We've been huge fans of Laura Wright's blog The First Mess since the early days of blog stalking, for a number of reasons that are probably fairly obvious. Laura's energy is both grounding and airy, and her approach to wellness and eating through the seasons is completely in line with our own philosophy. Her recipes are both approachable and still totally unique, and her pictures are always on point. Be sure to catch Laura's brand new recipe over at The First Mess today, created using GRAIN French Lentils from Saskatchewan.
Q&A WITH LAURA WRIGHT OF THE FIRST MESS
How/Why did you start blogging?
I was bored mostly! I had been serving at this restaurant that wasn't busy at all. I was getting called off of my shifts, and at the same time, my friend kept asking me about all of these things I had learned from working in restaurants, growing up with a seasonal food business, and attending a nutritional culinary program. So with her gentle urging, I started putting all of my kitchen projects online. The site also gave me an excuse to practice photography too.
How has your home cooking evolved since you launched The First Mess?
It's definitely more streamlined. I was into full-on "projects" when I started The First Mess--raw chocolate cakes that took 8 hours to "bake" in a dehydrator, confit shallots, cracking open young Thai coconuts, weird ferments, main course recipes that involved grilling, steaming AND roasting, that kinda thing. It was all a little restaurant-y and involved. Every once in a while I'd post some sort of easy weeknight meal that I enjoyed regularly, and noticed that these posts were much more popular. I knew I had to change things up a bit because I was starting to drive myself a little wild with the multi-stage projects. I still like to undertake those adventures with food, but at the same time I'm relieved that most people are into the easy/healthy/still pretty stuff like me.
What three ingredients must always be stocked in your kitchen?
1. Dry pulses like French lentils and chickpeas (from GRAIN obviously)
2. Fresh produce
3. Good quality oils and vinegars
What is the kitchen tool you absolutely can’t live without?
A super sharp chef's knife that feels good in your hand. Plant-based cooking from scratch means more chopping, which can be a chore if you're using a dull knife that's clunky to grasp. And my Vitamix takes a close second place. It's an investment for sure, but mine hasn't let me down after 9 years of constant use.
What do you eat for breakfast?
In the cold months I do porridge--either the overnight style Lazy Steel Cut Oats from my book or the genius oatmeal from Food52 via April Bloomfield. I serve both with a quick compote of freezer berries, maple syrup, some warm spices, and vanilla. When the days heat up and the growing season is in full swing, I do smoothies or even a smoothie bowl if I'm in the mood. When I'm particularly ambitious, I make this amazing fresh coconut yogurt that I eat with homemade granola and stewed/fresh fruit. It's like eating coconut-y clouds with crunchy and tart-juicy bits in the mix. Heavenly.
What is the best piece of advice you would give someone who is new to a plant-based diet?
Stock your pantry with flavourful and healthy staples so that you always have components to make your fresh produce special. I talk about this a lot in the opening section of my book, but preparation is at the heart of satisfying plant-based meals. Make a dressing or sauce for the week, a batch of chickpeas or other pulse, trim your vegetables and have a selection of whole grains and fresh spices on hand. Once you mix those things with seasonal produce, the options are endless.
Favourite food city you’ve traveled to?
LA is the best if you're into plant-based cuisine and a healthy lifestyle in general. You can get kombucha and almond milk at corner stores, and every restaurant I've been to, if it isn't an outright plant-based restaurant, has a thoughtful and delicious vegan option. Eating for wellness is just ingrained there and the constant growing season makes it so varied and delicious. The last time we were there, there weren't enough hours in the days to eat all of the things that I had on my list.
People only get to see the final results of the effort required to create such stunning images. Were there any particularly frustrating days or specifically tough to shoot recipes as part of this project?
I was really bad at keeping track of my notes in the beginning, so a bunch of recipes that I had worked on mysteriously disappeared because they were on random sheets of paper. I'm better at this now! The photography was the most frustrating aspect of the project for me. Every time I took a photo for the book, I would print it out and hang it up on this designated wall near my kitchen. I would keep looking at and analyzing this grid of photos, and I became quite self-critical. I reached a point late in the game where I wanted to re-shoot the entire thing, which is ridiculous, but when you spend so much time on a creative project by yourself, the full immersion becomes a bit much.
Has anything surprised you about putting your work out there in the form of a cook book?
I think some people in my extended family/friends group never fully "got" what I did for a living. To some extent, I feel like they may have had this idea that I stayed at home, posted to Instagram, and hung out with our dog all day. But with the cookbook, there's this very real extension of my work that's available at all of these retail outlets--I even went on TV to promote it on the morning shows and everything. I don't want to say that the book legitimized the work that I was doing prior to publication, but it promotes a better understanding of what's involved with my not-so-easily explained career.
Head over to the The First Mess today to get Laura's new recipe featuring GRAIN French Lentils. Her Roasted Potato Salad with French Lentils & Spring Vegetables sound likes the perfect way to ring in the first of the warm spring weather.
Check out Laura's gorgeous Instagram feed for more delicious inspiration.