When it comes to foodie interviews at the HBC, we love chatting to the best of the best. This week we caught up with Laura from The First Mess, a plant-based whole food lover championing simple and seasonal cooking with gorgeous ingredients.
My name is Laura and I am the creator of the plant-based food blog The First Mess. In 2017, I released a cookbook of the same name. My goal with both my blog and book is to make plant-based cooking seem accessible to anyone. I take a modern approach in that I don’t really go the fake/faux meat and cheese route and instead focus on the goodness of produce, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and pulses. Seasonal produce is the foundation of most of my recipes.
My work with good food tends to always extend to discussions of other facets in the wellness world: managing stress, living simply, food economies and accessibility, minimising waste, taking care of the planet via lifestyle choices, and approachable/realistic forms of self-care.
When did you know you wanted to publish your own cookbook?
My editor actually approached me about the idea of making a book and the project just flowed from there. The thought had crossed my mind before, but the urgency and drive to actually start making the book that I had been dreaming about began when my editor initiated contact.
How did your online presence help you with that?
It helped that I had built up a very good following leading up to my book’s release. A lot of the publicity and awareness of a book release boils down to your influence, your commitment to connecting with your online community, and your ability to hype up your book without being repetitive/possibly annoying.
At times, I honestly felt like I could have done more in that regard.
But I’m also the kind of person that needs to take some time away from the online world in order to come back and engage in a meaningful and successful way.
How do you come up with new recipe ideas?
Recipe ideas hit me in unexpected ways. Sometimes it’s as simple as having a really good lot of fresh local corn, thumbing through my copy of The Vegetarian Flavour Bible, and then trying some new food and spice pairings with the corn in a salad or something.
Other times I’ll see a patch of wildflowers and notice a certain colour combination, and immediately I’ll start thinking of how I can translate that into a new dish and recipe.
Music and movies inspire me sometimes. And obviously I take inspirational cues from dining out too. I always find myself thinking about how I can streamline a restaurant dish in my home kitchen.
How important is photography in a cookbook?
I think that it was really important for my own book! I recognise that a lot of people subscribe to my blog or follow me on Instagram because they enjoy beautiful pictures of food.They may not cook any of my recipes but they enjoy the visual experience.
With that in mind, I did set aside quite a bit of time for the photography portion of my book. I took a photograph of every recipe because I know that I personally appreciate that in cookbooks, which is a product of worshipping Ina Garten’s books from the moment I started cooking on my own.
I’m basically always trying to be more like Ina!
One thing people may not know about publishing your own cookbook?
It takes a really long time! From the time I submitted my proposal to the actual publication and promotion of the book, it wound up being almost 3 years. It’s important to have a book concept and recipes that you really love and believe in because you’ll be marinating on them for a while.
Who’s your favourite plant-based chef and why?
I really admire Amy Chaplin’s work. She has a way with plant-based, natural food but is also just a wealth of knowledge.
What do you use to find inspiration in your day to day cooking?
I subscribe to every cooking publication going. I read as much as I can about food, recipes, new techniques, restaurants, and food culture.
I also just pay attention to the pace of my own life and the seasons.
Some days we feast, and other days are a bit more streamlined and easygoing, and some days I just don’t feel like cooking at all! Those days are rare though.
Are you always trying and experiencing new flavours and cuisines?
This is honestly something that I could stand to work on a bit. I’m definitely a homebody that enjoys cooking pretty much every night. We don’t get out to new restaurants as often as we should and with both mine and my partner’s work schedules, we haven’t been able to travel too much lately either.
I’m optimistic about the future of this though!