First Love

Our food stylist remembers a time when her relationship
with food was less complicated.

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  • Written by
    Kara Mickelson


I have always been fascinated with food, travel, photography, art and different cultures. I even crafted a career around these many passions. I’m a food stylist and chef, avid traveler, part-time photographer, and collector of experiences, cookbooks and magazines with captivating, drool-worthy photos that beckon me to buy.

Food culture and culinary tourism is a thing now. Seems like just about everyone tries to capture that great food moment on Instagram. It can be a trip across the globe or a new corner ethnic market, a recipe video, a favorite pho place or a cookout with friends. As long as we capture and share the moment on social media, we’re good.

There is something curious—maybe voyeuristic—about seeing the way others eat, live and play. Food is that common ingredient: a necessary part of our human condition. It is an indicator of our culture. It can bring us joy, nourishment, disappointment, nostalgia and often brings us together. It can make life richer and be a bridge—or at least a window—into the way others live. It has a complex role in our lives.

"As time went by my uninhibited, youthful mindset got cramped—and a bit crowded out—by the adult version."

I understand the current obsession with food. I started cooking at an early age. As far back as I can remember I was baking cake in my Easy-Bake Oven or mixing together crazy “pantry concoctions.”  

I loved creating and playing with food. The side note was a possible treat at the end: luckily, hopefully, but not guaranteed, something delicious … a little morsel that made life better, sweeter or just more palatable. And sometimes the result was a complete disaster of unharmonious ingredients. Yet I was still joyful for the experiment of crafting an ultimately inedible concoction. That was the kid version of the adult I became.

As time went by my uninhibited, youthful mindset got cramped—and a bit crowded out—by the adult version. I became a little more attached to the finished product of what I was making … perfectionism creeping in where playfulness and exploration once dominated.  

It’s interesting and a bit unfortunate that we can lose some of that childlike spirit over time, bogged down by commitments, rules, responsibilities and obligations. We forget to let ourselves explore, play, try new things and just be in a state of curiosity—seeking adventure and adding new dimensions or ingredients to spice up our lives.

All that said, food continues to hook me in. A beautiful, mouthwatering photo immediately takes me to a happy place … space to savor, share and find common ground. Call it gastro-diplomacy or simply breaking bread; the satisfaction is palatable.