn the blog into a book. She helped me pitch the idea to publishers It all happened much more quickly than I could have imagined and was very exciting!
I love to entertain, sometimes after a long day of work I get off and realize I spread myself too thin, what is an easy meal that will impress the 45
people I invited over?
Gnocchi! It takes 3 minutes to boil. When it’s done, toss it with store bought
pesto, pine nuts and fresh arugula. Serve it alongside some really good bread and butter and a salad of chopped cucumber, tomato, fresh mozzarella and avocado. For dessert, serve vanilla ice cream topped with a dollop of peanut butter and a drizzle of honey. Yum!
Last what would be your favorite piece from AGAIN to have your guests see you in and why?
I love anything orange, and vintage inspired florals, so I love the Dylan floral dress and the Lolita. Get her Dress here
You can follow Erin, or get one her books by following the links below!
The Forest Feast cookbook
The Forest Feast for Kids
Instagram, Twitter & Periscope: @theforestfeast
Tumblr: forestfeast (forestfeast.tumblr.com)