What it was like photographing a cookbook for a month

Well, that’s a wrap.

Right now, Meg is upstairs packing while I’m downstairs typing. Both baristas poured me a mug of coffee when I walked in this morning, so I got two. Yay for small wins!

Before Meg moved in for a month, I painted one section of my kitchen with chalkboard paint. My landlord is going to shoot me.

I had big plans for that wall. We wrote Keto Freedom by Meg Doll at the top in big bubble letters, with Photographed by Kara McCartney at the bottom. In the space between, we planned to document the 3-5 recipes scheduled for the day. Right now, “Week Two, Scallops” is slowly fading in the center.

Breakfast QuicheWe also drew up a DC bucket list. Meg is Canadian, and although she’s been to the United States too many times to count (I can speak to her in miles instead of meters, but we’re still mastering Fahrenheit versus Celsius), she had never been to DC. I wrote all my favorites—Eastern Market, the Library of Congress, Union Market—thinking we could easily checkmark each spot over the next four weeks.

There are exactly three strikethrough items on that list.

You always think you’ll have more time.

When I started my last job, I remember my coworker-now-friend Kevin telling me, “Here’s how I budget my time. I calculate how long something will take me, then I double it.”

I should have done the same for this project.

Yesterday, Meg and I were talking about it being her last night in DC. She said, “Kara, if you told me it was the second week of February, I would believe you.” Girl, I totally feel you.

I can’t even start to explain what this past month was like, and I witnessed my former bosses photograph multiple cookbooks start-to-finish. I knew what I signed up for. I knew it was grueling work. I knew my kitchen would be in shambles for the entire month of February. I told Meg countless times, “You KNOW I don’t have a DISHWASHER, right!?” before she arrived.

This month was a complete and total blur.

My friend Keena always tells me I’m a Tasmanian devil in the kitchen, and that’s what February was like. Every day, from 10:30AM to 4PM, Meg cooked non-stop as I fussed around in the living room trying to get the setup just right, lowering, raising, and re-lowering my tripod; and moving furniture. There were days when—I shit you not—we rearranged my entire living room four times to get the perfect ray of sunlight.

Zuppa_Toscana_EditedImagine the number of times I swear in a simple blog post. Multiply that by, five hundred, and you know how many times I cursed at Mother Nature in the past month.

I’m pretty sure Meg’s biggest fear this month was getting on my nerves. Or invading my personal space. I had the exact same fear. I feared I would suddenly lose my temper and get annoyed over some trivial thing, and suck the fun out of our project.

It never happened.

I am so incredibly grateful to create something awesome, with such an awesome person.

Meg and I worked really well together. We always craved the same things for dinner. We both knew when to call it quits. We both enjoyed the same together-to-alone-time ratio. I love my morning routine of writing by myself, and Meg loves being alone in the kitchen. I found this comical. That first week, I felt terrible if I didn’t immediately offer my help. Then I realized she just wanted me to get the F outta there.

Lamb SlidersWhat’s more, Meg and I carried the same amount of excitement for this project. To me, this wasn’t about freelance work or the paycheck. To her, it wasn’t about getting this done in the shortest timeframe imaginable, or cutting corners in order to save on budget. The entire month, we were incredibly aware of what we were creating. That a twenty-five-year-old and a twenty-seven-year-old, neither of whom had published anything essentially, could pull this off.

Like I said, that’s a wrap.

I think the only thing bumming us out is how we ran out of time. I never took Meg to Alexandria (or even the Library of Congress!). We never had just-for-fun photo shoots. With the exception of our dinner date last night, we didn’t get the opportunity to celebrate this thing we built.

It is truly scary how fast time flies. Meg asked me to photograph her book right before Christmas, and all of January I panicked over having the right kitchen tools, the necessary props, or even a bed for her to sleep on. It was something I looked forward to for so long, and in four hours I drop her off at the airport.

Photographing a book ranks in my top three of coolest things I’ve done in my life. And I am so incredibly grateful I had the opportunity to do it.

Thanks Meg.

  1. Your photos are stunning and I’m wildly jealous that you got to photograph a cookbook! (Not necessarily in that order ;)) Seriously, though, I can’t wait to see your name on the cover of a book!!!

  2. Kara, I haven’t read this until now because I knew I couldn’t even handle it…

    February was by far one of my most favourite months of my entire month and I knew reading this post would make me ache.

    I was write. I had to stop reading half way through because I couldn’t – I was crying too hard I couldn’t even see my screen.

    I miss waking up and texting you from a room 20 steps away. I miss our morning core workouts and never feeling judged by you when I couldn’t hold a side plank for longer than 30 seconds lol. I miss hearing you swear at the sun. I miss you saying “Oh my god, Meg. This is so good” and eating a whole bowl of my soup before we even put the leftovers away. I miss the cozy bed you had ready for me. I miss telling you I was craving curry, to have you reply, “Me too!” I miss February so much. I honestly can’t even think about it anymore. I am so grateful for you.

    Honestly, thank YOU for the best month of my life. I wouldn’t have changed anything about it. It was better than I could have ever imagined. Thank you thank you thank you.

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For All the F Words
You have flaws. You f-up on a daily basis. And that should be ok.