Each week we’re teaming up with a popular food-stagrammer who will take over our Instagram feed and fill it with their own delicious pics. This weekend on #TastyTakeovers, Brooke Bass of Chocolate and Marrow is our guest. Learn her secret for taking delicious photos in the Q&A below and head over to @YahooFood on Instagram to watch her foodie adventures unfold all weekend long.
Photo: Brooke Bass
Name/Instagram Handle: Brooke Bass/@brookebasspdx
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I was born and raised in New Orleans, though I currently live in Portland, Oregon with my husband and my perpetually hungry chocolate lab, Bourré. I think it’s Bourré’s life mission to eat as much dropped food as possible, so you can find him regularly lurking in my kitchen, stealing tomatoes from my vegetable garden, or hanging around my feet when I’m shooting for the blog. I do a kind of mishmash of things for work that includes freelance writing and photography, blogging, recipe development, and teaching the occasional sociology class at a local university. It’s a strange combination of gigs, I know, but it makes me happy and I think that’s all that really matters. Other than that, I spend a lot of time reading, traveling, camping, and just enjoying all that the Pacific Northwest has to offer!
Photo: Instagram/Brooke Bass
What first got you interested in food and photography? Where do you draw inspiration from?
I’ve been interested in food and cooking ever since I was a kid. I think it rubbed off from my grandmother who cooked classic cajun style food and was actually the narrator of Great Chefs, which means absolutely nothing to most people in my generation but some people will remember it as the PBS cooking show from the 80s and 90s.
Though I’d photographed my food for probably a decade before starting the blog, the only person who ever saw those (really terrible) photos was my grandmother, who I’d email them to as a way for us to stay connected. But I never really learned the basics about light, composition, and the inner workings of my camera until I took a food photography workshop with Ashley Rodriguez of Not Without Salt right around the time I started my blog. She’s got so much talent, I just hope some of it rubbed off on me while we were in workshop!
Whiskey, beet, and lemon cocktail. (Photo: Brooke Bass)
How do you take your photos (with a camera or phone)? What are your favorite photo editing tools and/or tips for taking exceptional food photos? Give us the scoop!
About half of my photos on Instagram are taken with my camera and the other half are with my phone. It really just depends on how busy (or lazy) I am when I’m taking it. For photos taken with my real camera, I’ll edit in Lightroom but for the iPhone photos, I just edit in Instagram. Their editing tool is pretty advanced these days!
As for tips, I think the first most important thing about shooting food is the light. There are some really talented food bloggers who use external flashes, but for your average person (and me) it’s mostly about capitalizing on natural light. Other than that, I just like to shoot what inspires me while I’m cooking. I almost never plan the shots in advance — I just let the moment guide me. It’s way more fun that way!
Melty ice cream cookie heaven. (Photo: Brooke Bass)
Who are three of your favorite Instagrammers? What do you like about them?
There are so many food grammers that I love — too many to name, really. But my favorite accounts lately have been the ones that inspire me outside of the food world. Like @kurtarrigo who’s underwater and sailboat photography makes me want to ditch real life and just hang out on an ocean all day. Same with @scott_kranz, except his photos make me want to go camping. Then there are the people I follow because they literally make me laugh out loud. My favorite is @fuckjerry…his commentary is just so on point.
What do you enjoy about Instagram compared to other online communities?
The thing that I think is really amazing about Instagram is that it’s a social platform that encourages people to go out and seek beauty in everyday life. For some of us, that’s food, because we believe that food is inherently beautiful. But for others, it’s nature. Or boats or cars or pets. Whatever your passion is and whatever you feel creatively inspired by can be your “thing” on Instagram and you can connect with others who also find joy, passion, and inspiration from that sam ething.
Insta-sharing can sometimes even bridge the gap between digital and reality, which is really cool, too. Actually, funny story — I met one of my closest friends on Instagram when we connected over a gorgeous cherry pie that she’d made. We followed each other, commented on each other’s posts for a while, and after a period of time figured out that we lived in the same city, and, even stranger, the same neighborhood. We met up, hit it off instantly, and, as they say, the rest is history.
Garlic and cheddar quinoa pie. (Photo: Brooke Bass)
What’s the best thing you’ve eaten recently?
I was at Bamboo Sushi in Portland and I had a Japanese-style pancake with all of these seasonings, mushrooms, fresh herbs, and fried oysters on top. It was just so different from anything I’d ever had, but the fried oysters reminded me of the oysters we have at home in Louisiana — cornmeal battered and fried — only used in a totally different way. One of these days I’m going to recreate that dish for the blog — I have to. You think they’d give me the recipe?
If you could throw a dream dinner party for any three people—living or dead—who would they be and what would you cook for them?
I realize this makes me incredibly boring, but I genuinely enjoy cooking for close family and friends more than anyone. The other night I hosted a dinner party with just my husband and two of our closest friends — we were celebrating my friend’s new job and we feasted al fresco with candles everywhere on heirloom tomato caprese salad from our garden, grilled steak with chive pesto, zucchini soufflés made from one of our 5-pound zucchinis, homemade bread, and homemade pineapple-rum coconut ice cream. It was a pretty dreamy dinner party if I do say so myself! (Did I mention there was lots of wine?)
A homegrown zucchini from her Brooke’s garden. (Photo: Brooke Bass)
What’s the best dish you’ve ever made or the dish that you’re known for?
I think most people who eat at my table regularly would say I’m known for either my smoked fried chicken or my gumbo. But then again, almost every New Orleanian is known for their gumbo. It’s one of those things that is just so individualized. Everybody has their own version that has been adapted to their own traditions and preferences. For instance, I like mine a little on the thicker side, so I use a higher roux to broth ratio and lots of fresh okra. Funnily enough, I’ve never shared the recipe on my blog — it’s just one of those things that’s so close to my heart that if I were to share it, I’d hold myself to some really high standards in the styling, photos, and write up. So I guess that’s why it hasn’t happened yet! Maybe this is the year ;)
Maple-Brined Smoked Fried Chicken. (Photo: Brooke Bass)
What does the new food revolution mean to you?
What a great question! Realistically, I probably fall into the very large group of people who believe that eating locally, organically, and seasonally is imperative if we care at all about the vitality of our planet. It also boosts flavor and is better for our bodies so there are selfish reasons for eating that way, too. But I think there’s so much more than that in order for a real “food revolution” to occur. It’s got to go beyond just “eating local” to consider the interconnectedness of land, soil, water, food, animals, and our human bodies. I’m not an expert on this topic by any means, but a book that has shaped much of my (very elementary) understanding of this interconnectedness is Dan Barber’s The Third Plate. For the record, I don’t know Barber personally and I won’t see any kickbacks on that mention. It’s just the first book I’ve read in a while that really challenged the way I thought about something and made me want to learn more. And, woah—there is a lot to learn.
And last but not least—what’s your favorite food (if you had to pick one)?
I have a lot of favorite foods so this is tough, but right now my favorite is just a classic margherita pizza. I’ve probably made half a dozen in the last several weeks because our tomato plants are literally overflowing with bright red romas! There’s a kind of magic that happens when you combine a beautifully blistered crust, pockets of gooey melted mozzarella, and a gorgeously sweet tomato sauce—it’s just unbeatable. I actually just posted a recipe for classic margherita pizza on my blog this week using an earthy tomato leaf dough! (But just so my other food favorites don’t feel left out, I also happen to love roasted bone marrow, paté, khao soi, fried chicken, raw oysters, fresh uni, and hot boiled Louisiana crawfish.)
200 Pounds of hot boiled crawfish sitting in a pirogue. (Photo: Brooke Bass)
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