A few years ago, in a creative writing workshop, my group was asked to write a paragraph about how to make guacamole. We had five minutes or so, the first four of which I spent wondering why my brain had suddenly turned into a lumpy pile of pudding, and the fifth of which I utilized to quickly scrawl my go-to guacamole recipe (link here, if you’re curious). The instructor then asked our neighbors to read our guacamole stories aloud. ALOUD. THE HORROR. The guacamole stories began to flow. Tales of quirky childhood loathing of all things green, grass included. Words of wisdom, lessons learned, ideas on what the heck NOT to do. A gal who sat close to me weaved together a perfect description of a grandmother hand-mashing avocado with her beautiful, wrinkled hands. I could taste the guacamole. I could see the grandma. Heck, I felt like I KNEW the grandma.
And then it was time for my story. My neighbor (who happened to be the wickedly talented Keia Mastrianni) read my story to the group. It went a little something like this: slice an avocado, mash it, add 1/3 cup diced red onion. . . I was mortified.
It took me longer than I’d like to admit to recognize that I don’t perform well creatively when put on the spot. I need time and a lot of it. As much as I’d hoped both sides of my brain would mature equally, the Type A traits run this show. Brainstorming sometimes leaves me creatively numb, a reaction that is amplified when I let any sort of self-doubt creep into the conversation. You can’t write. No one is going to read this. Did you really just type that sentence? Is “delicious” the only adjective you know? Mary, even YOU are bored right now. What are you doing? YOU’RE AN ACCOUNTANT FOR GODS SAKE.
For MONTHS, I’ve wanted to write a blurb about what it’s like to work as a food blogger who develops recipes on the side, but the words wouldn’t flow. Granted, I’ve had some major life transitions happen these last few months (moved out of state, went back to school, O-H!). SO, yesterday, as I walked to class reflecting on this missing creative element of my days, I pulled out the ole iPhone and recorded myself talking about the recipes I recently developed for OurState Magazine. And now, while I should be studying for my Econometrics midterm, I’m transcribing all those words right here on the blog. And can I just say MAN it feels good.
I love collaborating, and I’ve worked with Our State many times over the past few years. For this specific project, I was asked to develop three nontraditional recipes using three traditional southern ingredients: collards, peaches, and tomatoes. This is the sort of assignment I thrive on. I need some parameters, some expectations to get the juices flowing.
In the south, collards are a staple. I’d never tried them before I moved to Charlotte, and once I did, I didn’t like them much! Traditionally, collards are wilted in a big pot of ham hock juice. For my “untraditional” recipe I wanted untraditional flavors AND untraditional texture. Texture is hugely important to me.
I settled on the collard pesto idea pretty quickly. Really, you can turn ANY greens into pesto. Basil, arugula, spinach… why not collards? The hard part for me was deciding what to do with the pesto! Pesto panini? Pesto breakfast skillet? Pesto zucchini noodles?
With warm weather rolling in, I decided collard pesto pasta salad would be a fun spin, but after a first round, I felt the dish was missing something. It needed something to brighten up the darkness of the collards. Splash of vinegar? Cherry Tomatoes? PEAS. I love the green on green contrast of the peas and the pesto, plus the peas add a nice little pop of sweet.
For each of the three recipes (I’ll be blogging about the peach and tomato recipes soon), I created a spreadsheet that documented the recipe ingredients, recipe steps, and all kitchen gadgetry required. I emailed this file off to the team at Our State, and a few weeks later I arrived in Greensboro, NC with my laptop and a nonstick skillet ready to cook!
We’d planned for the video shoot of my three recipes to take four hours, but four quickly turned into eight! Everything was much more time consuming than we anticipated. Each shot required a substantial amount of set up time, not only for prepping ingredients but also getting the camera and lights ready to roll. Switching between the counter and the stove top was a MESS. We had all three recipes in various stages of completion for most of the day (in an effort to minimize transition between the stove top and counter), but my spreadsheet helped keep us organized.
Some things I learned during the filming process:
For these short made-for-social-media films, everything gets sped up thus errors are easily cropped out of the footage. I made several errors while cooking on screen, including annihilating a softball-sized onion with horrendous knife skills and accidentally sticking my head in the shot several times. Plus there was a stray cat hair removal incident. THIS IS REAL LIFE.
My big hands actually look “normal” on screen. Who knew.
Some people will love your ideas, many others will hate them. Comments on Our State’s social media include:
- “ruining good collards”
- “Garlic? That is so wrong.”
- “I will definitely try this. I love that this is a healthy way to prepare a traditional Southern food.”
Check out the recipe video below (or the text recipe here: collard pesto pasta salad recipe), and stay tuned for the tomato and peach recipe videos!