Lily Diamond had a problem. After she started her blog in response to her friends’ constant requests for her cooking methods, she realized she didn’t actually know how to share the information in a way that would be useful to other people. “I didn’t use recipes,” said Diamond, the proprietor of the popular Kale & Caramel, which launched in 2012. But it didn’t take long for her to adapt. Over the past five years, Diamond has learned to publish stories and practical advice about how to live a well-balanced, tasty, nutritious, and joyous life via the words and images she crafts. Her Instagram, which has over 50,000 followers, has also been a main driver.
Now, her popular blog is also the title of a recent book, Kale & Caramel: Recipes for Body, Heart, and Table, a practical vegetarian cookbook and DIY manual that includes much of the content that made her online brand such a popular destination in the first place: healthful recipes, accompanied with wellness and beauty tips—the mechanics of how to cook and whip up homemade skincare goods and other skills Diamond first learned from her mother.
She was 24 in 2008 when her mother, an aromatherapist and herbalist who was originally from South Bend, Indiana, passed away from cancer. Diamond’s interest in using plants for healing began with her mother, and she continued to turn to that wisdom. Now 33, Diamond calls her blog and cookbook “a coming of age story of losing a parent” to process and recover from her deep, personal loss.
Diamond, whose website includes inspiring, body-positive narratives, found plenty of inner and outer nourishment while growing up in Hawaii, where she was raised by two unconventional Jewish parents. “In terms of my pagan heart and connection with nature, I had that on Maui in spades,” she said.
Diamond’s relationship to Judaism, and its eventual impact on her worldview and lifestyle, began to unfurl when she left home. And when it did happen, the experience was profound. A 2005 graduate of Yale, Diamond attended a private high school she described as “technically Episcopalian,” a place where religious instruction was mostly limited to someone strumming along to hymns on an acoustic guitar. It was in was within Yale’s Gothic architecture in New Haven that she finally felt what it was like to be “with people who are like me in terms of my cultural background.”
At Yale, Diamond started to regularly attend events at the Slifka Center, the campus Hillel house. Through a friend whose parents were both rabbis, Diamond was able to connect with Judaism more purposefully. Even though her parents eschewed organized religion, her family always celebrated Hanukkah and Passover, sometimes alone or with a very small circle of friends.
After college she lived in Michigan, back home in Maui, and then in San Francisco for a few years, working as a freelance copywriter and editor. Then, in the summer of 2013, she moved to Los Angeles, where she remains. A lifelong fiction writer, she’s explored screenwriting. More importantly, however, L.A. has proved an ideal base from which to develop Kale & Caramel. Many of her food photos are carefully styled to give off that perfectly rustic glow, and yet Diamond’s artful casualness feels earnest and real compared to other lifestyle mavens’ strained contrivance.
A creative writing fellowship at the Yiddish Book Center last year also proved personally and artistically fruitful. Seminars and peer discussions led to “locating my own sense of how my writing comes from a place of Jewishness even in ways I might not know,” Diamond explained. Those few days in Western Massachusetts even helped yield new recipes, such as one titled, “Emily Dickinson’s red wine plum compote with chamomile vanilla bean cream recipe.” (See also: cucumber mint cooler, inspired by morning rain in Amherst.)
As for making a living from blogging and launching her own media brand, Diamond fell into it like she does most things: naturally and by instinct. “My parents had their own business and I grew up watching them be scrappy entrepreneurs and dedicate all their life and time to it,” she said of the natural beauty product company they founded and eventually sold.
Creativity always feels close at hand, whether in the kitchen or in front of the page. She counts among her relatives an aunt who is both a recognized poet in Canada and a full-time private investigator. “I have a bunch of eclectic literary women in my family,” Diamond said. It’s a tradition she fully intends to carry on.
I am grateful for you. I am grateful for the breath that means we are part of the same family. I am grateful for this earth that we are still learning how to live with, how to nurture, how to learn from. I am grateful for the state motto I grew up with in Hawai’i: Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘āina i ka pono, may the life of the land be perpetuated in righteousness. I am grateful for these days of light and darkness, for the reminder that all things need nurturing, contraction, and expansion to grow. May we continue to remember. (📷: @chadcallaghan)
A post shared by Lily Diamond | Kale & Caramel (@kaleandcaramel) on Nov 21, 2015 at 2:54pm PST
Jessica Ritz is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.