I'm Laurel Morley, and I'm the creator of this blog. That's me right up there..
I originally hail from a sun-bleached sprawl in the desert called Phoenix, Arizona, but I spent the last several years living in some of the most charming little neighborhoods in New York City. Now I'm back in the desert, but throughout all the changing kitchens I've passed through in the last yew years, I've maintained a tight grip on the very same battered wooden spoon. I'm not what you'd call a formally trained cook. Sometime around the very first time I was living on my own, in college, I realized I'd have to learn how to feed myself. This was around the turn of the century (gather 'round, all ye children, and ol' grandma will tell you a story of the pre-food blogging era!), and there was not yet any Epicurious or Serious Eats to turn to, so naturally there was a lot of embarrassed fumbling around at first with skim milk, plain chicken breasts, pasta salads, and things seasoned with 'flavor packets'. Dark days, my friends.
Eventually though, I did learn a thing or two, gleaned from long-ingrained family kitchen lessons, traveling and pulling every new thing towards me with two eager hands and an open heart, trial & error, and a growing obsession with the new phenomenon of cooking-based television shows.
I mean, I watched a lot of food television for a while.
I learned how to hold a knife. I stared, slack-jawed, as I learned what a roux was, what a roux was for, how to mince, braise, blanch and julienne, how to make a souffle and a soffrito. Alton Brown, the Iron Chefs, Lidia Bastianich, Nigella, and especially the hardcore old-school duo of Julia Child and Jacques Pepin....they all became my culinary instructors. And I learned. Not only did I learn how to feed myself, and those around me (much to the delight of my willing test kitchen subjects, i.e. friends & family), but it kindled a passion in me for creating, for finding community around the table and finding the beauty in a bowl of beets. A literal need to put food on the table led me to a new passion for beautiful cooking and photography*, which.......led me to create Sweet Laurel.
[ * I trained as a painter in college, so getting behind the camera felt alien to me for a while. In the earlier days of blogging, you didn't need gorgeous photographs, just recipes and enough chutzpah to try & possibly fail at them in front of the whole internet. Or at least that's how it seemed. We were missing half, if not more, of the point in those days, though....cooking is intensely visual. On some of my first blogs--oh yes, there have been others, I've been riding this crazy merry-go-round since about 2009--the photography is memorably bad. Often shot with old-school built-in phone cameras. Best not discussed, or linked to. Since those dark days, I've been shooting primarily with a darling little Canon PowerShot Elph 100, although recently I've decided to up the stakes and experiment with a real, grownup camera, a Canon T3i DSLR. Stay tuned for--hopefully!--big developments. ]
Questions You Didn't Ask, But That I'll Answer Anyway
Who is Sweet Laurel? Is that you?
Sweet Laurel is the name of a small, boutique business my mom started when I was a wee little babe, selling things like ribbon-adorned baby bonnets. It's a nostalgic name for me, and one that summons up feelings of homespun entrepreneurship, which is kind of what this venture of mine is all about. Plus, it just happens to be my name*.
[ *And maybe it's a good daily reminder to be sweet! ]
So you started this blog while you were living in New York, huh? How tiny was your kitchen?
No, really. What was it like in there?
It was about 80 square feet of unrenovated galley kitchen, with a 24 square foot footprint (sadly, no dishwasher or sink disposal, pretty standard for the city) and almost no counter space. And yet, it felt oddly welcoming! Must have been the chalkboard cabinets.
Eggs. Garlic. Old-fashioned ice cream. Hazelnuts. Dark, dark coffee. Avocados. Honey. Perfect pasta. A delicious, dry red. A New York City street dog. And I probably eat my body weight in Greek yogurt, per week.
Very, very early mornings. Long walks for hours in comfortable shoes. Hexagons. The Sunday New York Times. The smell of the desert after an August thunderstorm. Handcarved wooden spoons. Copper bowls. That freckle on his eyelid. Perfectly fitted blue jeans. Chuck Taylors. Campfires. My family. My love, and our two alien dogs.