I had a request for fish and chips, which I make occasionally, and since the day was dreary and cold fried food seemed a fitting repast. I don’t do this sort of thing often, since frying is a pain in my ass and makes a big mess (in addition to being unhealthy). On the plus side, it tastes good and best of all it allows me to pour oil all over my table when I take pictures of the finished dinner. You know, for ambiance.
Well, that felt good. I was overdue for a tirade, I guess. If I had any savvy I’d rave like that all the time, since those posts (see the “best of” page for all you newcomers) always get mad traffic.
I forgot to mention that a contributing factor to the blogstipation around here has been a matter of simple laziness; since I’m out at least once a week shooting pictures, my tripod, light stand, and other gear tend to stay in the car. So when dinner time rolls around, the prospect of going out to get them and set them up in time to shoot a plate of food seems like too much work. Come summer, this will all be moot in the abundant natural light, but for now it represents an obstacle, if a silly one. I did, however, want to show off this new bowl—part of my first ever firing in a wood kiln.
I don’t read a lot of food blogs. In fact, I read fewer now than I ever have. This has come about for several reasons. Though I have spent many thousands of hours in museums and galleries, I find that when I’m working on a painting I don’t want to look at other people’s images. They break my concentration and interrupt that precious state of intense yet calm focus which is the desired mode in the studio. As I write more (and blog less, ironically, though that may change soon) I find a similar disruption attends too much reading of other people’s words. Photography, which I have been doing a whole lot of lately, is somewhat different; I got a big pile of cookbooks in December—some of which I want to write about—and I pored over all of them to pick apart the pictures for technical tips.
There’s a certain look to the books I like, and it tends to involve pictures of the food with very little in the way of props. Other books, especially those aimed at a wider audience, tend to be more visually noisy and overstyled. Recently, that overdone look has become epidemic in food blogs as everyone tries to get their numbers ever higher. I’m not a great photographer, but I have become a decent one. And I have done so not on the strength of my styling or the depth of my prop collection, but through my attention to light and how it can be captured, controlled, reflected, and finagled to flatter a plate of food or the act of preparing one.
I’ll be on WPKN radio in Bridgeport, Connecticut tomorrow morning at 9:15, talking about regional spirits and drinks for holiday gift-giving and numbing the anguish of spending extended time with family. Down below there’s a list of links to producers I will likely mention.
Going back to 2008, I have made 10-course extravaganzas for Thanksgiving: balls-out, unfettered freestyling wherein my imagination runs wild and my skills try their best to realize the perfervid visions and tie it all together. They’re all documented here on the blog, including the one that won me a trip to France. I have enjoyed cooking every one of them. But this year I wasn’t feeling it, so I took it easy. No manic list-making, no frantic days of prep beforehand, no careful curation of the trajectory from course to course. I bought a goose, and I used the homegrown produce on hand to round it out into a meal.
This summer, a farmer I know had a box of these little plums on sale. They made for good fresh eating, but their size and rusty purple color made me think instantly of umeboshi. They’re not the same fruit—ume plums are more like apricots, and are picked yellow-green and not fully ripe—but I figured it would be worth giving them the same treatment.
Sometimes a meal just comes together, like George Peppard’s plans always did on the A-Team. This almost always happens as a result of careful listening to what the garden, fridge, and pantry have to say. Ignore them at your peril.