Sunday, January 13, 2013

Art Riddled Day at the Fango Mango

Back in my hometown yesterday, I received a special invitation from one of my favorite friend families to come and join them for an afternoon of art making and food. Now this is no ordinary trio. Leslie, one of my closest friends who has that uncanny ability to make me feel and act twelve again whenever I am around her, is the brilliant mastermind behind Tea With Iris. Her company, inspired by her pet turtle Iris, is all about taking life slow and reusing materials and upcycling fabrics to make clothes, house wares, jewelry, purses and a variety of other DIY-chic groovy things in her back yard studio that faces a desert garden full of herbs and greens. Her husband Tim, also equipped with a lovely Peter Pan-esque joie de vivre, is a noted artist whose conceptual pieces in bronze and other fabricated materials evoke an utter love and passion for life and constant reflection. Their daughter Elle is a hipster in slippers, already knowledgeable about farming her own food and inspired by cooking and painting. As a matter of fact, a tray of Meyer lemon peels fresh from drying in the oven, sat cooling on a counter when I arrived as Elle explained that she had been juicing tons of freshly plucked fruit just the day before. Nothing goes to waste in this household.

She also told me that her kitchen restaurant called Fango Mango was now open, and with apron on and order-taking pad in hand, asked what she could do for me. I handed over a bag of Satsuma tangerines and a voluptuous butternut squash from the Cute Gardener’s back yard and said, “Let’s make something!”

To take advantage of the crisp and cold arid desert climes underneath a lemon yellow sun in the backyard, we decided to make the meal simple and healthy, as pre-fuel for an afternoon of painting. We split the squash in two lengthwise and roasted it in a 400-degree oven for about 40 minutes until it blistered and the skin peeled naturally off. Then we put the flesh into a blender and poured in a cup of heavy cream and stripped five sprigs of fresh thyme into the mix before pureeing the soup. A thin baguette was heated in the oven and then quartered for dipping into the soup. Elle made a nice plate of mango and avocado, peppery salad dotted with tiny slivers of cucumber to accompany our meal. Some red wine for the adults topped off the outdoor lunch as I recalled how much I loved looking at the Santa Rosa Mountains in the middle of a bright winter day.

Afterwards, we each got to work on one of our own art projects while Big Audio Dynamite Pandora spun on the laptop. Leslie worked on a new series of coasters for her company made out of vintage book illustrations, used CDs and felt. I worked on a small still life painting on cardboard for a large, overall art piece in progress. Tim worked on two sculptural wall pieces, which will be going into a restaurant in Laguna Beach. And Elle painted small labels for her mother’s beet plants in the garden.

At the end of the day, to work off the creamy soup and clear our heads from the wine, Leslie and I rode old-fashioned bicycles up the mountain near her home. Thigh burn and giggles were the perfect way to end a whimsical day of creativity and play.

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