It all started with a book on juicing. Juice? We drank it, we loved it, we understood its benefits. But writing a book entirely devoted to juice wasn’t our intention. My colleague Pippa and I had a different idea; one that we felt would fill a huge, curiously ignored gap in the cookbook market. We put a proposal together, stuffed envelopes, licked stamps, sent it to fifteen different publishers, sat back and waited. Then we got rejected, fourteen times (idea to remain top secret in the event that one of the 14 publishers decides to change their mind). When the fifteenth proposal was returned I tore it open over the garbage can (as was the routine – discarding rejection somehow balances the pleasure/pain ratio) but paused just before it took flight. It was only a partial rejection: they liked us, but not our idea. They wanted to meet us. Could we churn out 100 juice recipes, quickly? Did we mind the small fee? Were we willing to accept their policy of not offering royalties or copyright to first time authors?
We knew we could write a cookbook together. I am a Canadian food writer and she’s a New Zealand food stylist and has a nutrition background. Our collective experiences are perfect for a global cookbook market. But neither of us thought we would ever write a healthy cookbook. Pippa and I, you see, inhibit a world where aesthetics and the story behind food is paramount, while health is a distant second. Even the cookbook shop in London where we met shares the same philosophy. The succulent food books are displayed at the forefront, while books on healthy subjects are tucked behind the front door. But neither of us could harness our desire to explore unchartered flavour combinations, regardless of the calorie content or first time author stipulations. It was a mission, and we chose to accept it.
Over the following four weeks we could either be found in the market, at the computer or in our respective kitchens, aprons on and ear plugs in, stuffing roughage into our shiny Breville juicers. This model is loved for its external waste receptacle and wide feed tube, but it sounds like a 747 about to take flight.
Once the juices were blended, I would take a sip and record my thoughts. If it passed the test, it was poured into a zip lock bag for my husband to try. Then I’d give Pippa a call. This is where our co-authorship was essential. Who else could possibly understand that a juiced leek, despite its powerful detoxifying qualities, can burn your nose hairs? Who else wants to hear that their co-author had an equally adventurous day discovering the powerful laxative effect juiced pears and prunes had on their digestive system? What about the shared elation of discovering how delicious juiced lychees with a touch of rosewater could be?
Our juice testing coincided with the advent of winter. My flat was cold and damp. I wore the same juice stained sweats every day. I only left the house to buy ingredients. I couldn’t get a comb through my passion fruit pulp encrusted hair. But there was no time to primp. We had a pre-Christmas deadline that we were determined to meet. Yet as our deadline grew closer and our work load increased, we remained intact. The book that had began as a flavour combining mission had blossomed into a health giving orgy of calming goodness. Our hair grew thicker. Our skin glowed. Our bodies were cleansed and energized. To be truthful, it was the ‘damn you look good’ comments that really kept the juices flowing right through those dark and cold December days. Thank goodness. We needed the extra fortification to get us through the January editing.
Juice! turned out to be a success, and our publishers suggested that be it turned into a series (complete with royalties!) Fueled and fortified by juice, we moved onto Ice Cream! Soup! Barbeque! Pizza! Cookies! (be sure to pronounce each title with fervor and excitement). We’ve just finished the last book in the series, Veggie! I now live in Halifax , Nova Scotia , and Pippa is still in London . But thanks to email, we’re carrying on, exactly the same as before. Well, not exactly the same. My kitchen is bigger, my fridge twice the size, I now have two little boys tugging at my apron strings. But food styling the books brings me back to London twice a year. That’s also when Pippa and I have our future recipe brainstorming sessions. It’s always good to go back to London – the food, the shops, the friends, the chaos – but as they saying goes, there’s no place like home.
Sometimes I feel like I haven’t really left.