The Spring/Summer 2014 desert issue of Gather Journal uses the word “Caravan” as its guide. Inside, you will find an array of recipes that bear the imprints of deserts near and far. There is a chapter devoted to desserts inspired by the iconic visuals of one specific desert (Arizona’s Painted Desert), and another that examines the meanings, both literal and figurative, of an oasis. We pay homage to the beauty of succulents, dream up a kaleidoscopic array of cocktails, and highlight the sense of wanderlust that the desert has been known to inspire.
Oscar Wilde once said: “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” And it is the extreme excess, the unbridled extravagance, the boundless glitz of opulent Middle Eastern desert capitals that galvanized our vision for the meal’s beginnings. Potent cocktails aligned to the desert in spirit and ingredients; a golden platter of seemingly sun-scorched chickpeas and artichokes; chile-dusted jicama baubles paired with a salt crystal-encrusted chelada; and seed-dappled crispbread with a pickled cauliflower and pepper medley. All of it fit for consumption in whatever gilded palace you call home.
In the desert’s great wide open, the silence can be tangible. It is that pure, perpetual serenity we sought to capture here, with a tangled heap of salad that takes its shape from the dusty, rolling tumbleweeds; a gazpacho the color of hazy peridot; thick, browned slices of haloumi burrowed into pomegranate-flecked yogurt; fried plantain saucers mounted with slender spines of radish; and a frittata whose primary components (purple potatoes and cactus) and heat-blistered facade seem born of the desert.
For the meal’s headliners, our proverbial caravan plucked ideas from various corners of the globe. Skewers of paprika-painted chicken and lamb trek through the Middle East; a whole trout seems fit for a weathered cast-iron pan and late-night campfire cooking out West; our pizza transforms a Mediterranean classic into a desert panorama; dry rub ribs embody the torrid climate of the Southwest; and a hefty steak with long beans hearkens to remote Texas, where cattle ranches abound and the dusty ground is punctuated with rattlesnakes’ burrows.
In September 1966, LIFE’s cover story focused on the phenomenon of LSD art: psychedelic works which aimed to simulate a “trip,” minus the drugs. Said one of the artists, “We try to vaporize the mind by bombing the senses.” Our desserts hope to elicit a similarly altered sensory state—a glossy, spiked prickly-pear jelly mold is a magenta-hued marvel of taste and touch; a Turkish coffee affogato has a dizzying, pulse-quickening effect; coconut pancakes take on the twisted appearance of woven macramé; and a rhubarb blackberry crumble is more than meets the eye, its tawny surface concealing a plush bed of fruit. Time to tune in and turn on.
In the desert, water can be a rare, and therefore precious, commodity. So for dwellers and wayfarers alike, an oasis, that area made fertile by an underground spring, can take on a mecca like status. Besides a water source, an oasis can signify any kind of relief or haven. Here, we explored the notion of food as refuge, and conceived of recipes with an actual quenching quality a lush salad of hearts of palm and avocado; prismatic popsicles; a fragrant pool of scallop ceviche; a frothy iced date shake; and kulfi falooda, an aromatic Indian ice cream. Since the desert can fill people with visions, all are depicted in wild colors conceivably sprung from a fever dream.
The badlands of Arizona’s Painted Desert cast their chromatic reach over a 160-mile expanse. A vast spectrum of coral and crimson, rose and rust, dusty lavender and darkened plum, it’s a living canvas. Georgia O’Keeffe saw a humanity in the Southwest, writing in 1939, “A red hill doesn’t touch everyone’s heart as it touches mine.” It touched us too and sparked our imagination for an array of “painted” desserts: a rainbow cake that mirrors colorful sandstone; a crêpe cake that nods to the sediment’s endlessly layered nature; marbled halvah that seems to move and swirl like the wind-contoured land; and a melting sorbet terrine that reflects the colors of the sun-scalded rocks.
The Brooklyn-based photographer from Newcastle Upon Tyne, England trained as a graphic designer before getting behind the lens. He has published three books (Apt. 301, Death in a Good District, and Garden) and shoots for Ferragamo, Michael Kors and Nylon. See his work at willandersonphotography.com.
Photographer and director Bee got her first major gig at 16 when Converse caught a glimpse of her images. Now, four years later, Bee has continued her meteoric rise, lending her talents to Hermès, Roger Vivier, Adidas, The New York Times Magazine, Vice, and Rookie. Her latest project is the campaign for Cacharel’s new Anaïs Anaïs fragrance. See her work at oliviabee.com and oliviab33.blogspot.com.
Confettisystem, the art-design firm founded by Nick Anderson and Julie Ho, is known for hyper-creative set design, objects, and installations. The pair has worked on custom designs for The New York Times, MoMA, American Ballet Theatre and Mercedes Benz; collaborated with Lanvin, Opening Ceremony, Martin Margiela and J.Crew; and exhibited in N.Y., L.A., Miami, and Japan.
Photographer Cornett wanders the woods in the Catskills, where he lives with his beautiful wife, lovely new daughter, and two standard poodles, plus spiders, bears, moths, and a very obnoxious owl that laughs all night. He is currently shooting for Vogue, The New Yorker, and Cadillac. Glimpse his life’s goings-on at thelivest1.com. See his work at grantcornett.com.
Drury is a multi-disciplinary, New York-based artist and graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work spans mediums including ceramics, jewelry, performance art and painting. Drury began crafting jewelry with found objects and magic trash from the streets, and refined his style in the ceramic studios of SAIC. See his work at dovedruryhornbuckle.com and follow him on Instagram @dovedrury.
Partners in photography and life, Andrea Gentl and Martin Hyers met while students at Parsons. Focused on food, travel, interiors, and portraits, their clients include Condé Nast Traveler, Bergdorf Goodman, and Grey Goose, and they’ve picked up a slew of SPD awards. Hyers, a fine- art photographer, recently published Empire with William Mebane. His work can be seen at hyersandmebane.com. Gentl also shoots and writes hungryghostfoodandtravel. com. See the couple’s work at gentlandhyers.com.
Photographer Johnson attended BYU in the desert of Northern Utah before moving to New York. He has worked as an art director at Martha Stewart Living and MAC cosmetics, and shot for The Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, and Martha Stewart Weddings. See his work at stephendotcom.com.
Kameon’s landscape design career began 20 years ago, when she transformed an empty lot next to her Elysian Park bungalow into a lush oasis. Since then, her firm, Elysian Landscapes, has been integrating living spaces with plantings. Her work has been featured in Martha Stewart Living, Dwell, and Vogue. She launched Plain Air, a collection of mid-century-modern-style outdoor furniture with her husband, photographer Erick Otsea. They teamed up again for her first book, Gardens Are For Living (Rizzoli).
Born in Malmö, Sweden, Nilsson moved to New York to cook. After working as a chef, he decided to pursue a degree in photography. Since 2006, when Nilsson began making food his subject, his client list has grown to include Bon Appétit, Departures, New York, Conde Nast Traveler, Swallow, and The New York Times Magazine. When he’s not shooting, the avid wine collector enjoys throwing dinner parties in his Bushwick digs. See his work at marcusnilsson.com.
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, photographer Phelps has built an impressive career despite having no formal art training. He has shot for Italian Vogue, French Marie Claire, The New York Times Magazine, Fortune, and Interview, and is the recipient of an IPA Lucie award. When he’s not behind the lens, Phelps is the builder and owner of Cafe Moto, a Williamsburg favorite since it opened a decade ago.
German-born writer, blogger, and pastry chef Riebensahm attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris before moving to New York for a Masters in media studies. She worked in a number of the city’s kitchens before starting a custom cake business, SugarSnapNYC. She recently co-founded the pastry blog Brooklyn-Portland .com, where she stages bi-coastal bake-offs with fellow chef Lauren Caster.
Artist Riggio has been hand-making paper collages for over 15 years. His art has been shown in galleries in N.Y., Scotland, and L.A. Riggio currently lives and cuts paper in Brooklyn. A selection of his work can be seen at jayriggioart.com and jayriggioart.tumblr.com.
Gather’s food stylist and co-recipe editor entered the gastronomical world after selling her East Village bar and using the proceeds to attend culinary school. She logged time in some of the city’s most esteemed restaurant kitchens before shifting her focus to food styling and recipe development. See her work at maggieruggiero.com.
Gather’s co-recipe editor, Shuster started off her career in publishing at Harper Collins before changing courses to attend the Institute of Culinary Education. Since earning her degree, she has worked as a freelance food stylist and recipe developer, dividing her time between New York and Boston. See her work at mollyshuster.com.
An Australian ex-pat, the New York-based image maker created avant-garde clothes before deciding to document them instead, working as a fashion photographer in Paris, and then moving to London and into the world of interiors. Author of Interiors and Working Space: An Insight into the Creative Heart, he is soon launching Cezanne’s Shadow, a line of wallpapers and textiles created from his photo series “Falling in Love at the Institute.” See his work (and sign up for his newsletter) at martynthompsonstudio.com.
Canada-born, Brooklyn- based Vamvounakis studied photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology before embarking on a career as a prop stylist. Her clients include American Express, Anthropologie, West Elm, Estée Lauder, and Bon Appétit.
Writer Williams tackles fashion, art, and music topics for a variety of publications. She held positions as the senior editor at Nylon magazine and editorial director at Urban Outfitters before settling into her current role as editorial director for L.A.-based clothing brand Nasty Gal. See more of her work at heykatewilliams .com.
Forged in New York in the early ‘90s, the dynamic trio—vocalist Kazu Makino and twin brothers Simone and Amedeo Pace—have, over the years, amassed a devoted fanbase and released eight albums. Their ninth, as-yet-unnamed effort, is on the way this year.
This Cincinnati-born band has been ceaselessly making music since forming in 1999. Last year’s stunning Trouble Will Find Me may be their most ambitious album to date. Devendorf, the band’s drummer, is revered for his wildly inventive style.