This short written and visual essay was first published in the Creative by Nature journal, which is a biannual journal exploring human nature through the prism of creativity.
Confessions of a reckless veggie-lover (◕‿◕✿)
As a twenty-something I worked several summers for the city of Helsinki doing so-called “garden work”. The job included planting flowers, watering lawns, cutting grass, pulling weeds… plus emptying trash cans, sweeping parkways and aimlessly driving around.
(Waiting for the lunch break. Yawning.)
The early mornings were not my cup of caffeine and I’ve already made this job sound more exciting than it actually was. Yet, I warmly think back to that one massive dandelion root I once pulled from the flowerbed without breaking it. Why, weeding is so rewarding! How I enjoyed spending days outdoors! If I only had my own garden…
The nature person
I like to see myself as a nature person. Just one look at my gallery of Xennial self-expressions aka Instagram and you’ll likely agree! My home page is filled with things I love to create with: flowers, herbs, veggies; wild, foraged, locally grown… (Though likely not by me.) I’m a food photography enthusiast, and plants are my raw material! But the reality is, I really enjoy nature mainly from the comforts of my couch.
Those whose eyes wander over my carefully crafted images will be blind to what’s beyond their borders: mess and waste. See, the second raw material of my food photography is fantasy. I’m an art teacher by profession but far too busy (tired, stressed) to paint or draw, like I used to. Instead, my daily creative outlet is food. Food’s a necessity of human existence, but also an essential source of joy for this middle-income, middle-aged gourmand. Life’s too short for bland food! I want excitement, experiences, entertainment! But not so much that I’d put my hectic life on pause and get out into the wild myself. I’d rather explore for treasures at the supermarket, and play with my bounty at the comfort of my own home. I’ll plate up my culinary excursions nicely, and share what I ate with others like me.
Such is the life of a social media era foodie.
The two dear hobbies of mine – cooking and food photography – are often as far apart from each other as is the fantasy and reality of me as a nature person. In a photograph all the different sensory experiences of a good meal are reduced to the visual. You’ll look at my pictures and if I’ve succeeded, you’ll want to eat it all up, buy what I’m selling: a lovely veggie soup perhaps?
(Recipe on my website!)
Never mind if I forgot to add salt to it, or if I even made enough to fill that pretty retro pot. I’ve got my bag of smoke and mirrors, I’m well versed with the tricks of the trade. I’ll select your range of focus and crop out the telltale edges of my vinyl printed rustic wooden background. And just like that, you’re transported to my fantasy, where the soup tastes magical and never runs out. As long as it looks good, it is good.
As I create my delicious frames filled with all the photogenic ingredients nature has to offer, I sometimes feel like a contemporary Romantic. Getting off on the wild and untamed beauty of nature (surely greenhouse grown edible flowers fit this description?), picking and mixing the most picturesque parts for the most elevating experience. And whilst I’m desperately trying to grasp and hold onto that sublime beauty of nature, it always evades me. Because the moment I spin my magic wand over those flowers, they become a commodity for the consumer culture. A pretty picture online, a product of our time.
My green thumb might prefer idleness, but at least my hands are crafty in other ways: they know how to paint a picture of a veggie-lover. But by the time you see my plant-filled images on your screen, the passing moment (1/200) has long gone. You can admire the memory, the echo of, say, a photogenic head of lettuce, until it’s sunken too deep on my home page to reach you anymore. All the while the lettuce? It finds itself forgotten, frozen stuck on the back wall of my refrigerator.
I’m the wanderer above the sea of aesthetically pleasing produce, gazing into the distance, dreaming of trending posts, perhaps. Passive, yet owning it all. Soaring on top of what nature has to offer me! It’s all so distant, yet mine to consume, forget, throw out. I’m a fresh produce hoarder and an impulse buying idealist who too often fails to follow plans through.
(Purslane! Fresh tamarind! Fennel flowers!)
But you’ll never see that side of me. I keep my gallery consistent, I weed out ugly realities.
I’m a veggie-lover.
Ps. I really don’t know what happened to these broccolinis… but aren’t they just perfect for these pictures?
Postcard in the images: Caspar David Friedrich: Wanderer Above The Sea of Fog, 1818. Read more about the artist and this artwork here!
This short essay was created for Creative by Nature, which is a biannual journal exploring human nature through the prism of creativity. It was first published in the Creative With Nature Issue in 2022. You can access the journal for free by subscribing to Fleur Rustique mailing list here! The next issue is out on April 17th and I’ll be contributing to that one as well ♥