It’s a different kind of packing and preparation. It’s not a tricky task; find clothes to wear, a few accessories and some slap for your face. Make your hair look presentable. Forage a few bits and bobs from your kitchen. Pack them up and take them across London, to the house where your book is being shot.
Then stand in some photos; trying to be the best, ever possible version of you.
Except for the fact that you haven’t quite mastered a smile that doesn’t look like you’re perplexed, or drunk on the adrenalin of 50 galloping horses.
Except the tops that you thought were great in person, when taken in photographs look funny and bunch strangely around the middle. (There are many life lessons to be gleaned from ‘Clueless’. It seems this is an important one).
Except most of the things you treasure most in your kitchen, that truly represent you, are in boxes in a bolted garage in a landlocked suburb of Sydney.
So we do the best we can, with the best help on hand.
The kitchen bits and pieces were the first problem to tackle. The pictures were to be taken in the test kitchen; stunning, but not mine. So this is what went into the box to try and bring a little bit of ‘me’, there.
Our copper cezve, bought after finding outstanding Turkish coffee in Istanbul at Mandabatmaz. There was a photo of our wedding, which is in a frame near the entrance to our kitchen. Then an empty box that once held Laduree macarons (a gift from some very generous houseguests). Some wee bottles; of olive oil, cassis liqueur, St Germain elderflower liqueur (both of which make appearances in the book)- and my trusted spatula (which also makes an appearance in the book).
Next stop; clothes. The Hungry One is a saint, for many reasons. Chief among them at the moment is how he perfectly channelled my best friends, mother and sister all in one, while he sat there on Monday night and approved and vetoed a range of outfits. ‘Too frumpy’. ‘That neckline doesn’t do great things for you’. ‘That colour looks a little like hospital stockings’ (that was a camel coloured top I was previously quite fond of. I won’t be wearing it as much anymore).
Into the trusty shoulder bag went a variety of tops in various tones; pink, green, pale grey and bluey greys. My default black was nixed by a talented art director friend the week before; ‘heavy on the page’ was her advice. She was absolutely right. In the bag also some beads, just in case; a pair of blue jeans to mix it up, and some baby hair clips. The hair clips were a brain wave from sneakily watching too many episodes of The Rachel Zoe project at the gym; useful- not only for tying back wayward bits of hair, but for pegging clothes that fit, but not quite as well as they could. Not great for real life, but fine for a photo.
Third stop for the morning is a London revelation. Hereshon’s blow dry bars. There’s one at the bottom of TopShop at Oxford Circus and another at St Pauls.
They’re for when you need a spruce up but when you don’t want a full haircut. For when you’re pressed for time- you don’t need a cup of tea and a chat along with better hair. For when you just want someone with ruthless efficiency and strong biceps to wrangle your mane into submission. You walk in and point to the wall. There are a variety of ‘up do’s’ with novelty names on pouty models to choose from. There are fake pony tales to purchase if you desire. Or, if you’re like me, you just say ‘I’d like the big and brushed’; and it means that someone will take to your hair with a big curled brush and some heat and have it shiny and done in 30 minutes.
There were some photos of me taken outside, potentially for the jacket and PR. Then there were a few pictures of me taken sprinkling herbs over fish for the Baja inspired fish tacos (elbows in, smile, but not too much smile, gee whiz, why didn’t I peg that top in at the waist – and is that the light? Or are there marks on my top that I JUST got dry cleaned?)
Then I get to stand by and marvel as the wonderful team pull together shots. There in perfect Scandi grid geometry were my langoustines with horseradish vodka.
Next, with a piece of drift wood for a backdrop and some beautifully beach inspired flatware accompany the Baja fish tacos, with the beergarita granita. It was at this point one of the stylists turned to me and said ‘we’ve noticed there’s quite a lot of alcohol that goes into your recipes’. As I rifled through the 60 odd recipes that pepper the book in my brain, the only thing I could do was sheepishly nod.
The fish tacos made for lunch on the run for all of the team. They got a seal of approval.
After that, it was time for the content to go on a jaunt to Germany, for the baked currywurst. The team’s ability to make potatoes, sausage and curried ketchup look appealing was staggering. My briefing notes to them were that this dish, while incredibly tasty, is a little like putting lipstick a pig (with potato). Though it is delicious, I promise.
There were many more recipes; both done on the day and also in the book. This is just a sneak peek, but I thought you might like to see how it’s rolling along. And for me, in terms of general days of excitement, this was up there.
Now I have to get onto a different kind of packing. Because in all of my wisdom, I decided that the night after one of the most adrenalin fuelled days I’ve had in a while is the perfect time to jump on a plane and fly 27 hours to Sydney for a quick visit.
So; with a suitcase in my hands and with excitement tripping through my veins, off I go.