food history

A picture is worth a thousand bites

Food photography. It can be a love hate sort of deal. Why are people taking photos of their meal? is a common refrain.

As a chef, a photo of a meal can serve a multitude of purposes – as an example of how you’d like your meal plated so those replicating know exactly what goes where; it can be a testament or bragging rights to your skill i.e. look at what I made and how beautiful it is, or just a record of those moments throughout your culinary career and the plating trends of the moment.

As a diner, a photo of your meal is a moment in time. A first date, an anniversary or a birthday.  Or just because. And the meal was really pretty.

As a blogger if can be a mixture of desires – please enjoy my food and join me in my memories, my daily life and my creativity.

Here are some of my favourite images from the blog:

Food is such a party of our day to day life. For some, a chore, others a delight, whereas for some it doesn’t matter either way. Long before cameras though, food was recorded as still lives in their own right or as props in paintings. They showed us how people of that time ate, what was popular and which people and their status and standing in society could afford to eat. The first social media share of your meal would’ve been an art display or gallery. Think about it 😉

When I read a recipe for inspiration I look not at the ingredients but to the photo’s. It’s like a fashion magazine – an outfit without much hanger appeal suddenly comes to life on a real person in an everyday or even exotic setting. Get the ingredients right and show them to the world and suddenly you’re intrigued. Excited even. Perhaps surreptitiously wiping the drool off the photo page.

Here are some of my fav pics off pinterest that I use as inspiration:

Food photograph is an invitation to an experience. Setting the scene, creating a moment invites you to create your own culinary moments. If you are going to make a cake, why not enjoy all aspects of your creation, from the visual splendor to the wonderful moment your mouth wraps around that spoon and the flavour floods your mouth.

Creating a blog about food and photographing my efforts has changed my experience of creating meals at home. My partner works nights so it is usually dinner for one in this house with his portion left on a plate for later. Not exactly incentive for experimenting and making it look good. But suddenly with an audience I put care in. Sure I could do it just for me but I’m not going to lie. At home I get a little lazy after a day at work. After at least eight hours of putting all my attention into making food look good it get’s a little sloppy when its dinner for one. But put a camera in my hand and suddenly the journey of the ingredients to the plate is something worth putting effort into. Weekly catch ups with family and friends where we swap who cooks dinner and dessert also provides a chance to expand my audience and have some fun.

My favourite photos to take and gaze over though are the ones that tell a story. From ingredient to finished product I love to see the method, the messy bowls, the spoon dug into the dish, the fork wrapped in spaghetti, where I can almost reach my hand into the page and take a bite.

I also love retro food photos that remind me how far food has come. So many chefs love to look back to the 80’s and the gelatinous, brown concoctions that graced the pages of home cookbooks. Sure there were the superstars of the professional kitchens that could elevate these lesser moments of food trends but for the day to day household cooking there were some doozies. But this is the fun of food photo’s. This is itself tells a story of what was happening at the time. What technology we had at hand, what type of utensil people used and the variety of foods available for us.

Some examples of retro (and questionable) food items:

 

Without food photos we couldn’t share in the pure pleasure and delight that is eating something fantastic. Or laugh at the horrible fails. So next time you wonder why on earth someone is taking a photo of their meal just smile and wonder what we will think of these dishes in 10, 20, 5o years time. It may be a head shake like double denim or perhaps it will be remembered as the meal where romance was born or happiness abounded. Either way, I’d want to capture that.

 

 

Sometimes you just gotta roll with it

Roll with it 8x10 full

I’ll admit it, I am a sporadic blogger. Sometimes the ideas just aren’t there. So of course that for me began to beg the question, why write at all? What do you want to say? What would you like to share? When I read something wherein the author shares a glimpse of a truth, a speckle of an idea of what inspires them, what they would like you to consider I treasure that book and share it.

So that is why I write. To share my observations about food. Which begs the next question, why food? It is a question I have pondered and played with and at the end of the day the answer is simply, nothing excites me more. I love to dance, to sew, to paint, to draw, to write. But put some food in my hand and ask me to create something and I am transported. Perhaps it is because all of my body is involved when I get to cook something. My fingers can caress an ingredient, my nose is filled with the delicious wafts of whatever is simmering or baking, my ears can hear the sizzle as an ingredient hits a hot pan and my mouth gets to relish the end result. Truly for me this is where the magic happens.

Food in my household was always fresh, always interesting and always lovingly prepared. My grandparents had chickens who I used to bug and upset when I collected their eggs and a vegetable garden I podded peas out of. My dad’s garden was filled with seedlings in spring and boy did I know he was angry, especially when I stamped over them carelessly when playing in the yard. Summer brought about tomatoes and zucchini, beans strung up high and winter saw broccoli and cauliflower bursting forth. Biscuits used to bake every other day or a simple cake, pasta was homemade and my brother and I used to love to help mum make sugo or ragu to freeze for sauce. It is little wonder that when the time came to create my life beyond high school I chose to work with food.

collage

 

I have often toyed with the idea of what else after an exhausting day, another small burn or another party missed. The answer is always clear. Nothing else will do. I admire all the head chefs I have worked with. Their desire to create menu’s that inspire, excite and tantalize. To lead a team of others in a common goal of serving the best food they can in the best way they see. For me though, the allure of sharing my love of food resides in teaching others how to create and enjoy food in their own home. I love watching people cook something for the first time and enjoy it. I know that some people have had awful food experiences that have put them off cooking or certain foods. These unfortunate events shouldn’t stand in the way of enjoying cooking and eating food in my opinion.

I’ll always remember one of my brother’s commenting that the reason he learnt to cook as we used to create family meals together, is that he held in regard the idea that if he is to eat, he may as eat well. My dad was very much the same. He came from a less than luxurious upbringing,  WW2 being the background to his early childhood (I had a much older father by the time I was born, he was born in 1936) and good food was scarce, so what he did have was appreciated. Growing up it was no big deal for dad to come home with a tray of peaches or a roll of salami, explaining ‘I couldn’t help myself, it just looked too good’.

Food, with patience and someone to guide you can become something you enjoy, not despise. One of my sister in-laws never ate oysters but with a with a willingness to give it a go and enjoying ones that were fresh she has grown to love them. As an apprentice there were many food I didn’t really enjoy or want to taste but I did, to educate my palate. As a child I hated peas but as an adult I don’t push them to the side on my plate. Cauliflower used to horrify me but now I know to keep it slightly crunchy when I boil it and it’s much more pleasurable. Food has so much to offer if you can give yourself the opportunity to try. So really, in the end, you just gotta roll with it.

As you can see, there are many factors that have lent themselves to not only my appreciation but my love of food. It’s place in history as the sign of wealth, to the traditions of a culture to mark a special occasion, food has long been a part of life and this in turn inspires me to seek more, cook more and enjoy more. I hope that the food I share with you and my thoughts and ideas in turn inspire you to pick up a spoon and bowl or a knife and board and get cooking. If you would like to learn more about any particular food or see a recipe featured here please let me know. Happy cooking!

IMOK_colllage eat asia

A penne for your thoughts

Pinterest Pasta

 

 

I’ll admit it, I’m a food nerd. I love learning the background of food names, history and the whys of food preparation. The names of pasta and their meanings has always amused me with their logical translation. More often than not the words are just simple meanings such as snail or butterfly but something about the romance of Italian language transforms cute “little ears” into “Orrechiette”, rolling off the tongue, sounding both exotic and inviting.

What fascinates me about food is how it transcends language to be an invitation to an experience. From simple to sublime food can be the means to express your love for someone, the joy of a party and celebration, the upholding of traditions or just an honouring of your body through feeding it delicious items.

Food history is full of anecdotes and stories of the origin of dishes, their names and their place at the dining table. Out of interest I recently looked up the translation for Strozzapreti, a twisty short pasta that is a favourite of mine. Here is what I found care of Wikipedia:

Origin of name (original source Wikipedia)

“There are several legends to explain the name.

One is that gluttonous priests were so enthralled by the savoury pasta that they ate too quickly and choked themselves, sometimes to death. Another explanation involves the “azdora” (“housewife” in the Romagna’s dialect), who “chokes” the dough strips to make the strozzapreti: “… in that particular moment you would presume that the azdora would express such a rage (perhaps triggered by the misery and difficulties of her life) to be able to strangle a priest!” Another legend goes that wives would customarily make the pasta for churchmen as partial payment for land rents (In Romagna, the Catholic Church had extensive land properties rented to farmers), and their husbands would be angered enough by the venal priests eating their wives’ food to wish the priests would choke as they stuffed their mouth with it. The name surely reflects the diffuse anticlericalism of the people of Romagna and Tuscany.”

 

strozz pasta

I love the passion, the drama and the imagery this simple name evokes. You can almost imagine an angry Italian housewife up to her elbows in flour and rolling out the pasta cursing the priest that was to dine on it soon. The fun of pasta names doesn’t stop there, below is a list sampled from http://garrubbo.com/pasta/ :

Farfalle: Butterfly-from the wing shape of the pasta

farfalle

 

Orrechiette: Little ears – from the shell shape of the pasta akin to the curve of an ear

orrichiette

 

Cappellini: Thin hair – from the thin strands resembles long strands of hair

capellidangelolr6

 

Penne: Pen (quilled pen nub)from the angled shape of the tube ends

penne

Conchiglie:  Shell – from their sea shell appearance

conchieggle

 

Lumaconi: Snails – from the bent tube shape pinched at one end like a snail shelllumaconi

 

There are plenty more pasta types and translations clearly highlighting the Italians love affair with it!

Do you have any funny names for things? Has your family created a dish and christened it with its own name? My boyfriends family make a dish called green tuna.. I have yet to dine on this but it is an early family favourite despite the interesting name. Do you have any favourite words for food or interesting recipe history to share? Let me know, I’d love to hear them all 🙂

Buon Appetito