Sweet Cheese Curd Tarts and the Road to a Book

Those who follow my instagram already know that I have been working on my very own book the last few months. (There is even a # hash tag on it to follow some of the process, I know, how very modern of me.) It is a scary yet exciting journey, one with occasional bumps in the road and one with smooth pathways. I thought it would be easy, I couldn't be more wrong. 

I am fortunate that my publisher was super excited about me to design the book myself and photograph it, which isn't a given thing. They gave me the freedom to come up with a concept no matter how crazy it sounded. They wanted the book to be 'totally me'. This was always something that was made up in my mind. If the book would be designed by someone else and photographed by someone else, it would not be my book. I would not want that book. This isn't a narcissistic urge to just get 'a' book out there, this is an artistic project for me. I have been a graphic designer my whole professional life, I have done numerous layouts for books, booklets and magazines. Not being allowed to design and layout my own book would just feel completely and utterly wrong. But of course, this means doing the work of 3 maybe 4 people all on my very own...
I will have to turn down future jobs to get be able to do this big book project but the book will by no means pay enough so I can pay my bills. All the money from the advance, the layout work and the photography will go to the actual creating of this book. But although I would have liked to at least have some tiny profit, I am also very happy that the subject of my book wasn't chosen for me, and that I can really do what I want. I have had other offers from publishers, who had the subject of my book already decided for me, of course I had to turn them down. As I said, this is not just 'a' book. 

Because of the significance of this project, I often freeze and can't write or cook or photograph. Being a creative creature means you constantly doubt your work, and push yourself and push and push. I ask myself constantly, is this perfect enough. In every word and image I put an enormous effort, the story I tell needs to be right, it needs to transport you. I am not shooting a book, I am creating images that will hopefully whisk you away to my imaginary English cottage with limestone walls and a cream colored coal fired Aga stove. I want you to smell the slightly burnt toast that has the flavour unmatched by any toaster because it has been toasted on that oh so coveted AGA coal fire. 

When I freeze, it is the moment when I am in doubt. Doubt is your enemy.
You must not forget, I started my own business as a freelance photographer/graphic designer/writer in januari, which means I am not surrounded by colleagues anymore, I work alone, and often I will be abroad, alone in my B&B. There's no 'can we have a chat about the concept or designs' like in the advertising agency I worked at. I have to ask myself if it is right, I have to be objective and not let my heart get too much involved in it.
Which is hard, because I am a very passionate person. There is hardly any grey in me, it is either good or bad. There is no 'this will do' in my book - literally and figuratively speaking.

I am writing about this because I know a few people in our little online food lovers community who are also working on a book or book proposal. Sometimes to read someone else saying it is not a walk in the park, helps you to be okay with it, if one a day you wake up and are overtaken by the fear this great project brings with it.
It happens to us all. 

But also because I need your help, I need people who would like to be involved and test a recipe for me, or more if you're up to it. Eternal gratitude to my recipe testers so please get in touch if you want to get cooking for me - my email is on my contact page.

But on to that tart you see here, this is a sweet cheese curd tart with lemon. It is one of the recipes you just develop by accident, while trying to make something else you come up with an equally scrumptious dish.
Sweetened cheese curds have been used as a sweet treat on its own and in tarts for centuries, early recipes like this are the very first ancestors of the cheesecake we know today. Because I have used lard in the pastry, the tart has a sweet yet also savoury hint which is perfect for the likes of me who do not enjoy a very sweet treat.

Food Revolution Day 2014 - keeping cooking skills alive

A Day of cheese making, dough kneading, and pizza baking!
Yesterday was Food Revolution Day and like last year (you can see it here) I got my thinking cap on to see how I could make a difference on this day. Why? Because doing nothing won't change a thing.
Like I said last year and will say again, every day should be a Food Revolution Day, this day is just the moment when we celebrate it, and get other people involved, to spread the word. Knowing so many 'foodies' in my line of work, I is my opinion you can't be a foodie without being a food activist. You can't love food and not want to be a part of a world wide battle for change in food choices. As a foodie you want the best produce, and the best meat is raised stress free and with respect, the best veggies are local and the best grains are those that are GMO and chemical free. You don't want additives, colorings and other types of crap that shouldn't be in food. But is saddens me to see that there are in fact 'foodies' who don't care about where the food came from and how the meat was reared. Or they do care, but don't care to take a stand and try to educate others about the dangers that linger on our supermarket shelves. Anyway, we can't all be pro-active.

Food Revolution Day is the brainchild of Jamie Oliver, who finds it important to use the fact that he is famous for a good cause by getting people involved in this day dedicated to food education. He has been campaigning for better food education in schools in the UK and USA and a change in school dinners. He has also set up Ministry of Food centers where people can come and have cooking lessons for free, just so that they would be able to cook from scratch for themselves and their children. He also has his Food Foundation charity to raise funds for projects in food education.
Why having a day to raise awareness and having a jolly good cook off is important is stated on the Food Revolution Day website here > 

"It's time to take action!
We need every child to understand where food comes from, how to cook it, and how it affects their body. This is about setting kids up with the knowledge they need to make better food choices for life."
Jamie Oliver

This year the focus is on children, they are our future after all and for the future's sake, something has to change in our eating habits. So the plan was, get some kids together!

Nine in the morning and it feels like the silence before the storm. Twenty five 11 year old children are coming to my friends Loes and Krikke's restaurant to learn how to make cheese and bake their own pizza's in an old Flemish wood fired bread oven. To make it all more exciting for the children Bruno has designed another smashing set of goodies, a box containing a diploma, a recipe booklet and a wooden spoon for them to take home as a prize of the day.
They arrive, with a storm, as anticipated. They are eager to learn and we start off with a little talk on what Food Revolution Day is all about. I explain to them that although cooking is so much fun, so many people never cook because they don't know how to. They totally agree that packed meals and processed foods are bad for you and see no sense in why you would buy it - fantastic, these kids understand! All but a few know who Jamie is and think he's cool for getting us all cooking and breaking a world record by hosting the worlds largest cooking lesson. Cheering and jumping up and down follows when I tell them that the record has been broken. I love these kids.

We start with cheese making, we are working with raw milk that came straight from the farm that morning and I explain that this is raw milk because it hasn't been pasteurised. Once the milk has been heated to blood temperature, one of the kids adds the buttermilk, salt and vegetarian rennet and we wait and see what happens. 'Oohs' and 'aahs' when the milk starts to thicken and true amazement when I show them the pot of milk I made an hour before. The fresh pot goes to rest and we transfer the curdled milk to a bowl with cheesecloth to drain. They take turns wiggling the cheesecloth and then comes the coolest part of squeezing the curds. Twenty five little hands squeeze and squeeze and I stop them before there is no cheese left to squeeze, the kids just love to get hands-on and feel every process.