Inspired by Aelbert Cuyp, My Very Own “Cuyp Moment”

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Cuyp Moment by Diana Pappas

Aelbert Cuyp was a Dutch painter in the 17th century and his landscape paintings of cattle on pasture at the water’s edge with delicate golden light illuminating the scene really caught my eye when I studied art history. Some painters and artworks I have indeed forgotten over the years, but for some reason I never forgot learning about Cuyp.

When I started making photographs seriously 7 years ago, what I learned in those art history lecture halls as a student informed how I saw the world through my camera. Occasionally I’d notice Jacob Van Ruisdael clouds in the sky or I’d take a portrait using “Vermeer lighting” but I never encountered a scene or a moment that reminded me of Cuyp. His scenes were of a bygone world, somewhere so different from where I grew up in suburban New Jersey with a kind of light that I never had the pleasure of witnessing.

On a walk across the dunes in Northumberland in England this winter, we followed a public footpath that required us to hop a turnstile and enter the pasture of a herd of cattle. I was stunned to find myself in my very own Cuyp moment – the breathtaking light, the cows, the water, the pasture, with nothing to inform me if this was the 17th or 21st century! What a thrill. I feel lucky that I was able to capture and preserve this moment, an art history souvenir that I will treasure.

Cuyp Moment is available as a print here.

New Work: A Geological Abstract from Western North Carolina

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Photograph by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

I’m excited to share with you my latest work, which I produced on a hike last Sunday in Western North Carolina. There were beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains everywhere we looked but the view underfoot on this particular trail was rather special as well. Black and rusty veins of stone swirled together in the bedrock and the sun illuminated little flecks of mica in the stone that sparkled and shimmered. Taking a photograph of it was challenging, as it was hard to capture this shimmery quality in a way that really showed how dynamic and interesting this stone was. After a few minutes I thought, why not try a multiple exposure? I love experimenting with multiple exposures within the camera. Sometimes I try two exposures, sometimes three, and the results can be unpredictable and often very surprising. In this case it was so sunny that I couldn’t see the result until I was back in the hotel and when I did finally see it I was thrilled. The multiple exposure captured what looks like a ripple of energy emanating from the stone and the mica sparkles in a way that is almost celestial. Can you feel the energy in the photograph too?

This geological abstract is available as a fine art print in sizes up to 30×40″ in my print shop.

Berkshire Food Guild’s Midsummer Feast at Mill River Farm

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Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Jake Levin turns lamb on the spit at the Berkshire Food Guild’s Midsummer Feast.

The sight of a whole lamb being turned on a spit over open fire is nothing new to me. Countless Greek Easters of my youth dictated that one if not two lambs would be started on the spit early in the day, and that I would be required to take a turn turning the lamb, feeling the blast of heat from the hot coals and doing my best to turn the lamb evenly as it slow roasted. The word for lamb in Greek is arni, so Dad would always urge me, with a little laugh, to say hello to “Arnie” and I’d do my best not to imagine what our non-Greek New Jersey neighbors were thinking as they peered out their windows. Instead I’d try to connect with the many generations of ancestors before me who knew lamb on a spit to be a celebration, a rare luxury, a special feast.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

So I found myself completely at home this past Saturday seeing a whole lamb on the spit once again, but instead of an Easter celebration with Greek flavors of lemon, rosemary, and oregano, this was a Midsummer celebration and the flavors were decidedly Scandinavian, the meat infused with blue spruce, juniper and oak smoke. Just as my family’s Greek Easter feasts were half a world away from Greece, so too was this Midsummer feast from Sweden. We were in New Marlborough, Massachusetts at the debut event of the Berkshire Food Guild.

The Berkshire Food Guild is made up of local food crafters whose mission is “to support and celebrate the regional food shed”. It also happens to be co-founded by my dear friend (and talented chef) Jamie Paxton. When she reached out to my husband, Tom, and I to photograph the event, we were delighted as it put in front of our cameras several things we are passionate about: amazing food, farm-to-table eating, an integrated and sustainable local food hub, organic agriculture and grass-fed meats. We couldn’t resist the opportunity and the gorgeous setting of Mill River Farm just sweetened the deal.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Jazu Stine, Jamie Paxton, Brian Heck, Jill Jakimetz and Jake Levin of the Berkshire Food Guild.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Farm table and gorgeous views of Mill River Farm.

The idea for the Midsummer feast as the BFG’s first event was the idea of co-founder Jake Levin, nose-to-tail butcher, food writer and self-professed Scandophile. Jake fell in love with Scandinavian culture and cuisine though his fiancee, Silka Glanzman, and as he turned the lamb hours before the first guests arrived, he spoke wistfully of the summers they spent in Sweden with Silka’s Swedish relatives. Having been to Sweden myself with Tom’s family, I could well understand his longing.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Jake Levin, co-founder of the Berkshire Food Guild during the farm tour of Mill River Farm in New Marlborough, MA.

When Jamie sent me the menu prior to the event, I knew the Berkshire Food Guild meant business – the menu was daring, unusual and ambitious. I was so pleased to hear on our arrival that the event was a sell-out, and that people in the local area were hungry for this kind of brave cooking. Around 6 o’clock guests began to arrive on the farm and it was a happy sight to see them shaking hands and forming a community that evening, supportive and appreciative of the talented food artisans working so hard to celebrate what is local, delicious and responsibly produced in and around the Berkshires. Some of the guests were farmers themselves, and they could take pride that their lamb and vegetables were being so lovingly showcased.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

After a tour of Mill River Farm given by owner Jan Johnson, guests turned their attention to the canapés, a true smorgasbord of seasonal gems devised by Jamie – deviled eggs three ways, liver pate, green pea pesto with local chèvre, pickled mackerel, hot-smoked bluefish, lardo with honey, and more. It bears mentioning that all the canapés were served on various scandinavian breads like knackbrod and frisian rye bread, milled and made from scratch by baker and co-founder Jill Jakimetz with 100% locally grown grain from Hawthorne Valley Farm. What a talent Jill is! A rumor circulated through the feast attendees that one rye bread in particular was baked for 12 hours.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Jamie Paxton, co-founder of the Berkshire Food Guild serving canapés at the Midsummer Feast.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Jill Jakimetz, co-founder of the Berkshire Food Guild milled and baked an assortment of Scandinavian breads from 100% local grains grown by Hawthorne Valley Farm.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

The fires, tended to and stoked by co-founder Jazu Stine, were blasting with indescribable heat and smoke, and over them everything was cooked on an outdoor kitchen of his own design. The lamb was stuffed with blue spruce branches, basted with juniper branches and oil and turned evenly on its spit. The peas, turnips, fennel, spring onions, garlic scapes, zucchini, and even pinnebrod, a Swedish bread made with dough wrapped around sassafras sticks (foraged by Jill), were all cooked over the fire. It was a gorgeous sight, and many guests wandered over to sneak a taste or snap a photo. What restaurant do you know that produces this kind of food experience?

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Co-founder Jazu Stine, left, starts cooking the fennel over the fire while Jake Levin turns the lamb on the spit.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Jamie Paxton and Jazu Stine brave the heat of the fire and expertly bring out the flavors of the farm-fresh local vegetables.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Jill Jakimetz puts pinnabrod, a Swedish flatbread wrapped around sassafras branches, over the fire.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Gasping for a beverage after shooting too long by the fire, Tom and I found sweet hydration in a few glasses of homemade rhubarb cooler. Jazu grew the rhubarb, Jamie made the rhubarb syrup – add some lemon juice, water, ice and garnish with lemon thyme and the result was one of the greatest drinks we have ever tasted. There were also sulfate-free, organic, biodynamic wines from two small producers in France, sourced by Berkshire Food Guild member Brian Heck, who also happens to be a coffee roaster at Barrington Coffee. Needless to say, the coffee accompanying the dessert (Midsummer spruce bavarian with strawberries, petit fours) was divine.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Rhubarb cooler, a delicious and refreshing non-alcoholic drink, went down very easily.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Berkshire Food Guild member Brian Heck readies a bottle of natural, sulfate-free, wine he sourced from small producers in France.

A crowd gathered with anticipation as Jazu broke down the cooked lamb, removing the blue spruce from the cavity, and pointing out which part was the tenderloin, which part the lamb breast, to curious attendees. At his side, Jamie worked with colorful and perfectly cooked local vegetables – butter-poached white and deep pink baby turnips, a medley of green peas (snap, shelling and snow), deep red beet carpaccio with buttermilk and dill – as she did her final plating before all the food was served family style on the long farm table. It truly was a celebration of seasonal living. Silka and I stood back and marveled at the sight, it was thrilling to see the mission of the Berkshire Food Guild achieved so successfully.

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Perhaps the best moment was one the guests did not see, a short and sweet toast from Jake behind the scenes at the very end of the night thanking everyone who helped for all the hard work in producing such a memorable and delicious first event. Tom and I felt so lucky to be included in this group of talented and passionate people, and we can only look forward to the next time we get to collaborate with them. Perhaps a Greek feast someday?

The Berkshire Food Guild can be found online at http://berkshirefoodguild.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BerkFoodGuild.

Photography by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Photograph of the Berkshire Food Guild's Midsummer Feast by Diana Pappas. www.dianapappas.com

Flower show – early spring blooms

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Dogwood blooms by Diana Pappas

So many seeds need to be sown, so many plants need to be pruned, so many weeds need to be pulled that it’s easy to be overwhelmed in the face of such a lengthy gardening to-do list. I was in the middle of some such task yesterday when I looked around me and saw so many gorgeous flowers glowing in the gentle spring sunshine. There was no resisting the pull to go get the camera and give the flowers around me the close-ups they deserve.

Photographing flowers in a new and unusual way is a challenge I always welcome. They are quite rightly a favorite subject for many photographers, both amateur and professional, so I have to ask myself what I can do that’s different, unique and unexpected. In the coming weeks I’ll be revisiting flowers now and then as a subject and we’ll see what I can come up with!

I hope you enjoy these spring views of dogwood (above and just barely blooming) and daffodil, magnolia, eastern red bud, brunnera, and lesser celandine.

Daffodils by Diana Pappas

Daffodils by Diana Pappas

Daffodils by Diana Pappas

Photo by Diana Pappas-5

Photo by Diana Pappas-6

To view more of my nature and botanical photos, check out these prints in my Etsy shop or check out my Seasonal Lifestyle collection on my website. The above photos are also available as prints in any size. Please get in touch if you are interested.

Camp Helen State Park in Panama City Beach plus a gorgeous blaze of yellow!

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Camp Helen State Park

Camp Helen State Park in Panama City Beach, Florida, is a fascinating place to explore when I’m down on the panhandle for some rest, warmth, and relaxation. The myrtle oaks are draped with Spanish moss, the trails are sandy, the birdsong is exotic – in short, it’s a world away from the plants, animals and sights that I’m accustomed to in my part of New Jersey. The binoculars are always at the ready and there is plenty of natural beauty to inspire a few clicks on the camera.

Before I left for a week in Florida, I wrote about the blast of color that a vase of forced forsythia can offer as a way of hurrying spring along. I was delighted to find that very same yellow color in Florida earlier this week on a walk at Camp Helen, but in this case it was a rather autumnal farewell to last year’s green palmetto leaves. The fiery display was simply stunning in the late afternoon, the low sun slanting in at just the right angle to set the colors ablaze. The blazing yellow also happened to match the color of the northern parula warblers we spotted just perfectly! It was a lovely day trip, and I must say I really enjoyed this unexpected pop of color. Hope you enjoy it too.

Camp Helen State Park is located at 23937 Panama City Beach Parkway (Highway 98) in Panama City Beach, Florida.
http://www.floridastateparks.org/camphelen/

Forcing forsythia, a blast of color to make spring hurry up!

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Forced forsythia branches in bloom.

Winter is in no hurry to step aside for spring, it seems, though the signs of spring are unmistakable out there. The snowdrops are past their peak, daffodil and tulip leaves are reaching out of the soil for the sky, and there are buds starting to swell on every flowering shrub, vine, and tree around. We’ve already sown a whole row of peas in the garden, as well as escarole, frisée, radishes, spinach, chard, beets, carrots, parsley, and that’s only outside! Inside we are sharing our home with trays of onion, leek, shallot and scallion seedlings, lettuces, cabbages, kales and broccoli, too. Soon it will be time to sow tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, and the anticipation for summer becomes almost mouthwatering. But I’m getting ahead of myself, as there are still remnants of the last snowfall on the ground, and every morning lately the birdbath has been iced over. Spring weather will take over soon, I know, I just have to be a little more patient.

To help get this transition from winter to spring going, I find it helps to brighten things up and the most willing accomplice to this end are the generous forsythia bushes on our property, happy to donate some of their branches to the cause.  I try and cut branches that are quite tall so I can put together a dramatic display in our largest vase, but I also pick some that are much more manageable, to help spread the cheer throughout the house here and there. Forcing the blooms in this way takes perhaps a week but soon the bare branches burst forth sunny, yellow flowers that warm the heart and assure the mind that winter truly is behind us.

Doughnut Plant in New York City inspires a new photo!

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Doughnuts from The Doughnut Plant

Feast on these gorgeous doughnuts! Today my husband and I paid a visit to Doughnut Plant on Grand Street in New York City. We had not been for quite a few years, and we thought it was high time we treated ourselves to two coffees and two doughnuts, plus some to take home to sample and photograph, as you can see. In the shop we enjoyed a pistachio yeast doughnut and a vanilla bean & blackberry jam filled yeast doughnut. Divine! Pictured here are wild blueberry cake doughnut (lovely color), a chocolate hazelnut doughseed, Valrhona chocolate yeast doughnut, cinnamon sugar cake doughnut and finally, a Meyer lemon yeast doughnut. Whew! Definitely a place to visit next time you are in New York City!

This doughnut still life is now available on my Etsy shop. Yes, doughnuts can be art too.

Doughnut Plant has two locations in NYC, on the Lower East Side and in Chelsea.
379 Grand Street, between Essex and Norfolk
or
220 West 23rd Street, btwn 7th & 8th Aves in The Chelsea Hotel