In this age of Calorie Restriction and other fad diets, the concept of preparing 30 creamy, luscious, waistline-expanding desserts over the span of a month sounds almost counter-intuitive. Especially if you’re only a household of two. I’ve been asked by different folks a variety of questions about the nuts and bolts of carrying out a project like this, so I’ve listed my thoughts based on the 5 “P”s that I found important to note when creating your own Blogging Marathon:
Plan as far in advance as you possibly can. The moment inspiration (or madness, depending how you see it) strikes for a month/week-long project, start thinking about the type of dishes you want to feature. Will it be desserts, appetizers, salads or soups? Will it be a specific cuisine that you want to explore in greater detail or a mix of cuisines? You could also choose to focus on a particular ingredient for the season, like what Streaming Gourmet is currently doing with her 31 days of Pumpkin for the month of October. Whatever you choose, try to have a theme that is specific, yet broad enough to give you enough leeway to adapt and play around with a variety of dishes. Not only will this keep your readers excited about what’s next for the following post, but it will also keep you interested and inspire new perspectives and angles for your pictures.
If you have enough time before starting your blogging marathon, prepare a couple of posts ahead of time, so that when your ‘marathon’ starts, you’re ahead of schedule. This time ‘buffer’ is extremely helpful when last-minute emergencies crop up or a dish doesn’t turn out as planned. Depending on your working style, mapping out different dishes along a timeline might be helpful too, especially if you’re planning on doing any project that will last longer than a week. I created an Excel spreadsheet for each day of this project, marking out columns for the different aspects of each post: Adapting the recipe, making the dessert, photography and writing up the post, to keep me on track and helped me to prioritize activities for each day.
ALWAYS, always, always have a back-up plan, even if you didn’t start out with one. There will be dishes that stubbornly refuse to co-operate for whatever reason, so just be prepared to either post about how things didn’t work out or substitute with a fail-proof recipe that you’re comfortable with.
One of the biggest changes I saw in myself as each week progressed was in how I stopped mourning over a dish gone wrong and started to really ‘get on with it’. Pastry cream burns? No problem, clean everything and start again. Perfectly frosted cupcake tumbles from the tray, landing head-first on the floor? No problem, there are others that can take its place. Macarons turn out like wrinkled prunes? Doesn’t matter, it’s another angle to write the post with.
My priority with this project was to publish a post everyday, regardless of how the dessert turned out. You might approach it differently, choosing to combine a few dishes in one post (ahead of a trip, for example), but whichever you choose, just remember that accidents happen, and when they do, don’t forget to breathe, take time out, then go back in and keep going, either with another dish or a post to tell your story for that day.
There were days when I felt as if I was at the end of my creative rope, and every picture that I took followed the same perspective and format. I was out of ideas for styling and composition, and tired of taking the same old pictures at the same old time in the same old spot. So I decided to make a few changes. I went out to our backyard, using the wooden floorboards and steps as a background. You can never go wrong with well-worn wood, so if you come across a decent-sized piece of scrap wood that someone’s discarded, don’t let it go to waste! Apart from our wooden deck, I’ve also got a wooden kitchen cart which is perfect for those days when shooting outdoors is not really an option.
I also presented dishes differently. One thing I learnt early on, from a photographer’s perspective, is that smaller, whole pieces of a dish (think tartlets, cupcakes and doughnuts) make for more interesting pictures than the larger form. Dividing the dish into smaller portions (like this pudding and panna cotta) provided more flexibility in playing around with composition and perspective than simply taking a picture of a 10-inch tart or cake. With the Gajar Halwa, for example, I decided to present the dessert in individual spoons as opposed to scooping it out onto a dish or in a bowl. The dessert was effectively a mush of carrots and milk, with a flat appearance. By placing them in spoons, I opened up a broader range of perspectives with which to capture the dessert and made the dish look far more appetizing than just an orange mush in a bowl.
It really is amazing how changing a small element of your photography set/process opens up a whole new world – a new ingredient, or prop, a new way of presenting a dish – these are the little ways to keep those creative juices flowing on those days when that quintessential perfect picture doesn’t seem to come together.
I received many questions about how we managed to finish every dish that was made. Well, all I can say is that we’re blessed with good friends and co-workers who delightedly dug into each dish until no crumbs were left. I also scaled back the portions for some desserts that were too messy to share so that we wouldn’t die from a dessert overdose before the month was over.
Lastly, have fun. This project after all, is to be enjoyed. Don’t be afraid to take time out for walks, runs, massages, laughs and to spend time with your favorite book, because life between the stove and the camera and the computer can get a little trying if done too often for far too long.
Phew! There you go, a little bit of the ‘Behind-the scenes’ perspective to the 30 for 30 blogging marathon. Questions, comments or compliments? Leave your thoughts below.