Western North Carolina’s great Food Story: Edible Asheville

Food writing may be the last form of journalism that doesn’t divide us.  Obviously, people will take sides when it comes to Piedmont versus Western North Carolina barbecue or the most poetic preparation of Raviolo al Uovo or Shrimp and Grits for that matter. But then those are healthy divisions, the kind that somehow actually bring us together. And this because good food always reconnects us to the land and to each other. And good stories about food remind us of that connection.


“When the snow glistens on the mountaintops and the wood stove brightens the darkest corners of my home,” writes Edible Asheville Managing editor Jen Nathan Orris, “I turn to pasta for sustenance.”

Who doesn’t share that sentiment?  If not for pasta, those “layers of lasagna dotted with ricotta” she describes, then for some other soul-bolstering dish—say good old proletariat collards and black-eyed peas with plenty of Frank’s Hot Sauce and a fat goblet of Malbec?

This is what Edible Asheville does so well.  Their tagline— “The story of food and drink in Western North Carolina”—puts the narrative nature of food front and center. For a town and region that has such a white-hot culinary and bar scene, it would be easy for our local food magazine to just showcase the latest breweries and restaurants. But Edible Asheville reminds us of what really matters, which are the connections, traditions, and people behind the ladle. At times it feels almost like a conversation you’d have out on the porch on a June evening, remembering the past generations of farmers, foragers, and homesteaders, the agrarian culture that’s deeply rooted of these mountains.

One key is the editorial direction led by Jen Nathan Orris. For example, the winter 2018 issue dives deep into fresh pasta- and sauce-making not just as a window into some of our local culinary schools (The Farmer’s Hands) and beloved local restaurants (Vinnie’s) but as stories of time-honored traditions. The articles lean in the best direction — inward — finding the connections between Sunday gravy and “an effort to recapture a time that’s lost, when families came together every week to share stories and laughter and joy over a great meal.”

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The other key is the vibrant work of photo editor Erin Adams. She’s credited by Jen as with her ability to “take a kernel of an idea and turn it into a visual experience for readers” as well as her “incredible ability to capture beauty, from portraits to styled food shots and everything in between.”

As you can see from this brief interview, Erin is super modest, preferring to let her photos speak for themselves. But over the past several years, perhaps more than any other photographer in Asheville, she’s amassed a body of work that truly captures the visual story of the Asheville food scene, not to mention the people behind it, with powerful images of the chefs, homesteaders, brewers and teachers behind the scenes.

As with the written approach to Edible Asheville, you get the sense that the photography is a labor of love. Indeed, Erin mentioned, “It’s not about money. I just want to support the agriculture community here in this area.” 

Check out the Spring 2018 Edible Asheville on newsstands now.

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Q + A with Asheville Commercial Photographer Erin Adams

Meet Asheville Commercial Photographer Erin Adams

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Among leading creatives in Asheville you’ll find a certain pattern. They’ve grown up somewhere in the South. They’ve gone off to build their careers in LA or SF or NYC. And then something — be it family, friends, the opportunity to have studio space — pulls them to Asheville. And in this small town they find community support at a level that’s unheard of in a town this size (or maybe any size). 

Commercial photographer Erin Adams fits right in. She grew up in Savannah, then established herself as a commercial photographer in Los Angeles before moving to Asheville. “I'd sensed the strong community while visiting friends in Asheville, and [when I moved here] I felt it,” she explains. “I didn’t fully trust it in that initial time, but as I’ve lived here it’s proven itself to me time and time and time again. I’ve never lived anywhere that really cares this much about keeping a healthy sustainable community going, which is awesome.”

Erin took a few minutes out of her busy schedule (she was on her way to a shoot at Harmon Dairy) to answer a few questions. I learned quickly she’s not someone to get into elaborate discussions about her process or approach to work. Instead, she likes to let her images speak for themselves. 

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DM: How do you approach a shoot?

EA: The thing is, every shoot is totally different, though the first step is always listening to the client's story. You know, I was meeting with this catering company yesterday and I thought it was so endearing when they said, “you know, we have to charge the bigger markets — Raleigh, Atlanta — more so we can help the smaller Asheville folks.”  As a caterer, it costs her the same. But she quotes it differently because she has a heart. Things are changing so rapidly in this small town, with so many people visiting from afar, that businesses keeping services affordable for the locals who've called Asheville home before the hype is commendable.  And I’m that way in my business. 

But I hate talking about money. Because at the end of the day it’s not about money. 

DM: No. 

EA: Like today’s shoot. I just want to support the agriculture community here in this area. 

DM: It’s about the relationships, isn’t it? 

EA: Yeah. I mean, if we can all just support each other and do what it is we do well…

DM: Do you see yourself staying here? Does Asheville really feel like home?

EA: Yeah, it’s home.  It is a beautiful place to call home and close to my family in Savannah and Charleston.

DM: Do you travel much for photography?

EA: The first year I lived here I went to LA a lot. And over the years I’ve assisted other photographers on some bigger shoots.  But I can’t think of anywhere exciting recently. I mean, I went to Spartanburg [laughs]. I guess we [my partner and I] don’t travel enough as we should as people with no kids. We are heading to Sun Valley, Idaho in July and planning a trip to Switzerland/Europe at the end of Summer. Not for work but will shoot for inspiration. Also, in the beginning stages of a book project that will take me near and far this coming year.

DM: What is the photographer scene like here in Asheville?

EA: To be honest I only know a few other photographers here. I don’t feel we compete for work. When I see other photographers bidding or shooting similar jobs, I’m like, “good!”  Everyone has their strengths.

DM: What would you tell that young photographer, that college kid just starting out in the industry? 

EA: You can do it. You must have passion, patience. Be brave and don’t worry if your life doesn’t look like everyone else’s around you. But you must have passion. It’s not easy. It’s not “the norm” per se. 

DM: What’s not the norm?

EA: Just not always being able to feel secure but having faith that you are secure in what you’re doing. And trusting in yourself, trusting that your goals will be achieved: that’s where the demanding work comes in. So, I would say, good luck! You can do it! And relationships are worth more than anything else. 

DM:  What do you like to do when you’re not working? 

EA: I don’t know what I do with my time [smiles]. I don’t watch TV. I don’t troll the internet much.  I read the news and I work. That is the thing about being a photographer that is less glamorous, hours at the computer editing. As soon as the weather warms up I'll be out hiking with my dogs...can't wait for that.

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