Knowing me, knowing you - Elisabeth Luard and Clare Richardson
A relationship under the microscope
Tuesday 24 January 2012
ELISABETH LUARD, 69, is an award-winning food writer and broadcaster. Her books include European Peasant Cookery and The Latin American Kitchen. She lives in Wales.
I met Claire about five years ago when she came over to take a photo of me in my vegetable garden. She lived very close to me – at least by Welsh standards – about an hour and a bit over the hill. She had just done a show at White Cube and had run away from the London rat race. I told her to come over every month to take photographs of what's in the kitchen and what's round the back. She said: "I don't do food." I said: "I know you don't, but it's very easy. Just come and photograph whatever it is I'm cooking, we'll eat it and then you can go home again." The result was my book, A Cook's Year in a Welsh Farmhouse and we've been working together since. We're currently working on another book. We get on really well, I think perhaps because I am of the Sixties generation and she has that feel to her: rather gentle, funny, quirky, intelligent and looking at the world in a different way.
When we met she didn't have a man in her life, and now she does, as well as two fantastic babies, they come over and it can create havoc. I feel like I've been through a rather important part of her life with her. Now we're entirely comfortable together. She's a vegetarian and I had to be very conscious of that when we were working together. I still cook meat but I think it taught me quite a bit about vegetarianism. She very much enhances my life. I suppose we feed into each other's lives. There's a real exchange there. I suppose that's why we like each other.
CLARE RICHARDSON, 39, is a photographer and artist. After assisting photographers such as Rankin, she has gone on to exhibit her own work at the Victoria and Albert Museum, White Cube and the National Portrait Gallery. She lives and works in Carmarthenshire, south-west Wales.
Having worked with Elisabeth's daughter before, I heard about her mother, who lived on a hill a few miles north, and I had hoped to meet her. Then I got the job to photograph her for a newspaper feature. I had recently divorced and I was living on my own up this hill. It was an instant kinship. I had just divorced and Nicholas, her husband, had recently died.
She's very similar to my mum: no-nonsense and full of vitality and optimism. She doesn't have a lot of time for wallowing in things so she was a perfect tonic. Cooking for her is very much her anchor and therapy and we would spend hours in her kitchen and she gave me great encouragement.
I remember on my first visit to her house there was a bowl of beans and rice that I was trying to photograph and I moved one of her ceramics and the whole thing just fell apart. I was mortified but she just stuck it back together. She's very unprecious about things.
I became a mum in my mid- to late thirties and she was very helpful with that. I suppose she made me realise everything was still possible at a pretty bleak time. It can be quite overwhelming living on your own in such a remote area but she was doing it too and that gave me courage.
'A Cook's Year in a Welsh Farmhouse' by Elisabeth Luard is published by Bloomsbury (£25)
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