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Having just read this feature on the Guardian’s Word of Mouth Food Blog, it has set me thinking about why I take photos of my food. I have been photographing my food since pretty much the first day I had my very first digital camera, and through the joys of technology, I can show you one of the pictures from that very era which I have found from the deep, dark archive of my old LiveJournal! The date is July 14th 2005 and the location is the now defunct Marmalade on Beech Road in Chorlton and the dish was a surprise starter of radish & green bean salad with seared scallops (the surprise being that there weren’t actually any scallops!).
I can reliably report that within three days of this modest brasserie meal, Peter and I were dining in some style at El Bulli (and yes, I photographed every single of the 40 courses and not one person batted an eyelid), and not long after that, we were eating at The Fat Duck (17 courses) and again, I photographed everything. The Guardian article mentioned above says that Heston has banned cameras at The Fat Duck which I think is a great shame. Would I have remembered these once in a lifetime meals if I hadn’t taken any pictures? We have the menus as souvenirs but that’s not quite the same thing really.
So why do I photograph my food? I love to eat and I love to cook but I don’t like to forget. Peter is always amused that I can chart my way around a city or country by the restaurants I’ve been to and what I’ve eaten in them. Even with the best will (and memory) in the world, that’s not so easy to do so over a long period of time without either taking notes, recording a commentary or taking a quick photo and I know which I would find the least obtrusive, especially in the current days of excellent camera phones which are most inconspicuous and even (sometimes) cope with the terrible (or ‘atmospheric’, as they like to call it) lighting in most eateries. I love to photograph food that I’ve made, I do this as I am interested in food photography, because I am building up a substantial archive of food photos (which have come in very handy for a recent design job where I was able to use all my own pictures and not resort to library snaps), I do it because I like my food, I think it’s delicious and I like to have an aide-mémoire of what I’ve made, call it vanity if you wish – I’m guilty but very happy to keep photographing my food. The only place where I have been aware that photography was forbidden was in a tiny little sashimi restaurant at Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo where our friend Dave took us for a sashimi breakfast at 7am when we had finished exploring the greatest seafood market in the world. We queued for ages outside the little shoebox sized restaurant for the best sashimi I have ever eaten, I do remember it though, despite the lack of photographic evidence, but the experience would have been enhanced for me if I could look back on it and remember in full colour. If our visit to Japan had been in the days of the iPhone 4s with it’s excellent camera I would no doubt have been cheeky and risked a quick snap, but all I had was my ‘proper’ camera which would have been somewhat obvious!
I’ve never taken to the food photo sharing apps though, not sure why as they are aimed right at me. I share my pictures on Instagram, Flickr, Facebook and here in my blog, sometimes I write detailed reviews about the experience, sometimes it’s just the pictues with a description, but it all helps me to remember what I’ve had which in turn jogs my memory as to why I was there, who I was with, why we were there – was it a special occasion or just a ‘normal’ nosh? and that can’t be a bad thing surely?
Cartmel Village Shop, known by greedy people everywhere for it’s sticky toffee pudding. I’m not actually a great lover of STP, but their sauce is simply divine and so was the apple crumble, much lighter (ha ha) than the traditional STP. And if you believe it, there was actually a big plate of baklava too, but it didn’t make it to the table, and for that we can be grateful! We were happily eating and drinking from 1.30 to about 6.00! Looking forward to next year already!
We were taken here by friends for lunch on a very dull and drizzly day, one of those days where all you really want to do is stay inside reading or eating. The reading had palled a little by the time hunger set in so an offer of a ‘drive out’ was very tempting. We had been told about this restaurant previously and it was on our list to visit later in the week so we were eager to give it a go.
The menu for lunch was pleasingly short, I am always suspicious of overly long menus in places where you just know they only have a tiny kitchen and certainly not many staff on a quiet mid week lunch service.
We didn’t choose starters, opting for some soda bread to fill a gap and to keep us from fading away. And very nice it was too, two warm slices each with lots of nice golden butter made even tastier by a twist of sea salt from the grinder on the table.
I had the Fish Stew, New Potatoes, Spinach, Tarragon £11 which was lovely. There were a few nice fat mussels, a couple of clams and some generous chunks of fish (I forgot to ask what they were), the spinach was very meaty and not so cooked that it reverted to wafer thin greeness as often happens. The potatoes were perhaps a bit too waxy and a little hard, but the saffron coloured slightly creamy sauce was very nice. There wasn’t too much of it, so not really a casserole more a well sauced serving really, it was a very crabby and lobsterish taste to the sauce with a bit of that slight grittiness you sometimes get with rich seafood sauces. Very nice indeed and a good portion size for lunch.
Peter wanted a pudding and as usual I ordered a spoon. There were only three puds available and he chose the rather unseasonal rhubarb crumble. Not unseasonal because of the ingredients, but unseasonal as I really didn’t expect us to be eating crumble by the seaside in the last week of June! I’m no connoisseur of crumbles and this looked a bit odd to me, a bit of a splat of pale and green with a slim coating of custard. But it actually tasted delicious, just the right mix of sweet and sour, the crumble topping was less crumble than solid, but was lovely and crispy and sugary. I even liked the custard which is something you’ll not find me saying very often.
All in all, a very enjoyable lunch at a lovely place with good friends, good service and lousy weather.