Leela Cyd is a true gem– this Santa Barbara, California-based food, lifestyle and travel photographer is not only a talented artist, she is also an amazing momma to her babe, Izador Cosmo. A look at her Instagram gives you a glimpse of her sunny, playful & colorful world. Leela perfectly captures the imperfect beauty of daily life in her own photography, as well as the photography featured in her many books that she’s photographed and written. This past February, she released her book, Styling for Instagram, which gives readers expert advice on how to make the most out of your Instagram.
In 2017, Leela teamed up with Anne Parker, a Portland, Oregon based-prop, food and apparel stylist, as well as long-time friend, to write a mini-cookbook, Cooking Up Trouble. Cooking Up Trouble, is a compilation of recipes by different women created for women. Perfectly capturing what it is to be modern feminists, Leela & Anne strike a balance between doing good in the community and doing good for yourself. This collection of nourishing recipes is not only inspiring but also has stunning photography, as is to be expected when two such talented friends collaborate.
We took a moment to ask Leela a few questions about her life in California, pregnancy, being a momma, and Instagram– no filter necessary ✨
What’s your favorite part about living in Santa Barbara (CA)?
Santa Barbara is a wonderful home base. My favorite part of living in this small, coastal city is the proximity to nature (gorgeous beaches and parks) and the delicious Mexican food scene. Having a baby now I’m even more grateful for the fresh air and incredible scenery. We go out walking on a little path by the ocean every single day. Having the breeze, smells and calming sea right outside my door has been a huge resource to me as a parent. It helps reset the day so, so much.
How has becoming a momma changed your cooking routine?
My cooking routine has changed entirely since becoming a parent. I used to muse at 5pm or even 6pm each night, “What do I feel like?” and set out to make just that. Now it’s all about preparing food ahead of time and reheating it for our family dinner– maybe adding a quick salad and blueberries to make it into a baby meal too. I make a lot of simple vegetable and legume soups that get better after a day in the fridge. And slaw! Cabbage can sit in the fridge for a day or two and be fine. Also, a big pot of beans is a great go-to. We tuck them into tacos or mix in rice and salsa for an easy burrito bowl. I also like to have all of Izador’s favorite finger foods on hand, so that’s a new thing, keeping the fridge and pantry stocked at all times!
What’s your little one’s favorite food so far?
Izador Cosmo is 10 months old and LOVES to eat. He loves milk so much and starts giggling like crazy when he sees my boob, it’s really cute how much babies love milk. For food, he is a human hoover and LOVES sweet potato, avocado, cottage cheese, broccoli soup, bagels, salmon (the Jewish bubbe in me loves this about him!), mangos, bananas, yogurt and eggs. He’s very into these little pancakes I keep on hand at all times– they are made just from blending a banana with two eggs. I like them too, and snack on them with him.
What were your go-to nourishing foods during pregnancy? What are your food hacks post-pregnancy?
I didn’t have any specific cravings, just the need to eat A LOT. Before I was pregnant, I would sit down to a kale salad with an avocado, a handful of chickpeas and smattering of Parmesan cheese and sunflower seeds. During pregnancy I’d just double the quantity. I would eat two salads. Instead of 2 scrambled eggs, I’d eat three and a veggie sausage. I couldn’t believe all the food I could eat– I was constantly ravenous. With breastfeeding, I felt generally the same. Just the need for all the delicious whole foods I loved (slaw, soup, salads, beans, etc.) but so much more of them. I got really into platters of food in early days of nursing– think Mezze-style with lots of bits of cheese, dried fruits, olives and vegetables. I have kept those going sort of but now it’s more about large pots of soup, stew, curries, hearty salads and being happy to eat them at room temperature always adding a nice tear of fresh bread or avocado.
Did you experience cravings during pregnancy? If so, what were your cravings?
I did crave sour tastes. I got into kombucha and Kevita probiotic drinks. It was fun to be able to have a happy beverage that was non-alcoholic. I still am into these!
What makes a beautiful food photograph? What are the notes you try to hit when you’re capturing a shot?
For me, I love a beautiful use of movement and color in a food photograph. I like to feel something when I’m looking at an image of food– maybe it’s an emotional connection to the food, a story, a mood that the artist has created; there just has to be a hook! I love story-telling, so little clues the creator imbues always speak to me– that could be through a shadow, a crumb, a set design or even simplicity– it’s all good! When I’m making an image, I’m trying to juggle what the food looks like and how to best showcase its natural beauty, express the emotion of the food and the story I’m trying to project within the image.