My partner works in a popular organic grocery store in Melbourne, where shopping baskets are filled with fermented foods, nutty rye breads, Bircher muesli and pungent cheeses. But this food wasn’t always seen to be appealing or as accessible in Australia.Growing up in Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs, it wasn’t that the area was white bred as such, but the lunchboxes seemed to be. While my classmates tucked into their white bread, I was unwrapping sandwiches so dense they weighed down my school bag – hefty slices of pumpernickel bread filled with salami, cheese and butter. It was what was to be expected of the child of Swiss and Austrian immigrants, but that didn’t mean it was seen as any less weird.
One morning a spelt pancake was transformed into a lion, and with that, the direction of Laleh Mohmedi’s life also changed. Whipping up breakfast for her young son Jacob, the Melbourne mum posted a photo of the arty creation to her Facebook page. Encouraged by her friends to start an Instagram account, Jacob’s Food Diaries was born.
The popular Instagram account now has over 64,000 followers, with even Jamie Oliver a fan of Laleh’s culinary masterpieces. Laleh spends between 10-45 minutes preparing each creation, depending on the meal and complexity of the character she’s making. Fortunately she has a little helper on hand. “Jacob loves getting involved in the kitchen,” Laleh says. “It’s our time together.” Not only are these meals colourful, they’re also healthy, with Laleh using lots of veggies and other natural ingredients such as chia seeds and buckwheat.
Although inspiration for her creations can come from topical events (such as tributes to David Bowie and Muhammad Ali when they passed away), Laleh’s son does get a say in what he wants to see plated up. “Jacob will tell me which characters he would like me to make,” she explains. “These could be from a book, movie, toy or something that had caught his eye.”
Laleh has now created hundreds of picture perfect dishes, with a challenging assignment being her personal favourite. “My proudest creation would have to be Carl from Up—I just love Carl and I didn’t think I would be able to make him in 3D! Jacob’s favourite would have to be Goofy.”Laleh’s creative flair has been evident since she was a kid, with art class being her favourite in school. But she says you don’t need to be particularly artistic to make a meal your kids will adore. “I definitely encourage parents to try a bit of food art even if they are not creative,” she says. “Children don’t know any better—to them a stick figure is amazing! Jacob’s excitement from the first simple plate I made to the ones I make him now hasn’t changed.”
Jacob’s Food Diaries has turned into a burgeoning business. Laleh is now running food art workshops, having recently returned from Dubai where she ran a series of events. This new direction was not something she’d been anticipating when she started uploading photos to Instagram. “When I first opened the Jacob’s Food Diaries account it was purely to inspire other mothers to have some fun in the kitchen with healthy fresh produce,” Laleh recalls. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that it would become a full time business.”
First published on Kidspot.
Photo courtesy of Jacob’s Food Diaries.