Our friend Rinne Allen has been photographing our work for the last few years and shot pictures for our upcoming Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. Her work is beautiful. She also just completed the cookbook A New Turn in the South with her friend Hugh Acheson – and it’s a beauty. The combination of type, hand written notes, the lovely photographs, and the rich approach to making beautifully simple food took me aback the first time I opened the cover.  This book just feels different. I gave a copy to a friend for the holidays and she said to me over lunch a few weeks later, “It is so casual, beautiful and comfortable.” I agree.  Hugh has a great love for one of my favorite vegetables, the Brussels sprout. His recipe “Not Your Mama’s Brussels Sprouts” from page 207 begins like this, “Brussels sprouts are the hated vegetable of my generation and I am hell-bent on changing that.” You have to love a man who thinks like that.

Rinne took a few minutes to talk with me about her work this week and shared a few of her favorite photographs:

AC: I know that you have been shooting food for quite a while, but is this your first cookbook?

RA: Prior to working with Hugh, I had photographed one cookbook called Canning for a New Generation. It came out in August 2010. The author, Liana Krissoff, also lives in Athens, Georgia, so I was lucky to work with her on such a fun and endlessly beautiful topic. We actually just finished another project together that will be out in the fall of 2012…and hopefully there will be more projects with Hugh, too!

AC: I love the combination of the photographs with the handwritten text over the photos – how did that come about?

RA: In other projects that I have worked on, I have used a person’s handwriting in the design, as a way to further the feeling of being handmade.
Hugh is always taking notes and doodling, so it seemed natural to do that here as well. We wove it in even more by layering it on top of the imagery. We had seen something similar done before, but not in a cookbook…we hoped it would feel like you were looking at Hugh’s little notebook of ideas.

AC: This cookbook has such a different feel than most cookbooks I own (and I own many)… I think that the small photographs scattered throughout in conjunction with the double page spreads add so much to this character. Of the many, many photos, is there any one picture in the book that is a personal favorite?

RA: It would be hard to choose just one, but I love the spread of the foraged chanterelle mushrooms- mainly because it was such a fun day, going out with our friend Bob to hunt for mushrooms after a rain…we wandered in the woods all afternoon and ended up with a good harvest. It was like a scavenger hunt.

AC: How did you meet Hugh?

RA: I first met Hugh through his original restaurant, Five & Ten, probably ten years ago…whoa, has it been that long? Back then there were not many places to eat really good food in Athens, so we tried to eat there as much as we were able. It was just so good! About three or four years ago, Hugh and I started to talk about the idea of a cookbook and we began working on this one in earnest about three years ago- so, it was a long time in the making.

AC: Is there any one story that happened during the shooting that stands out in your mind? Something funny? Something strange?

RA: Hmm, I do not have one particular story to tell…unless it was how sweaty we all were at the big outdoor supper photo shoot we had with our friends from R.Wood studio… Luckily, we had such good food to help us through the intense summer heat.

But, I will add that what most stands out in my mind was how we all really bonded over this project, as corny as that sounds- we worked on it for a very long time which normally does not happen in the world of cookbooks. (Normally, they are condensed into a very short time frame.) Our group met every other week for almost a year at Hugh’s home kitchen to cook and take photographs. And then most days we would sit down and enjoy the food afterwards and that, really, was the best part of the project…that kind of camaraderie that comes from sharing food, as well as sharing in such a good project.

Rinne’s photographs and the descriptive graphics propel you through the recipes, but I stopped cold at this text about community:

A Message About Community – Hugh Acheson, page 136

“My mantra is this: local first, sustainable second, organic third. Local has impact and impact produces change. Change is the process of making the farming sustainable, and once sustainable the next step is certified organically grown.

The demand for immediate and complete change by some food advocates is one that just is not feasible for most farmers and one that the average consumer cannot yet afford. Small steps will win this race and those first small steps are about your local sphere.  The small steps that you take as a consumer are multifold: Shop at your farmer’s market, buy local crafts and art, frequent local independent restaurants, buy locally roasted coffee, buy native plants, learn how to garden, don’t eat overly processed foods, know the person who raises your eggs.  This has nothing to do with a political stance and everything to do with a community stance. I am not a fanatic, just a believer. I believe in the place we live and in finding ways to make it great every day. I am endlessly enamored of my local sphere, my community.”

A New Turn in the South is not your everyday cookbook – but it is one that you could go to everyday. Congratulations to Hugh – and Rinne.

Stunning work.

P.S.: You can find recipes here and here.

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