From the moment I stumbled upon Laura’s work on her food blog called The First Mess, I was instantly a fan and had a cosmic “soul sister” realization. Her food photography is incredible- simple, delicate, rustic, yet true and approachable; her recipes are delicious and celebrate whole foods in creative ways mainly using plants from her garden. She’s an advocate for the farm to table movement yet with a chef twist that I can totally stand behind appreciate. I think you all will adore her recipes and witty commentary as much as we’ve enjoyed swapping stories. Today’s inspired interview is all about how she stays creative, motivated, what her favorite foods are, and big plans for this year. I’m thrilled to introduce Laura, of The First Mess.
for Nutrition Stripped
If someone were to ask you what you “do”, what would you say?
I always say I’m a bit of a slasher: food photographer slash recipe developer slash hospitality professional.
If you can, in two sentences how would you describe your philosophy about food and living well?
Listen to your body and intuition, but also consider the current season’s life cycle. Eat as naturally as possible and avoid reading articles that discuss food as trend.
Tell us about your road to developing your blog?
My friend kind of goaded me into it! I had worked in restaurants for a long time, had finished culinary school and at a certain point I found myself with a bit of extra time on my hands. My friend was always asking me about certain seasonal foods and general preparation techniques—just things that anyone starting out with eating whole foods would want to know–and I was like: “You know what? This sort of discussion could be valuable online.”
When was your “ah-ha” moment, of when you felt you were succeeding at what you do?
I get a snippet of “ah-ha” on a weekly basis. I think there’s always room for improvement and that success is this ever-evolving thing that shifts places and changes shape. Different things trigger that feeling all the time: a kind email from a reader, a freelance opportunity, some cool press, my mom asking me “Is this good for me?!?” when eating one of my creations that she likes, etc.
What’s your favorite quote or mantra you can’t live without?
“Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive.” ― Hafez
Where do you draw most inspiration? Who? What?
Nature and the life cycle of each season. Those fleeting moments of leaves changing, snow flying, and beach days put my head into overdrive.
Picture this, you’re living your most perfect day- what does this look like?
I’d wake up early in some sort of beachfront location—Costa Rica, Tulum, Bali or Kauai would all do nicely. My man, my pup and I would go for a sunrise swim and walk. I’d make us a delicious and nourishing breakfast that we could enjoy slowly. I’d probably want to spend the day at a local market gathering supplies to leisurely cook outdoors for most of the day. Maybe we’d go for a hike or a little afternoon adventure. I’d make a beautiful, but casual meal for family and friends that would go well into the night.
Now what’s your actual typical day look like?
I get up early and play with the dog right off the bat because she’s super energetic right from the second she wakes up. My partner and I sometimes squeeze a coffee in together before he heads off to work. I’ll have the news on in the background while I make breakfast.
After I eat, I check/respond to emails, retrieve the mail, take the dog for a walk, and figure out what I have to do that day. Usually I’m working on recipe development for my book or blog. Sometimes I’m doing freelance photography too. I run errands, tackle DIY projects in our old house, and have mid-morning coffee breaks with my mum often. I generally eat the results of those freelance work efforts for lunch.
Around 4ish, I start fixing up dinner for my man and I, and begin winding down by reading some of my favourite blogs or a good book on my porch, watching a movie, gardening, taking the dog for another epic walk, or maybe a bit of a run if I’m up to it. I try to avoid emailing/working on freelance stuff in the evenings. If it’s a Friday or Saturday, I’m probably going in for a shift at the farm-to-table restaurant I serve at that night.
What’s your typical meal for…
- First thing upon waking: Big glass of water promptly followed by coffee.
- Morning: Some sort of fancy toast (usually avocado with lots of toppings) or porridge—either piping hot steel-cut oats or chilled buckwheat and chia porridge if the weather’s warm. If it’s the weekend, I’m making waffles or chickpea scramble with lots of fixins for my man and I.
- Lunch: Typically a hodgepodge of whatever recipe development project I have on the go served up in a bowl. Always greens, grains, nuts/seeds, and a plant-y protein. If I’ve made soup/stew early in the week, I’m probably eating that.
- Supper: This one is so varied. Sometimes my man and I snack on mezze-style stuff well into the night, sometimes we do a veg-heavy brown rice pasta sort of thing, we love to grill any and all things, sometimes I get kinda fancy and re-visit some classic technique I learned in culinary school, and surprisingly often, we just want pizza from the dive-y-est place in town.
- Snacks or sweets: I’m a slave to both. Including sweet snacks 🙂
- Favorite beverage: It’s hard to pick—coffee is a big one. I have an impressive collection of loose leaf tea as well—rooibos being my first choice. Kombucha is one of my favourite treats—a matcha latte goes into that category too. Green juice with lots of ginger and pineapple, raw cacao and almond butter shakes always nail a chocolate craving, and I’ve been making these amazing “superfood lattes” with dates, coconut milk, maca, turmeric and vanilla powder all winter… Sometimes I think I could start a healthy beverage blog.
If you could pick one meal to eat over and over again, what would it be?
Pizza from Pizzeria Libretto in Toronto. Maybe that’s boring? Don’t care. Pizza is my second-tier boyfriend.
What’s the one item that’s always on your grocery/market list?
Tuscan/Lacinato kale. It’s my favourite green for sure. And lemons. I’m always running out of lemons.
Living well isn’t just about nourishment of food, it’s also about managing stress, sleeping well, and exercise. What’s your typical…
- Exercise routine you can’t live without: Walking with my sweet rescue pup Cleo.
- Way to decompress from a busy day: In the cold months I’d say a long bath with Celtic sea salt and lavender oil followed by some wholesome comfort food (like farro risotto or my Moroccan stew) and cuddles on the couch. In the warm months, I like to wind down by hiking, going for a swim and cooking/eating with my peeps outside.
- Favorite bedtime ritual (that you can share haha): I have a super-calming lavender mist that I love to spritz right before I climb into bed. I also like to sip some chamomile tea and just read before I tuck in (right now I’m reading “A Story Lately Told” by Anjelica Huston). It’s very Nana-like 🙂
Beauty talk, what’s your…
- Beauty and skin routine look like: I’d say the defining word here is streamlined. I’ve never been much into glamour, but I do value healthy skin and hair because it’s always a reflection of how I feel. I love utilizing basic elements like raw honey, coconut oil, argan oil, oats, bee pollen etc. because there’s no shroud of mystery with what I’m applying to my largest, highly porous organ.
- Your favorite beauty products: Ultra-Hyaluronic moisturizing serum from MyChelle, Moisturizers from Tata Harper and Sukin, Thayer’s alcohol-free witch hazel (the lavender one is my jam), argan oil from Josie Maran, and I swear by my Egyptian Magic cream at nighttime.
- Your favorite hair care tip: Don’t wash it too often. I have really curly, long and wild hair that tends to dry out easily. I do a proper wash with shampoo once a week. Otherwise I’m doing a baking soda wash and apple cider vinegar rinse if I need a little freshening up.
- Your ultimate self-care tip: Drink lots of water and always aim for restful sleep.
- Your secret (not so secret anymore) beauty tip: I wash my face with raw honey and it’s been a life-saver for my sensitive/prone to redness skin.
What makes you laugh, smile, and be joyful?
My partner Mark, who totally gets my sense of humour, which is admittedly all over the place. My dog greeting me at the door, with her tail wagging excitedly, will pull me out of any miserable/sad/angry rut in about two seconds. And, not surprisingly, nourishing and delicious food prepared thoughtfully makes me smile big every time. But also pizza. Being outside, my family, working on recipes, photographing gorgeous food, finishing a DIY project at home, just being… lots of things are making me joyful these days.
Do you have advice, personal tips, tricks to living well and whole that you can share?
Try your best to be prepared. I eat really well when I have healthy foods in the fridge and a few mindfully prepared items ready to go—like homemade almond butter, a batch of cooked brown rice, some servings of steel cut oats that only need to be heated up with a splash of plant milk, some pre-cooked chickpeas, a delicious soup or a pot of dal.
I think it’s also a good tip to remember how amazing you feel when you’re really taking care of yourself. That recollection saves me from skipping lunch or a workout because I think I’m too busy.
Saving the big one for last, where do you see yourself in the next 2-3 years? Any big plans you want to share!
I’m working on my first cookbook right now, so in 3 years time I hope to be a best-selling author 😉 I’ve also been booking some cooking/photography workshops here and there and I aim to keep that practice going. Teaching and interacting is one of the more fun aspects of what I do. After that? I want to open a sprawling outdoor living concept shop with a native plant nursery, a whole foods café, coffee and juice bar tucked inside a greenhouse, plus a studio for outdoor DIY and cooking workshops. Big plans!
So where can everyone keep up with you to learn more?
I hope you all love following along with Laura as much as I do and check out her gorgeous blog & recipes!