Each week we profile a different Canadian Food Blogger who is part of the FBC community. This week we meet Jessica, the Edmonton photographer behind the site Mushrooms & Thyme, where she tells food stories through beautiful and dramatic visual imagery.
Name: Jessica Musslewhite
Blog name: Mushrooms & Thyme
Where were you born? Edmonton, Alberta
Where are you living now?
Edmonton, Alberta - although, I lived in Markham and Oakville for a little bit growing up, before moving to Australia for 3 years. After I graduated grade 12, I moved back to Edmonton.
Why did you start your blog?
I’ve always been in love with food photography. My love for cookbooks, especially anything Donna Hay, started long before I picked up a camera. I’m immediately drawn to photographs of food that can elicit feelings or movement. However, it took me awhile after I got started with photography to begin photographing food. I don’t know why I didn’t start there to be honest. I think I needed to go through the motions of learning my camera and lighting on people first. It was only after I was doing portrait photography for a couple of years that I started to play around with styling food.
To get my toes wet, I ended up taking a food photography workshop in 2015 near Boston with Betty Liu and Meg Dubina. I left completely inspired to be able to start working on the darker style of photos I’ve always been drawn too. As soon as I got home from that trip, I made the decision to start an Instagram account just for my food photos. It was a hobby on top of a hobby I suppose. After a year or so, I wanted a place to house my recipes on a blog, so I moved everything over to a new website and officially started my recipe blog under Mushrooms and Thyme.
How did you decide on your blog name?
My photography passion all stemmed from my love of mushrooms. I joined a friend on some mushroom workshops through our local mycological society. We started to go out on mushroom hunts. Mushrooms became really fascinating to photograph. Eventually the iPhone wasn’t cutting it and I bought myself my first DSLR for my birthday. So the name of my blog is a bit of a salute to the thing that got me hooked on photography. I also really love to cook with mushrooms. Thyme was a logical addition/pairing to the blog name.
What do you blog about?
I don’t think I have one theme or type of cuisine. There are mushroom recipes, but really I love to experiment in the kitchen. This comes through on what I photograph and post about. Lately I’ve been getting into bread and sourdough baking, as well as developed a bit of sweet tooth of late.
I’ve also been photographing my Grandma’s recipes for a family cookbook. Being able to have another platform to explore my family’s meal traditions has been incredible as well.
Through my Instagram account, I’ve started to post more food stories with people. Documenting the making of a recipe in the kitchen, whether it’s families or Chefs. Blending my portrait and food into one is exciting.
Is your blog your business, your hobby or something in between?
It’s a little of both. I have a full-time job as a marketing manager during the week, and pack my weekend with food projects. At times it can feel like a lot, but at the moment the two provide a great balance of corporate strategy and a creative outlet.
What post on your blog most encapsulates you and why?
This fudge brownie is a photograph of one of my Grandma’s handwritten recipes that I shot for a family cookbook project. It’s both deeply meaningful from a personal and sentimental point of view, but also I think captures the movement I love so much in food styling.
Which post do you wish received more love and why?
Scoop of ice cream. I really like the action and mood in this shot. Maybe I thought I would do better given we were in the middle of a heat wave and ice cream would hit the emotions a bit more. It didn’t do that poorly either, just thought it might have done better I guess.
Which post’s success surprised you and why?
Salt cured egg yolks. This shot really surprised me. This was around the time the algorithms were changing and the word on the street was to post when most of your audience would be online. For me, that meant the worst time of day is Saturday around 4pm. But there I was, posting, on Saturday around 4pm. I distinctly remember saying to myself that algorithm or not, I love this photo and I’m going to post anyways. I was heading out for dinner and just wanted to get this one out the door. To this day I think it’s the most liked and more impressions made on a single photo.
What’s your biggest challenge as a blogger?
Finding time to get it all done. Planning out a full recipe post takes a lot of time. This can be very challenging to fit it all in. I’ve only recently started to learn off camera flash. I think that will help expand my availability, especially in Canada where the dark winter months are so long. Packing everything into the weekend with natural light isn’t always possible.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a blogger?
Trust your gut instinct. If you’re in the middle of a shoot and something doesn’t feel right, stop, pause and adjust. There’s nothing worse than starting to edit a photo and as soon as you open it up you say to yourself “I knew I should have moved that spoon just a little”, “I wish I'd have taken one more shot but a little wider”, or the best “I should have wiped that spot away…”
What has been your biggest success as a blogger so far?
The most fulfillment I’ve had as a blogger has been the people I’ve met and the other projects that I’ve been able to support or become apart of because of those encounters. Specifically, I’ve had the opportunity to support the not-for-profit work with Real Bread Alberta. Being able to give back by volunteering my skills on projects is very satisfying.
Share a couple of your favourite food blogs to read. Why do you like them?
Stems and Forks - Betty is a cake magician. Her photographs are always breath taking. I love how she’s able to blend two subjects she loves into one passion project. Her recipes are delicious as they are beautiful. She’s also one of the sweetest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting through IG.
MORE READING: FBC's profile of Stems and Forks
Bite of Light - Natascha’s photography is dark and moody, but also very creative. She’s always posting photographs that stop me dead in my track. It’s truly food art.
Favourite food- care to share a recipe or a restaurant destination?
Edmonton’s food scene has really taken off the last couple of year. It’s exciting. I recently had dinner at DOSC (stands for Drunken Ox Sober Cat of their night/day concept). My friends and I shared several of their small plates, from oxtail poutine, bone marrow, beef tongue and sweetbread to crispy Brussels sprouts and risotto. Their espresso and cocoa dry rubbed skirt steak was perfectly cooked with the mostly delicious hint of smokiness. Alberta beef at its finest.
What are you working on next for your blog?
I have a couple recipes I want to finish testing. One recipe is incorporating mushrooms into a sweet cinnamon bun using candied chanterelles. I’m also busy trying to learn off camera flash, and want to tackle adding a mailing list to my website, as well as a store to start selling some prints.
What else should we know about you that may or not be in your “About Me” page?
I’m the mother to a fur baby named Brewer. She’s usually keeping a close eye on what’s going on in the studio. You might be thinking her name is because I love beer, but it’s actually because I love hockey. She’s named after a former Edmonton Oiler defensemen, Eric Brewer.
What makes your blog unique?
I think what makes my blog unique is that it’s a mix of recipes, still life and a little portraits. My style is also very shadow forward, with pops of bright colour throughout.
How do you cultivate a sense of community around your blog?
I think it’s important to engage with and respond back to people who take the time to comment on posts. Over time, you’ll build a connection that will lead to exchanging of ideas and asking and giving feedback. I also think it’s equally as important to network in person.
What part of the FBC site do you find most useful?
I downloaded the 2019 Food Blog Planner and it’s been super helpful keeping on top of all the national food days/week, as well provided me a tool to better track my expenses. Hello, tax time lifesaver! Participating in the holiday exchange was also so much fun. While it might not be a part of the site, I really enjoy the sense of community FBC creates.
Follow Jessica on Social Media