ugly duckling

Cameo_Joy-of-ChemestryWe knew exactly how we were going to illustrate “Joy of Chemistry” about CAS professor Matthew Hartings’s class on the science behind food. It was going to be easy as pie.

Adrienne and I hit up five different stores looking for the best jumbo blueberry muffins we could find. They needed to have round, sky-high tops with crumbles, and fat blueberries. Starbucks was the clear winner.

We waited until the day of the shoot for peak freshness. We didn’t know that we needed to buy them before 7 a.m. if we wanted to be that picky (annoying) customer behind the glass pointing at the specific muffins we wanted. We had to take what we got. We bought the last three—the third one being our “just in case” muffin as it was, frankly, ugly.  Its top was amoeba shaped, flat, and had a skimpy crumble covering. When we met our photographer, Jeff Watts, in the studio for the shoot I left it in the paper bag in my office thinking I’d take it home for my son to enjoy.

This shoot should have been quick—maybe a half an hour. But food stylists we are not. We quickly discovered that we shouldn’t have used the most beautiful muffin first. We pinched off part of its perfect top to simulate how one might begin to eat such a lovely, fluffy muffin. Though we could picture it in our heads, we spent 15 minutes trying to style a mangled mess into something attractive—to no avail. We moved on to our second best-looking muffin and spent even more time to get worse results.

123We only had the ugly muffin left. We decided to go Seinfeld and “break free” the muffin top from the stump. This was definitely the better way to go but the irregularity of the muffin top was pronounced in Jeff’s images. Our stomachs dropped. We were resigned to the fact this photo illustration was not going to be our best. We were ready to call it quits when I thought to lift up the muffin top to the same level as the muffin bottom. In a feet of engineering (if I do say so myself), I propped up the top with stray blueberries. After strategically placing some crumbs, Jeff took a few shots and ta-da, we had our picture. Our ugly duckling came through.

blueberry-stiltsI will never look at or eat a blueberry muffin the same way again.