Aran is a Seattle-based, Basque Country born and raised, author, food stylist and photographer. Her work focuses on the emotional component of food and everyday life through visual stories.
We sat down with Aran for a chat about food, entertaining, and her secrets to enjoying her own dinner parties.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What drew you to cooking?
How do your Basque roots influence and inspire the recipes that you create?
There is an artistic element to what you create, and it strikes through that you deeply care about and love what you do. It feels like an expression of joy. How can we channel that energy during the most hectic season for hosting?
We all express creativity and joy through different activities. I love a party that feels collaborative and a bit of an orchestrated arrangement of talents. If you are having people over for the holidays, get them involved to help. For example, if someone in your family or group of friends loves to cook more than you, let them take the initiative. If you would rather focus on setting the table, then do that. Maybe have someone else in charge of music. Or you cook the entire thing and others clean up. Everyone loves to help and I think it makes for a more relaxed gathering.
Do you have a favorite memory related to cooking around the holiday season that you’d be willing to share with our readers?
What are three things every good gathering should have?
Number two, ambiance. This includes a relaxed table setting, music and lighting. Again, the setting doesn’t need to be fancy (in fact, fancy equals uptight in my book and that is the opposite of relaxed). But textures on a table are important. Mix linen, ceramic, metal, glass, vintage and new pieces and some branch clippings or floral element. Lighting is really important to me. I turn off overhead lighting and rely on side lamps, accent lights and candles to create a mood. Warm lighting please! And have a playlist that doesn’t interfere with the conversation.
Number three, conversation. It’s probably the most important of the three in my opinion. Think of some ways to engage your guests in conversation that is meaningful. I love to think of some questions ahead of time that I can throw around and it’s especially true if you are bringing people together that might have not known each other well.