Hobson’s egg….

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Hobson’s choice: Any egg you want as long as it’s this one. Henry Ford’s choice: Any egg you want as long as it’s hard boiled

Given the choice,  we humans will invariably choose to have a choice. The more extensive the list of choices may be, the more highly we regard that which is on offer. Not withstanding, that in this time of ours,  knowledge has never been so available and so easy to acquire it is remarkable that we still choose to make our choices without recourse to it. When the thick, leather bound allegorical wine list is placed on the table we will appear to carefully peruse the many pages which offer a catholic choice of bottles the contents of which we know, for the most part, absolutely nothing  but for their origin, vintage and price, yet, armed with this nominal information we will make an apparently measured choice whilst ignoring the possibility of asking the knowledgeable wine waiter for his or her thoughts on the subject which simple act might well prevent us from looking like that which we are about to effortlessly become. But, despite these regular pratfalls,  it cannot be said that we are not consistent in doggedly dusting ourselves down and continuing to make these hopelessly ill informed choices in each and every part of our lives ….divorce struggles with obesity which struggles with debt, each vying for supremacy in this field of expertise. Hobson and Henry Ford were highly successful with their choice methodology which never failed to provide takers with a horse or a car, maybe not exactly the one of which they had dreamed but then again they never imagined that their dream would come true…all they wanted was a choice, which is why bookmakers are very rich and we live in hope.

Next week: Morton’s Fork ….a practical view of cutlery and why you can’t always get what you want.

.

 

Posted in 2016, Bad Habits, Bad luck, Digital photography, Dreams, Emotion, Excellence, Expectation, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Good luck, Google, Humour, Illusion, Luck, Reality, Uncategorized, Wine, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

‘aving a larf..

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Fennel and carrots roasted in olive oil with cumin, sumac, lemon, pepper and salt

It is not unusual for children to dislike, and to take extreme steps to avoid, both vegetables and Shakespeare. I prefer vegetables to either children or Shakespeare which preference may well be blamed on their parallel and equally irritating proclivity to tell jokes that aren’t funny; it is rare for a child and non existent for Shakespeare to make me, in the words of the dictionary,  express mirth or pleasure with an involuntary audible vocal expulsion of air from the lungs that can range from a loud burst of sound to a series of quiet chuckles or, expressed more succinctly, bring tears to my eyes and make me spit out my drink. Rather, they elicit from us, in the case of children, a dutiful pastiche of laughter the exuberance of which will be calibrated to the closeness of the relationship between the child and the laughee whilst, in the case of Shakespeare, the counterfeit laughter will be accompanied by a supercilious smirk which will hopefully be noticed by other members of the audience who, it is hoped, will assume that you are clever little fucker or, depending on the quality of the smirk, a descendant of Marlowe….Christopher not Philip as Philip Marlowe didn’t laugh at anything..ever. It is interesting to note that many of us would find it offensive to be thought of as a vegetable or a child, assuming that we are not actually one of the latter, yet, unbelievably to me, would be flattered to be considered as rib ticklingly funny as Will the Jolly Japester.. although, I must admit, that even I found Hamlet  to be very funny indeed.

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Fun as that was, it’s time to turn our attention to the serious and taciturn vegetable, several species of which gave me a great deal of pleasure this weekend and I’m probably not alone in saying that. The roasted fennel and carrots in the opening picture were blindingly simple to prepare and played a supporting role to the main event that was an adaptation of a recipe from Elizabeth David’s “French Provincial Cooking”.

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Ms, David is suitably imprecise about quantities as this sort of food is not about precision. My version used less chorizo, more red peppers and no green peppers, red wine instead of white and so on. This is a dish of big powerful flavours that depends on tasting the dish continually as one cooks it preferably with a glass of wine in one hand, tasting spoon in the other and some good music playing in the background.

 

Posted in 2016, Cookery Writers, Cooking, Digital photography, Elizabeth David, fennel, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Herbs and Spices, Humour, onions, peppers, Photography, Recipes, Saucisses a la Navarrais, Uncategorized, Vegetables, wine, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

immaculate deception…….

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This white eggplant has a slightly unnerving beauty in that it appears artful rather than useful and, depending on the particular beholder’s eye through which we are beholding, either toxic or exotic. It just doesn’t declare itself. Looks aside, I have never been happy with the name “eggplant”; it has about it the ring of Toytown and, that being the case, I shall temporarily assume the character of Mr.Growser the Grocer, purveyor of eggplant, from his own egg trees, and resident curmudgeon of that town whose preferred judgement of all things that vex him, which accounts for most things, is that “they shouldn’t be allowed”. As chance would have it I was not yet born when the first series of Toytown was broadcast and, on the occasion of the second series in the late 50’s, I had reached that awkward age, too young for Lolita and too old for Mother Goose, so I missed that as well. There was apparently another series in the 70’s but I was unconscious for a large proportion of that decade; as for the rest of the time, I was just not paying attention. However, through a virtual revisit, I have become reacquainted with the place (Toytown) and it occurs to me that the principal characters, such as  Larry the Lamb, Denis the Dachshund (very European with a strong German accent but a good grip of English, save for some misunderstandings), Mr Mayor the Mayor and Mr Growser would not give better or worse advice than those currently elected, some self and some by ballot, to clarify our choices and to lead us to their particular promised lands, both of which are apparently filled with silk and money.

On the other hand I very much like les aubergines blanches .
Yours faithfully
Disgusted – Toytown:)

Posted in 2016, Art photography, aubergine, Childhood memories, Digital photography, Eggs, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, harmony, Photography, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Claude’s plums

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My love for Claude’s plums is a love which can indeed say its name and, should there be any doubt about that,  I shall be happy to shout it from the rooftops. I say this safe in the knowledge that I could shout anything that takes my fancy from our rooftop in the sure and certain knowledge that it would be unlikely to attract the attention of any sentient being with less  than four legs. The view taken by local upright bipeds is that when on a roof, shouting is the norm which is worth considering should shouting for help become a possibility as  it will  be recognised as no more than normal roof shouting and of no particular import. Best to stuff one of Claude’s finest in your gob and fall politely and noiselessly to your doom which cautionary tale clearly defines the downside of not speaking with a plum in your mouth. Plums are so often a disappointment; they flatter to deceive and red plums are at the apogee of this deception. How often have I bought a pile of ripe, red plums only to find, at the first hungry unwashed bite, that the hoped for nectar of  plum sweetness was replaced by a soft vegetal texture with sour notes. Engraved in my mind are the luscious memories of the moment of biting into a dribblingly sweet ripe Victoria plum or an intensely flavoured almond shaped deep purple damson but these memories live in too close a proximity to those legions of less happy moments when the too brown, too soft, near rotten plum is popped int0 the unwary mouth producing a near perfect test of the gag reflex. However, up to this point, I have not experienced this disillusionment with a Reine Claude, la bonne reine, or, if I have,  that memory or, heaven forbid, those memories have been thoroughly expunged from the recesses of my mind.  The recollection that I cherish is that of a neighbour paying me for some photography with a huge bowl of Reine Claudes and, as I recall, not a single one was a bad one. Certainly a memory to treasure which is the ideal purpose of any memory….. however untrue.

Posted in 2016, Childhood memories, Digital photography, Excellence, Expectation, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Fruit, Humour, Memory, Photography, Reine Claude, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

too Little too late….

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There was a time, not all that long ago, when quantity and quality were unlikely bedfellows. It would be rare indeed for them to be seen together, even just holding hands, let alone snuggled up together under the duvet where it would seem that they now spend most of their time making the two backed beast…both hard and soft covers. Quantity and quality are now an item. After years in the shadows they have sashayed from their closet screaming that they are remaindered, and proud of it. But above all, they are cheap, which word was once a pejorative and is now the grail. I speak of  the tsunami of books that has been created by the seismic upheaval created by the internet which has given us all the chance to be authors, diarists or journalists and by so doing has mightily augmented the creation of books whilst reducing their value  to that of  flotsam and jetsam. Luckily the internet has not yet encouraged us to be amateur surgeons or airline pilots. The upshot of this  may well not be politically correct but because of this surfeit and the consequent reduction in value, I can now buy, and indeed have just bought from that mighty on line river, a very good cookery book by one of my culinary icons for the sum of 1d…that’s one penny, one denarius, one pee or not a lot at all. The icon in question is Alastair Little, who is well worth a pee or two, but probably not directly after eating asparagus, and the book of which I speak is his “Italian Kitchen”, which was published in ’96, some years before Rush replaced Potato after Yukon Gold. In that era, Alastair, together with Rowley Leigh and Simon Hopkinson, formed a trinity of brilliant cooks (I dislike the word chef and have less and less respect for it) who were able to produce masterfully simple and flavour filled food without the need to pair obscure ingredients nor to decorate their dishes with smears, foams or other beastly goo gahs. I knew Alastair a little in the late 80’s when he was going up the mountain and I was beginning my dizzy slide down. At that time he prepared the food at the Zanzibar, an infamous Covent Garden watering hole, where we would talk of food and his plans to open a restaurant until the martinis brought gravity into play and I would fall off the bar stool. I still have a memory of him saying that he was a Bolton supporter, whatever that meant, and at those moments I could certainly have done with Bolton’s support myself.

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I used the book to make dinner last night which consisted of an asparagus risotto followed by a raspberry and frangipane tart. That which is impressive with his writing, as with his cooking, is the detail which is neither padding nor decoration. His advice that it would be a waste of time to make his recipe for asparagus risotto if one could not be bothered to make the recommended asparagus stock from vegetables and the asparagus peelings could easily have  appeared as overbearing and pedantic but in his  safe hands it read as good advice which I happily followed and because of it this butter rich risotto was packed with a sublime asparagus flavour, which simplicity is so often crushed by intemperate seasoning and over generosity with the Parmesan.

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Posted in 2016, Alistair Little, asparagus, Asparagus risotto, Cookery Writers, Cooking, Digital photography, Excellence, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, friendship, Humour, Martini, Parmesan, Photographic Prints, Photography, Recipes, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Strike over a lack of conductors…..

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French lightning conductor…..current model

The after effects of yesterday’s storm have been apocalyptic. I use the term advisedlyas, apart from the expected mayhem, it appears that the storm has temporarily bent various, previously immutable, physical laws to its will, of which more later. Electricity, water and ice contrived to flash, dash and crash from the heavens in a wilful demonstration of celestial spleen which revealed an unforeseen quality in our newly built préau, being that of a well perforated colander.Standing beneath the colander brought to mind how Hawkeye remained hidden from view, behind a waterfall, from Chingachgook’s Mohicans whilst a small fragment of my shattered sanity remembered that Hawkeye had been grateful for the fortunate presence of a waterfall whereas I was not; at that point there was a loud bang which suggested that I had been shot by one of the Mohicans, who, to be honest, I thought we had seen the last of, but the lack of cordite in the air led me to the fact that lightning had once again struck in the same place and had blown up my office. Ever the pessimist, how lucky was I to find that it had only grilled my computer, the telephone and the internet…hard to get luckier than that. My luck continued to such an extent that, as I reached hurriedly for the car keys on their wall hook, I was lucky enough to witness an example of either auto kinetics or a slight tilt in the earth’s axis as the keys fell from my grasp and landed, not neatly but with a fucking great splash, in the bowl of cat’s milk that I’m sure had not previouslybeen directly beneath them. Finding pessimism too depressing, even for such a curmudgeon as myself, I optimistically set off to the nearest large town to replace the frazzled router.The queue outside the ill named Orange (henceforth to be known as Orage) Boutique was very long indeed.Each of us in that Orage queue cradled a dead Livebox in our arms which, when alive, will serve as a conduit to the treasure trove that is the sum of man’s knowledge and when dead will not; rather it will act as a conduit to the darkest recesses of of our minds wherein abide the three imps of impatience, impotence and imprecation. As I stood there, deballed, the oh so nearly smiling Orage sales person advised our beleaguered line that there would be no more Liveboxes available until the end of the day…which information, it was clearly evident, was not a crowd pleaser leading her to hurriedly lock the Boutique’s portal as it looked as though the tumbrils might roll once more down la rue de la République……there maywell be trouble in store.

Posted in 2016, Digital photography, Photography, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

on a wing and a préau….

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The longing, in this month of April, for the warmth of summer is with me for an unseemly proportion of my waking and dreaming moments. A longing that has me limping along these final few furlongs of heavy going before winter, spring, or whatever this unseasonably cold period is called, finally does the decent thing and drops dead. I weary of daffodils; I need the sun, and when it arrives I shall hide from its glorious heat beneath our newly constructed (might be useful in a crossword) préau and drink chilled wine and eat delicious dishes such as artichauts à la greque with good bread to soak up the oil until both the sun and I, exhausted from a hard day’s shining and dining, will happily turn off and turn in. However, were this to be an ointment, in it there would be a very large fly. Indeed, as I conjure, legions of mosquitoes, wasps and other mordant beasts are currently nestled, nascent, in some dark place waiting for that very same sun to awake their determination to buzz, bite and generally do their damnedest to fuck up the idyllic long summer evenings of those very dreams. And that’s summer….bites, burns and sand in sandwiches ….with which I am so much happier than I am with the pinched faced cold of the other six months…yet without the aching anticipation, those longed for moments would lack their delectable savour….which brings me back to those artichauts à la greque..

Young purple artichokes,without chokes, quartered and peeled. Cooked in oil and water with aromatics.

Young purple artichokes,without chokes, quartered and peeled. Cooked in oil and water with aromatics.

Here is a précis of Elizabeth David’s recipe from “French Provincial Cooking”.

“To prepare the artichokes for cooking in this way have ready a bowl of water acidulated with lemon juice. Draw your sharpest knife through a lemon and rub the artichoke also with lemon. Cut off the stalk and hard leaves on the underside, then slice through the leaf part right down to the tip to the last but one row of leaves nearest the stalk. Holding the artichoke in your left hand rotate it while with the knife slanting towards you in your right hand you slice off the hard outer leaves until only the little tender pale green ones remain. Scoop out the choke ( le foin, the hay) with a little silver spoon. As each artichoke is ready throw it into the prepared bowl of water. Although it takes so long to describe it is really only a matter of a minute, especially after a little practice.

The fonds or hearts are now ready to be boiled, stewed, sauté in butter, stuffed, ect. To cook them à la greque first prepare a mixture of  1/2 pint of boiling water, a small coffee cup of olive oil, a sprig of thyme and a bayleaf, about 10 coriander seeds, a little salt and pepper, and the juice of half a small lemon. Bring this to the boil in a small saucepan, tall rather than wide. Put in the prepared artichoke hearts ( 4 for this quantity of liquid), and let them simmer steadily for 15 minutes. Leave them to cool in the liquid. Cut them in quarters when cold and serve them in a shallow dish with some of their liquid.”

I get a great deal of pleasure from reading her precise instructions on cooking something with which we are now so familiar, whilst reflecting that, at the time of writing, artichokes were a little known vegetable to the English publicand even good olive oil was not easy to find.

 

Posted in 2016, artichokes, Bay leaves, Cookery Writers, Cooking, Coriander, Cuisine bourgeoise, Digital photography, Dreams, Drinks, Elizabeth David, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Olive oil, Photographic Prints, Photography, Recipes, summer, Thyme, Uncategorized, Weather, wine, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

calling for Pink Lady votes…..

PINK LADY FOOD PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR 2016

Have a look at my short film, listed in the non documentary section of the People’s Vote for short films….here’s a link

http://www.pinkladyfoodphotographeroftheyear.com/unearthed-food-film/

….and please give me your vote…if you like it….which I’m sure you do…don’t you.

Posted in 2016, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France | Tagged , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

a taste as old as cold water….

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Lawrence Durrell’s precise metaphor is the clearest description of the taste of olives that I have ever heard or read. In truth, he was speaking of the wrinkly, black, salt cured olives whose flavour is as naked and unashamed as a new born and not at all that of the plump aromatically enhanced varieties which are more Kardashian than Kalamata. However, staying with the previously stated theme of truthfulness, I declare myself unashamedly in favour of flavour. Occasionally I catch a fleeting mental image reflected on a shard of a memory which has me enjoying those same black olives with a glass of retsina in the shade of a dark tree by blue sea but my more recent and tangible memories of them are ambivalent. Maybe a flavour as clear as that does not travel well…or at all. I have heard of asparagus fanciers who will take a small portable stove into the asparagus patch in order to cook and and enjoy the full unadulterated taste of the fresh stems before fugitive flavour begins its slowly accelerating dilution of that intended savour. It is said by those who have enjoyed the pleasure that the only echte truite bleue ( a grouping of words that goes some way to define a united Europe, if only gastronomically at this point) is the one cooked direct from the hook by the side of the gurgling chalk stream from which it has been presently plucked. There is to my mind another form of fugitive flavour which decrees that some foods, when eaten for the second time out of geographical or climatic context, fail to ignite the synapses with the remembered pleasure  and delight of that first mouthwatering experience.

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The olives in the pictures, which were harvested from the trees in our garden and preserved in our kitchen, have not as yet suffered from that particular concept or, more precisely, my pleasure in their flavour is that of the asparagus fancier crouched by his rows of thrusting asparagus….on reflection, a nerve wracking position that I do not have to assume when enjoying an olive maison.

Posted in 2016, Digital photography, Emotion, Expectation, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Garden, Humour, Mediterranean food, Memory, olives, Photographic Prints, Photography, photography course, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

never mock a turtle….

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Having been in it too many times, soup and I have seen the best and worst of each other. Soup follows us through the seven ages of our lives from the first toothless food experience of puréed baby food to the penultimate moments, when sans teeth once again, although dental implants will change that Shakespearean assertion, soup once more becomes the only option. During teenage years, when boarding school food was deemed intolerable, tins of Heinz Tomato Soup were, at times, my sole nourishment. Such soup had the quality of being able to be drunk cold directly from the jaggedly opened, pre ring pull tin whilst the violent red of the soup concealed, momentarily, the blood welling from the cut lip or tongue. Lunch with the parents in provincial hotels, on outings from school, provided an introduction to a paradox that would often feature in later life. That of apparently being offered a choice, in this case from the contents of an upholstered menu, yet noticing, as the BrownWindsor soup, that had been ordered on your behalf was placed ceremoniously before you, that this freedom has been subtly usurped which sleight of hand you will come to recognise as one of life’s leitmotifs. Soup served as my early alimentary atlas: minestrone from a packet was Italy, muligatawny was India, chicken noodle was China and onion soup was France…admittedly a limited atlas but at that time my palate was less enquiring than my genitals. I’m not entirely sure which souplike dish it was, a second helping of which Oliver Twist hungered, but a memory, a highly untrustworthy ally at this point in my life, leads me to believe it was “gruel”, a rare example of onomatopoeia in a noun defining a food stuff. There is indeed something cruel  in the grim fuel that is gruel. Among the many cookery books on my shelves there is a small book, reprinted from the 1877 original pamphlet, which is entitled:

A PLAIN

COOKERY BOOK

FOR THE

WORKING CLASSES

by CHARLES ELMÉ FRANCATELLI

…within whose pages are several recipes for gruel which show it to be a soup like dish consisting  of groats or oatmeal boiled in water. Sugar can be added for sweetness or butter and some sort of spirit for the savoury version. It is likely that the cook at Oliver Twist’s establishment was neither convinced of the need for any embellishment on the simple oats and water version nor concerned with the alleviation of hunger. Happily I have never been so hungry that I would relish such food, let alone a second helping, and for that I count myself extremely lucky…however, this is not a hunger awareness post, a need that is ably filled by the ever more extreme displays by a legion of “celebrities” without which, it would appear, the public conscience would not be pricked and which displays I consider to be the “gruel” of entertainment: something to be stoically endured, hopefully without a second helping. This post came about through my reflections on the qualities of truly flavoursome, yet straight forward bowl of vegetable soup that I produced from a handful of ingredients. When making soup I try not to forget Elizabeth David’s caveat – “….the soup pot cannot be treated as a dustbin……. the creative urge in the matter of embellishments is best kept under control.”

Posted in 2016, Childhood, Childhood memories, Cooking, Digital photography, Elizabeth David, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Humour, Photographic Prints, photography course, Photography holiday, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments