Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Before There Was "Tablescaping"

I was looking for a recipe recently in what is known at my house as "The Cookbook" and it occurred to me. I've been tablescaping a long time...long before I had ever heard the term. Back in 1985 when I was a mere twelve years old (just checking to see if you are reading :), I co-edited a cookbook for a local charitable organization in my old hometown. Three of us headed a large committee that worked tirelessly for a year and a half to produce a first class cookbook that has since sold close to 100,000 copies...and we did it on a wing and a prayer.

There was not a professional among us stagers. Nobody had ever heard of food styling. The photographer was a professional--the same couple who had done all of our wedding pictures and baby portraits. But we had a town rich in beauty, heritage, good cooks, and elegant hostesses. This is one of the first photos we took against the backdrop of the Mississippi River. I apologize for the quality of the photos. They are photos of photos. Pictures are long since lost.

I don't think there was any such thing as "faux food". Photographing food in heat before the aspic melted or the icing slid off the cake was a challenge! All the cooking was done by our committee. Garnishes, dishes, and accessories were painstakingly planned and gathered.


This was one of my favorite my favorite shoots. While the cotton farmer was more than willing to let us photograph in his field, he could not afford to stop the harvest. The cotton pickers in the background are just business going on as usual.


Beautiful antebellum homes were the sites for some of our photo shoots. You've seen this china before on my table. It's my Rosalinde by Haviland--breakfast for two in one of the grand private homes that has been lovingly restored.

This one is called "After the Theatre Encore" and was taken in another beautiful home said to be inhabited by the ghost of a former resident. We waited for the swishing of petticoats and the smell of a strange perfume, but we were alone on this particular day.



I suppose this is one of my personal favorites--partly because it's dessert and partly because my grandmother's cake plate has a prominent spot. You've seen it before here. It continues to be the focal point for lots of special occasions at my house. I think this is tablescaping, don't you?...even if it's in a cotton field or the bank of a river. Susan at Between Naps on the Porch is graciously hosting Tablescape Thursday. Click the button to visit her and a list of talented tablescapers.


And just in case you're hungry now, here is the recipe for maple parfait pictured in the crystal goblet above . Michael at Designs by Gollum is hosting Foodie Friday. She's just a click away on my sidebar. Thanks to Susan and Michael!


Maple Parfait


Heat 1/2 cup pure maple syrup. Pour over two beaten egg yolks. Combine and cook in a double boiler for fifteen minutes. Cool and fold in the two egg whites which have been stiffly beaten. Fold in 1/2 pint of heavy cream which has been whipped. Fold in one cup of chopped pecans. Pour into parfait glasses and chill.

48 comments:

  1. Wonderful post! I love your story and the photos are beautiful!

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  2. How very interesting to learn about the cookbook and photos and how wonderful that some of your treasures are in the photos!

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  3. ah the memories of past tablescapes.

    you've been at it a long time and deserve the kudos to go along with it

    Have a great week!

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  4. Good job on the book, especially for a 12 year old. Ha. Your maple parfait sounds so good.

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  5. Pretty pictures -- what treasures they must be.

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  6. Wow, Susan! You were a celebrity at a very young age. What a talent!http....Christine

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  7. Your cook book story is interesting, and the picture locations give a sort of back story to the food, very clever idea. The maple parfait sounds really southern and delicious, I will try it sometime! The cake plate is gorgeous!
    This was fun!
    Come on by for a visit and enter my first giveaway!
    Heidi - Heart and Home

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  8. At 12 you co-edited a cookbook? That is impressive! :)

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  9. Only 12 in 1985 - I was 10 !!! lol

    Everything is beautiful - great post and photos..lots of talent there!!

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  10. Hi Susan, Wow what a great post...
    xoxo
    Julie

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  11. Hi Susan,

    That is impressive co-editing a cookbook at such a young age. Well done and it looks great with all the wonderful photos.
    I especially loved seeing the cotton picking because I have never seen a cotton field.
    Thanks for the Maple parfait.

    Hugs
    Carolyn

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  12. Enjoyed your post today and I'm so glad I stopped by for this treat.
    Beautiful tables for all to see.
    Fantastic!

    Autumn blessings to you,
    d from HomeHaven

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  13. How cool is that! Is it still in print??

    I always loved to decorate..the elementary school teacher in me..from one holiday to the next..back when we were allowed to celebrate holidays, ie..
    And I always loved dishes and setting the table..just didn't know there were so many who shared the same interest..so nice to know I am not strange to enjoy it! :)

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  14. oh wow, you were married by the time you were 12?? :P

    I just love the food photographs. You would never see the background being as important as the foreground anymore, and I think this book is awesome! Good on ya for being able to put something like this together!

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  15. Hello...

    Wow...what an awesome cookbook! I loved seeing some of the photos from the cookbook that you staged! I bet that was so much fun and they were all so beautiful!!! I thought the photo of the picnic in the cotton field was the most creative...loved it!!! You must be very proud to have been a part of the production of this cookbook...sounds like you have great memories!!! Thanks for sharing a few with us...

    Warmest wishes,
    Chari

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  16. You are an a tablescaping pro from way back! Looks like a great cookbook. Enjoyed my visit!

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  17. OMGosh, you did that cookbook when you were 12!!! Get out of town! Great tablescaping. Love it.

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  18. Great post! I use to browse cookbooks just for tablescapes but now I am doing them! WooHoo! Thanks for sharing and have a great day!

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  19. Wow, you're a pro already then! Great pictures and wonderful cookbook!

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  20. Thanks for visiting my site ... and I think I have a copy of your cookbook in my "vintage" stuff! I've been collecting cookbooks since I was "12"! Thank you for introducing me to the dogs ... you'd love my sister. She's never "legal" either ... always fostering kennel dogs. Then she falls in love with them and they stay in her home for too long!

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  21. I love, love, love it! For the pictures are here at home! I know that is the Mississippi River at Vicksburg! The cotton fields had to be in the Delta. I always had cotton fields around me. Now its corn. I miss the cotton, for I love to spin it! lol I would go to the gin, and pick it up all carded up. The setting are lovely!
    The old homes, the dishes! Now, how did you get two dinner plates on the tray????? I need a big tray! How I wish you could have come to our luncheon! You, just got to have another copy of the book somewhere! I would love to have one! Really! lol
    Thanks for visiting so much, I always love the notes you leave for me!

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  22. Just to let you know I was reading, how about showing a picture of the 12 year old girl! Oh, and I forgot, how special to have a picture of your Grandmother's cake! I see there a lady saying she has a copy of your Cook Book! Think she would sell it to me. lol I doubt it! For I would keep it too! I been going through old cook books I have collected and I plan to look through them as I recover from my surgery in 3weeks.

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  23. Awesome post!! I have been doing it for years too and was amazed to find out there were others that shared my passion! Have a blessed day!!

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  24. Love your blog, the story and the pictures, sure sounded familiar, I think I have been doing the same, I remember searching the internet for tablescaping books, before there was a book..goofy huh..I am a new follower, thanks for stopping by I sure love the encouragement..Thanks for sharing...

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  25. A story with food behind it. Or would it be food with a story behind it? Oh well. Sounds delicious either way!
    Brenda

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  26. Wow! I am impressed - You are very good at staging. The food looks so good - great pictures. The parfait sounds so good.

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  27. So hearth and home have been with you forever! This was such a sweet post! I really enjoyed it! Great pictures! Great cookbook!
    And I love that you cherish your grandmother's cake plate!
    All the best,
    Eileen

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  28. I think this is one of my all time favorite "tablescape" posts. Love the picture in the cotton field.

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  29. love your post !! great blog !

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  30. Oh, my goodness! This recipe looks fabulous. It's probably just right after a heavy meal and you just want something small and sweet. Just the tiniest little glass would do... or more!
    We have two things in common: we like to put together cookbooks AND we both have Rosalinde Haviland china! I inherited mine from my mother and grandmother. I love it!
    I'll be back.
    Karen
    Ladybug Creek

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  31. Great pictures and a lovely story. Love your blog. The maple parfait sounds yummy:)

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  32. Fantastic post! And what an achievement at such a young age!
    Have a wonderful Week end!
    ~Really Rainey~

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  33. Your tablescaping is very impressive! I'm having a dinner party for my best friend's birthday. Oddly enough this morning while lying in bed, I started to think about decorating the table. Perfect timing that you stopped by my site, thank you!

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  34. This is my first visit to your blog & it is beautiful!
    Thank you for the maple parfait recipe.
    We both used whipped egg whites in our recipes this week. :)

    I think you should try to re-issue your old cookbook. I bet there would be a great interest in buying it, as it looks & sounds wonderful.

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  35. My fave pic is the one in the cotton. So cool! I was just looking through a cookbook that was made for one of my family's reunions in 1985. There aren't any original photos, but so many of the recipes have oleo. One stick of oleo. I don't even know what that is, lol.

    Thanks for the compliment on the white chairs and the pear cake. It was soooo good! The cake, not the chairs. The chairs took 3 days to paint since it has been cold and humid. I've been meaning to paint my dining chairs too, but I don't think that's ever going to happen ;)

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  36. I'm really impressed with the tablescapes you created for the cookbook. They look like they were done by a professional. I've copied the recipe for the maple parfait; it sounds scrumptious. Have a great day.

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  37. love all the ole photos!! Just rode by a huge cotton field on my way back from vacation this week so the photo made me smile!

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  38. Susan, would you mind telling us the name of the cookbook? I'd like to search for it on Amazon.com if its still available for purchase!

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  39. Your photos are fantastic. I've worked on a cookbook and know what a huge job it is. Sounds like yours was a winner.

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  40. A great post and yes I was reading and thought wait...I could be her mom.
    I too helped with several cookbooks and they are a ton of work. Your photos are beautiful! I have never been up close and personal with a cottonfield.
    :-)

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  41. That maple parfait has sparked my interest. souns wonderful!

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  42. Isn't it great to have memories of the table that go back to childhood and are always so nourishing in every way. So great to see your early work and it's nice to know you have so many years to go!

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  43. Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing these settings. You did a fabulous job on this book. ~ Sarah

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  44. These are some of the prettiest photos I've seen. The food and the decor are marriages made in heaven. I love, love, love this post. Thanks for participating in FF.
    Love,
    Gollum

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  45. What was the name of the cookbook?

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  46. Yes, what is the name of the cooknook? I need to try the parfait! Yum!

    May your eve be full, warm & loving.
    TTFN ~Marydon

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