Shannon Summers is a food blogger from Austin, TX whose focus is on mainly vegetarian, “local, unrefined, and unprocessed foods”. The recipes crafted by Shannon are nothing short of delicious as well as incredibly beautiful. They will make even the staunchest anti-veggie eater happy and encourage you to make more space for vegetarian meals in your life. The principles behind what she does with food are inspiring and cause me to want to understand more about the food I choose for myself and how it impacts my health. All I can say is that every single one of the recipes I have tried from her blog, Homegrown Provisions, I have absolutely loved and have made numerous times (one has even become a weekly staple).
How did you get into your craft/hobby?
I’ve long held a fascination with nutrition, food, cooking, styling, photography and all of the details in between. And when I think about the details, it’s not just about what’s on the plate. It’s about the sustainability, the culture, the people, the history and how food influences our lives in such a profound way. Food connects all of us. It’s common to our human experience. It’s essential to our relationships, our nourishment, and our survival. But it’s also very ritualistic and experiential, especially when sharing a meal with family and friends. It can also be very comforting. I think that’s why so many people photograph their food. Food photography conveys emotion, which in turn, tells a story. After all, humans have been telling stories for thousands of years and sharing them through a variety of mediums, which can afford meaning to our lives.
So for me, creating recipes, writing about them, photographing them and sharing them, provides a way to affirm my own beliefs, interests and practice in my craft. But my hope is that it also gives others a way to engage, find value in their perceptions and ideas about food, cooking, and storytelling, and hopefully to find a bit of beauty and inspiration in the process.
How long have you been creating?
I come from a family of artists (cooks, painters, filmmakers, writers, musicians, etc.), so creating was not something I thought much about, but was encouraged to do and inherent to my life early on.
When I was a child, I put on plays, wrote and illustrated newspapers and crafted my own cookbooks. I even took up knitting and quilting at one point. In 4th grade, I picked up the alto saxophone and played habitually for years. That is probably my longest creative endeavor to date.
I’ve had my food blog for about two years now, but I’ve always held a passion for anything food/culinary related. Cook supply stores never bore. I can never have too many cookbooks. I watch documentaries about food (in all facets), chefs, etc., for fun. I’ve started both Cookbook Clubs and Supper Clubs to share my love of food and friendship with others. And then there’s the whole storytelling and food styling side of food. Food styling is a new love and I spend quite a bit of time trying to find harmony and balance in my photography. It’s something I’m still working on.
What are your influences?
My biggest influence is nature. Nothing can supersede it. Nature provides a freedom that allows me to be artistically and emotionally expansive.
My second biggest influence is the work of Aran Goyoaga of Cannelle et Vanille. Her composition is beautiful, romantic and her flavors are always on point.
How does your creative process work? Do you have a ritual or routine you subscribe to?
I love the creative process of storytelling through food. There’s definitely something ritualistic about it, but my routine is very organic. I keep a journal where I scribble down recipe ideas and flavor combinations. I usually start by conceptualizing the flavors of a dish and then thinking about how the colors of each ingredient will play off of each other when photographed. I also think a fair amount about lighting, props and plating. But the most important element is the food itself. Beautiful ingredients are key to good photography.
And after my recipe is made, the food is plated and the photos are shot, I review my work. I try to take note of shots that I take over and over again and change it up. It’s an evolving process.
What do you get out of it on a deeper level?
Creating, styling and photographing recipes provide me with a great sense of joy and energy. I lose track of time and allow myself to simply exist. Time spent creating provides a way for me to be receptive to my imagination and manifest my work.
How has it changed your life, even minimally, in your day-to-day?
It has deeply changed the way I view the world. I think about storytelling through food often and am constantly on the hunt for new flavor combinations, props and ideas inspired by nature.
What are some of your most treasured moments regarding your creations?
My most treasured moments come from slowing down and taking time in the creative process. Anytime I’m able to clear a reasonable amount of space out in my day to create, is a day well spent and valued. I often don’t have a ton of time to devote to creating, however, so I really cherish those moments when I do!
How do you handle failure? What keeps you motivated?
I try not to get too hung up on the end product during the creative process, but it can definitely be frustrating when you spend a lot of time and energy working on something that isn’t quite right. But even when things don’t work out, I believe that it’s more important to keep trying and putting work out there.
And there are times when the best thing to do is just to wait. If I’m trying too hard or forcing something to work, more often than not, it won’t. If a shot doesn’t come to me, I wait. If a culinary creation doesn’t taste quite right, I start over. There are tons of recipes and photos that don’t make it to my blog. But I try not to be too discerning. It’s more important to practice than to achieve “perfection.”
To that end, I really love this video, Ira Glass on Storytelling. A friend shared this with me when I was in the very beginning stages of developing my blog. It’s something I haven’t forgotten and I watch it when I’m feeling unmotivated.
Do you have a website? Do you sell cross-country/internationally?
I do! It’s: Homegrown Provisions
Right now, I don’t sell anything on my site, but maybe someday I’ll end up with a shop of curated goodies, a cookbook or some food/photo prints.
Here is Shannon’s playlist, enjoy!