Published on 11 August 2021
By day, Lucy Tweed is a stylist of food, lifestyle and events. “And by night (and also by day) I’m also the HR manager of a family of five, 24-7.” The day job was built on nine years as an in-house stylist for Donna Hay, then in 2011 she went freelance, working for the likes of Gourmet Traveller, SBS Food and a host of big-name corporate clients, and hasn't looked back since.
Now her side-project, Every Night of the Week, has taken on a life of its own. What started as a “candid and earthy” exploration of her own cooking, all shot at her family home, became a place to post her "recipes" for people who don't do recipes, without clogging up her professional Instagram account.
Her Every Night posts are often concise to the point of being telegrammatic, and are occasionally a little sweary, but they’re also always real and straightforward, and their cheerful recklessness (and their out-and-out deliciousness) has struck a chord all over Australia and beyond, leading to – yes – Every Night of the Week, the book, which she wrote, photographed and styled all herself.
Here’s Lucy to tell you all about it.
I wrote Every Night of the Week in the same spirit as I post to my 'gram account. It fell haphazardly out of my mind between success and frustration and without any ﬁlter. Of course, I searched for a few most-loved recipes to satisfy everyone, but I listened hard to my heart, and what my tastebuds were hungry for.
Being able to shoot it myself came thanks to the support of some wonderful photographers who guided me through the process (I’m obviously no threat!), but it meant I could also work when the urge struck me, and come in on a day off or a weekend.
I had a support network, helping me stay on track and focused: likeminded, hardworking friends who came for the taste-testing and stayed for the washing up.
It was a strange process for me though; I’m so used to being provided a very concise shot list and ﬂat-lay plan of someone else’s book before shooting that I remember calling my publisher asking for this kind of guide. “What are the holes I should be ﬁlling?” I asked, frantic. "No, no!" she said. "You need to write the manuscript and then we turn it into a book."
It dawned on me then – early days – I was just luxuriously shooting anything I wanted and had no end in sight. I stayed back at the studio till midnight making my own ﬂat-lay all over the ﬂoor (the flat-lay is a diagram, basically, of what the pages of a story or a book will look like when it’s laid out). Then I got into counting chicken against ﬁsh recipes, putting more veg into the Monday chapter, and making sure I had at least one goddamn taco recipe on Tuesday. It was a great learning experience.
I will never do it again like this, but it was the perfect way for this one to unfold.
The pitch to the publisher was... Actually, my publisher rang me. Almost an exact year before the launch date. "So, you want to talk about your fourth baby?" I had a moment of panic. Three is my limit with kids. But talk we did. And we managed to turn it around in a year.
The main thing I learned writing it was that I process thoughts and emotions in two ways. I take them on loud and fast, with quick quips, exaggeration, and sarcasm, or I need to take them away and ponder them quietly to myself with no pressure. On the one hand, I like to ﬁnd playfulness in almost everything - it’s one of the only ways I can process life – but on the other hand, for me, so many dots get connected on their own when I take away the noise.
With this work, I was creating something that was totally mine, which is quite a different feeling to working on a commission piece for a client. This meant that I needed to activate both of my methods of working during the process, just as a reliable double check.
If you cook one thing from this book, it should be the Vegemite and Tabasco popcorn. It’s easy, and has everything my palate craves. It’s buttery, chewy, crisp, warm, salty, sour, tangy, spicy and can be eaten with your hands.
But I’d also love it if you tried the salt-and-pepper ling, the roast chicken on a corn trivet, all three saviour soups, the frittato, the basic biryani, and the Chocolate Thing.
If you’re a relatively new cook, give the drunken dumplings a try. You’re basically assembling store-bought ﬂavours into a bowl of ultimately satisfying, slurpable, saucy noodles. You can even sub out the chicken for roasted, and mix and match whatever veg you want. It really can be trumped or slumped in any way you see ﬁt.
If you’re looking to extend yourself a bit more, meanwhile, head to the Saturday chapter – things stretch out a bit here. Make the ribs and chase them with the coconut meringues. It’s not about difﬁculty, but patience… and ultimate deliciousness.
When I’m weighing up buying a cookbook or a book about food for myself, I look for the ones that seem like they brought joy to the writer.
The books I refer to most often when I’m cooking are the blue and yellow River Café books, Nigel Slater’s Real Food, and Neil Perry’s The Food I Love. There’s something so relaxed and passionate about all of these. Whether it’s the produce, the cravings, or the beauty, these three (or four) completely embody everything I enjoy about food.
When you’ve ﬁnished reading Every Night of the Week, I hope you’ll have laughed a lot and been inspired to cook something new or again. All these recipes are interpretations of experiences and memories. I haven’t carved a new method or developed a new concept, I’ve just shared with you recipes and stories that have made me happy.
There’s a few trade secrets in there of course, which if I’m honest, might be the most valuable part of this book. That and the permission-slip to ad-lib all recipes and listen to your tongue the most.
Lucy Tweed’s Every Night of the Week ($35, Murdoch Books), is available now.
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