With Aikman-Smith’s culinary expertise and Pearson’s sumptuous imagery, it took the duo only six months to produce the book, working at Pearson’s home studio in Ojai, California. Farmers have grown citrus in the Ojai Valley since the 1880s, so inspiration came easily. Pearson’s studio is flooded with natural light and outfitted with a kitchen that would make any cook sing. Her property is also surrounded by organic orange groves, and the seductive smell
of orange blossoms fills the air every spring. Her own citrus grove with orange, grapefruit, kumquat, pomelo and lemon trees is just steps away, making it easy to pluck a fresh, juicy orange off a tree or to snip sprigs of rosemary from a nearby bush.
These fresh, foraged ingredients create a bounty that is as gorgeous on the page as it is on the plate which isn’t surprising coming from a team who has created visuals for Williams-Sonoma, Food & Wine and Bon Appetit magazine, among others. The book was really born out of necessity, explains Pearson. I had so much fruit that I called Val to ask her if she knew of any good citrus cookbooks. She didn’t. But Aikman-Smith quickly offered up a solution: Why don’t we write one?
Beyond the recipes, the book celebrates a farm-to-table ethos to remind readers of the larger cycle of life a nod to mindfulness as practiced by the Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. Says Pearson, There’s a beautiful simplicity to nature that we wanted to convey. Think about it: An orange starts out as a flower that gets pollinated by a bee, and then the sunshine and the rain allow it to grow into this wonderful, fragrant fruit. So the next time you are about to eat an orange, do as Aikman-Smith writes in the book’s introduction: Take the time to peel it with care. Smell the fragrance…and then enjoy every last bite.