The Big Red One…



Oh, that religious and political zealots were as sparse on the vine as good tomatoes were this August. Too much rain has taken its toll, leaving the scars of “maladie” on the marvellous misshapen fruit without which my cooking would be impoverished. How easy it is to relegate these cicatrised lumps to the compost. We spoiled inhabitants of peaceful lands , whose visual sensitivity has not as yet been depleted or exhausted by a daily confrontation with the horrors of men’s wickedness, are very sensitive to ugliness, mutilation and decay. Should the appearance of something displease us, our reaction is to turn away or to throw it away. A life as a studio photographer in London made me a standard bearer for such behaviour. A diet of perfection lacks any form of nourishment whilst simultaneously removing appetite although, on reflection, this might have had something to do with the drugs. My view has now changed and, having achieved my biblical quota, I am finding it easier to see beyond and beneath the skin which is opportune as these ugly buggers taste fantastic.

It is unusual, in our house, for a week to pass without a moment when a pot of tomato sauce is bubbling away on the hob. For a sauce as simple as this it should, by all rights, be wholly reliant on the quality of the ingredients used whereas, as long as tomatoes of some kind are employed, it will always be a success. Each tomato sauce that I make will differ in flavour, character and texture as I make it to the mood of the day and the available produce. Tomato sauce and measurements do not sit well together so the end result may depend on the heat of the chilies, that someone gifted me, the choice of olive oil,  the amount and quality of red wine, ground black pepper or a shake of white, a few grains of sugar for added sweetness, which herbs and, of course, which tomatoes. Tinned tomatoes, cherry, greenhouse, vine, cornu, marmande, coeur de boeuf, tomates de crimée, old, new, ugly or pretty tomatoes will all contribute their own individual nuances to this most well known and loved of all sauces ( except to haters of tomatoes who will have stopped reading some time ago). Sometimes, when time is on my side on a dark winter’s day, I will carefully chop and prepare carrots, celery and onion which are put into the covered pot to gently soften in olive oil. releasing their aromatic flavours before the chopped tomatoes are poured over them with the addition of red wine and more olive oil. When time is scarce, because the sun is beckoning me to sit outside with a glass, I’ll just chop fresh tomatoes and throw them into a pan with olive oil, salt and black pepper and let them cook for a very short time before stirring them into some pasta or just eating them with good bread and cheese.


The pleasure lies in the continuum….in knowing that I’ll not tire of this simple food… looking forward to making it again, and again, and again.


About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in 2014, Cooking, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Olive oil, pasta, Photography, photography course, sea salt, tomatoes, Uncategorized, Vegetables, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

60 Responses to The Big Red One…

  1. sabine says:

    even scar-faced tomatoes look good in your photos!

  2. discovervin says:

    Great post – Tomatoes are the taste of summer — and winter

  3. How did we ever manage without tomatoes???!!! Beautiful piece or should I say a beautiful ode! Perfect start to the day. Thank you!

  4. I agree wholeheartedly with this post. It’s such a waste with how much gets tossed aside. We miss out.

      • There is actually enough food grown now to feed everyone but because so much is thrown away people go hungry. It’s madness. Just purchased “Simply Fed” by the way. Gorgeous photos! I was also curious how a cookbook would work in an ebook format. The chocolate custard will definitely be tried. My husband loves that stuff!

      • Many thanks for that….I hope you enjoy it:)

      • Me too! 😊. I already see a few things I’d like to try. I have an idea for a cookbook bubbling in my head. I have the recipes but I need to continue to work on the photos. We replaced some lights in the kitchen this week and my camera reacts better so winter should be easier. I’d like to set up a light box as well.

      • A good thing to remember is NEVER use the kitchen lights….if you don’t have proper electronic flash with a soft box, only use daylight. Find a place by a North facing window and shoot with a tripod. The difference will be amazing.

      • I try to use natural daylight as much as possible. I use the north windows as well as the south windows in my kitchen. Problem is I’m often cooking dinner for the posts and in the winter it’s dark out. The bulbs we got are supposed to imitate the daylight. My flash is harsh so I don’t use it much but I need to figure out that aspect of it. And the tripod is a good tip as well. Thanks for your help!

      • It’s a problem. Don’t be fooled by daylight balanced light bulbs…they may have a similar colour temperature to daylight but they do not imitate daylight in any way. The secret of daylight is the directional source and its wrap around effect. I have similar problems in winter time…I just move my cooking to daylight hours. It’s easy for me as there are no young children or work schedules…it might be better to make your posts in concentrated sessions at the weekend.

      • I’ll have to see what I can do on the weekends to improve my chances of good light. Thank you for taking the time to help me. 🙂

      • I absolutely love your book. It’s a work of art. The composition is similar to what I want to do in that it’s not just a cookbook but it draws upon your interests and experiences which makes it uniquely yours. I thoroughly enjoy it.

      • That is so good to hear. I didn’t persevere with publishing as the whole process is too depressing. I enjoyed writing the book immensely and it’s an added pleasure when I hear that you’re enjoying it so much.

      • Shame the process is so difficult.

  5. The most misshapen of tomatoes often taste the sweetest – it’s as if they feel like they almost have something to make up for, though I wish they wouldn’t feel that way 🙂

  6. Mad Dog says:

    Great pictures Roger!
    I remember a grape shoot, where we had a studio full of wooden crates in order to find the very best bunch. The high spot of the day was watching the bunch, hanging upside down in the back of a Sinar 10X8, while the art director painstakingly tried to get each grapes to look perfect. It was very funny watching them fall off upwards and out of shot. The next day the studio was full of little fruit flies!
    Someone told me recently that the very best lemons are the most lumpy and out of shape ones 😉

  7. I love that you make a weekly sauce. I do too! Nothing beats a summer tomato.

  8. Boy, how I envy your for your great tasting tomatoes, even if they are ugly – but as you expressed it – it just makes us appreciate them even more, and it is certainly better to pay attention to them than all the crappy events of the world around us!

  9. margaret21 says:

    Oh, how I miss those boxes crammed with ugly specimens just begging to be transformed into sauces, stews and all things red. Doesn’t happen in the UK. Not here anyway.

  10. Jaleh Rose says:

    Loved it! It would make anyone enthusiastic about tomatoes…even those odd people who seem to be so averse to them.

  11. Amanda says:

    What a beautiful post. I love that you appreciate the beauty of the imperfections and the idea that pleasure lies in the continuum. Indeed, for as long as it lasts.

  12. Conor Bofin says:

    We were there in July and made some lovely sauces. The more misshapen the better in my view.

  13. I thought you may have written a story about my beard until you started talking about being “the standard bearer of perfection”… And then I realised my dreams were in fact not coming true and I should cry myself back to sleep… Again. 🙂

  14. platedujour says:

    Simple is always the best, especially when comes to flavours but not only. It’s in our nature to look for simple things, which make us happy, simple food, a smile, simple “have a nice day” or “you look great”. I think our lives could be much better if we all learnt how to appreciate simple things- like that taste of tomatoes, good bread, good pictures 🙂

  15. Wish we had tomatoes like that here.
    There are people who hate tomatoes?

  16. Eha says:

    Is there one of us who does not quietly have to admit to a ‘maladie’ or more . . . . perchance the misshapen tomato holds a more important lesson . . .

  17. I wish you could’ve hopped into Kate’s bag, Roger. Our tomatoes have been some of the juiciest in years. But the ugly ones make the best sauce. 🙂

  18. Your approach to sauce making is the same as mine – and rarely the same sauce twice! There was a news segment recently about a supermarket chain in (I think) France that was selling “ugly but good” fruit and veg for a reduced price. It was all sold out within hours – why can’t more companies do this – I think most folk are intelligent enough to realise it’s going to taste great!

  19. ChgoJohn says:

    One of the hardest adjustments I had to make for writing a blog was remembering to measure quantities for many of the recipes. I am my mother’s son, after all. As a boy, many of the tomatoes from Grandpa’s vines were less than perfect and I learned very early on that they tasted every bit as good as their more perfect siblings. We should be ashamed of how much food goes to waste because of a few blemishes while children the world-over go to bed hungry.

  20. Indeed, in my kitchen only a few days go by where I find myself making a tomato sauce in so many different variations. I can count myself being blessed by getting all those wonderful Tom…s from friends, neighbors, who seem to grow them for me….. exchange is that they get a good bowl of fresh sauce handed over the fence

  21. EllaDee says:

    I love making enough tomato sauce that I can slip a tub into the freezer, and be delighted to unearth it just when I need something for a quick dinner. Always a happy gift to myself 🙂

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