Shooting Food – Waste Not Want Not

I love working with food. It’s delectable, delicious and very challenging. Although the home economy trend is towards more natural, there is a fine line between natural and looking a mess I’ve found.

During my assisting years, I worked with some great food photographers: all exceedingly talented. One had his own photo-library shooting dishes to order for clients when stock was a relatively fresh thing. His studio was tucked away behind some shops in a rather well to do part of London. You’d never know it was there. He was the first person I knew to have a bespoke mobile cookery island that could be pushed around to the set he was working on. From there, he regularly whizzed up dishes llike souffl├ęs and crepes which were absolutely fresh as they hit the table.

I also recall working with another on some advertising shoots for a well known cured meat company. In those days we did all kinds of things to manipulate the look of the meat. His dog, a friendly and energetic Boxer called Hogan, used to drag me to Keishi Colour with boxes of 5×4 for processing. Naturally there was a lot of waste doing food shoots. One time, I was so brassic that I took home boxes of cakes from a freelance job. Well , they were destined for the bin anyway. I particularly had a penchant for the Lemon Drizzle fingers. Waste not want not! I can honestly say that after a week of them, I never wanted to see another in my life again….the strong stench of sugar made me gag. (I lived near Portobello then.)

Watching home economist Mary select hero cakes and fill in any air holes with crumbs using a fine scalpel was fascinating. Now it’s all about cloning in Photoshop!

One time, I took home a Lobster Thermidore from a Fortnum’s Christmas shoot: a rich source of protein for any impoverished assistant and return for the long hours we spent creating something which looked amazing. Nowadays food has to be as natural as possible. In photo sessions, vegetables are almost always raw or barely cooked to retain their colour. In the UK our love for Oriental style dishes flash cooked in a wok or steamed has influenced the way we see food in terms of nutritional value and how it fits in with our busy, hectic lives.

There is a growing raw vegan movement and the food is surprisingly filling and tasty, sourced locally where possible. With the opening of restaurant chains like Wagamama and Yo Sushi, offering instantly fresh and nourishing meals among informal surroundings, the British palate is changing.

Growing your own is extremely popular too, especially for cash-strapped families. The age of frugality is here and is being championed by Premier model Mak Gilchrist whose local bus stop allotment programme in Brixton featured recently in the papers. (One of my earliest childhood friends, she’s always been a bit “right on” introducing me to Spirulina shakes and sprouting beans in the 90’s.) I’ve tried sprouting but mine just end up hairy!

This week, I took advantage of the harvest in my garden and completed two food tests using Passion Fruit from the front of the house for a dessert and veg grown in my little 8×4 plot to make a courgette linguine dish. Courgette sliced up with a julienne peeler is a great low carb substitute for pasta but it collapsed rapidly once it was dressed with lemon and olive oil.

Lately I’ve developed an irrational craving for young Nasturtium leaves and add them to salads whenever I can. I planted a few this Spring and they’ve gone bonkers, creeping across and up walls, invading. So why not eat them? The flowers are yummy. If you’ve not tried them, they’re peppery like cress, but do check for Black Fly because they love them too. Chuck them in a bowl with Virgin Olive Oil, sea salt, black pepper and fresh lemon juice for a zesty, healthy meal.

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