I first “met” Amy Scattergood (my editor at the LA Weekly) in the pages of the LA Times. She was named The Saucier there, which I thought was a strange name for a woman who so obviously loved to bake. I thought back then that her prose was more poetry-like than the standard reporter fodder. So it was no real surprise when over the course of our acquaintance I would learn, well, yes, she was actually a poet.
A writer by trade, who examined food with a trained poet’s eye? And why aren’t there more of them?
Since that first getting-to-know- you set of e-mails, Amy and I have been enjoying the occasional dinner at the house, soaking up the view and some good conversation. During one of these dinners, I had told her that desserts were the soft point in my repertoire, and she must have stowed that info away. Because the next time I saw her, a book was placed gently in my hands, complete with a thick wine-colored satin ribbon set into the page with the cocoa fudge sauce recipe – Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert.
I’ve been blogging, in general, since around 2002. The food blogging kicked in around 2005. And when everyone starts out, it’s a messy business. Out of focus shots. Rambling text about your grandmother. Hyperbolic spewing about the cherry you tried from the sample tray at the market. It can be painful looking back at some of those entries. Ugh.
But thankfully, things evolve. And the internet is a lightspeed evolver, wormholing us in a few years time to a place where people are doing amazing things with their blogs. The pictures (and photographers) that have been born from this crucible have not yet ceased to amaze me. Shoot, there’s a whole website dedicated entirely to checkering your brain with some of the most delectable food porn available.
Despite this digital cacophony, the grandaddy forum of food porn is still in old school print. Saveur Magazine. The sometime home of my food photography idol, Penny de los Santos. The birthplace of Canal House Cooking. And since the demise of Gourmet, Saveur has taken a yet more revered place in my heart. I review each shot and watch the lighting, the placement, the styling. I take mental notes. I experiment with a page open nearby to see if I can mimic the feel, the tone of an image. Maybe you do, too?
This is the new world we live in, the product of blogging forcing us to take picture after picture to tell the story the way we want it told. And to do it again and again in each new post. There are some amazingly talented folk out there. People who five or ten years ago wouldn’t have given much of a thought about having their photo be a focus of attention or a point of information. And the liberating part is anyone can do this. Anyone.
But there is that line. We want to evolve. And while the Internet may have formed us? It’s a print publication like Saveur that some of us strive for. And now they are having a cover photo contest.
That screenshot above is the closest I have come to seeing the Saveur title above one of my shots. Even though it’s a contest and it’s on the reader submitted page – I love seeing it there. And I did take a moment to actually read the contest rules. There’s a lot of the typical contest rule hoohah, but the thing I was looking for was the limit. How many can I enter?
The answer is one.
A few other entrants didn’t read the fine print and have deluged the entry page with a half a dozen images each. Multiple entries, according to the rules, will disqualify you. Choose carefully. Choose wisely. And get input from others that you trust. I chose the above shot for the contest because SJ loves it. It’s not my favorite shot, but SJ had a grocery list of reasons why he felt it was Saveur worthy, and all of them made sense. And in this, where I have emotional ties to not a few of my pictures, I trusted his judgment.
I don’t work for Saveur. And I’m not an art director. But I do work with some magazines in my day job and I have an inkling of what makes for a good cover shot.
It’s a magazine cover – so vertical orientations are a good thing. Choose a shot with decent ‘headspace’ to allow for the Saveur title on top. The image subject can run into it, but you want the main focus of your image to be much lower.
If you can, choose an image where the lighting is coming more from the right. Saveur tends to put their content text on the left side of their cover images. They adjust according to the image, but they have that inclination.
Like you leave room for the header? Also leave room for that pesky delivery label at the bottom – it’s about two inches up.
Of the past several issues, almost all of them are of prepared food. I know, I know, I chose a raw food shot, but that’s what I do. But their big focus is food travel and stellar recipes.
They seem to LOVE texture. And props. Gorgeous silverware. Dulled pewter platters. Wood. Cloth. Char marks on the food. Whatever is appropo to making the food seem more alive.
Enter. You have until the end of the month. And good luck!
I love some of the vegetable colors we get this time of year. The purple cauliflower above is just one example. I usually don’t care for it, foodwise – too crunchy raw and when you cook it you lose some of that vividity that drew you in in the first place. But oof, it makes for some delicious looking eye candy.
See what I mean? You can get beets here any time of year. But for some reason in winter, they have these extra shocks of hot pink in them that just sing.
And the greens. Also proof that timing is everything. Five minutes later when I walked past these asparagus at the market they were bathed in blinding sunlight. This is why I go so early in the morning. The lighting can get overly dramatic. Works for some shots. But not a lot.
So what to do with the above? Roast the beets and the cauliflower on high heat with a little salt and olive oil. Peel and gentle steam the asparagus. Chop and toss with a light vinaigrette of white vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, sugar, and a little water. Add fresh chives for pungency and verve. Add the freshest chevre for creaminess.
We’ve been deluged this past week. A whopping total of 3″ of rain doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you consider that it’s about, oh, all of our annual rainfall, crunched into one week? Yeah. We had a visitor from Alabama at work. I found myself apologizing for the state’s lack of a proper touristy welcome. She just looked out my office window and sighed, like a child who was promised a pony and got a head of broccoli instead.
But then I woke up to SJ exclaiming, “There’s snow on the mountains!” Which is a big deal to us. It doesn’t happen all that often and when it does, it’s like we get a whole new city. Or at least new curtains. I scampered out in bare feet on an icy deck to set up the tripod.
Speaking of SJ – I owe him a huge apology. Almost since he saw the first few pictures I took, he’s been pushing me to get them printed and sold. I’ve hemmed and hawed. I wasn’t entirely convinced people necessarily wanted fruits and vegetables on their walls when they could have family pictures or some fancy lithograph. He kept pushing though, as gently as he could. And somewhere along the line he gave up and let the rest of the world do the convincing.
The emails I’ve received. The comments. The messages on Facebook. The DMs on Twitter. My head has inflated like the campaign budgets of corporations after that ridiculous Supreme Court ruling. The pictures I take make people hungry. That’s about the best compliment for a food photographer. Well, that and cash.
So I’ve started an online photo library of some of my best shots. And now you can also buy them and enable this obsessive passion of mine. Money means new lighting, new lenses, and hopefully a shiny new D700 (rowr). And since, I’m not winning the lotto anytime soon, I best be cranking up some of my own odds, no?
Thanks again to everyone who has taken the time to let me know what they think.
There is a woman at the Hollywood Farmers Market, and forgive me, I don’t know her name (but I will rectify that soon) who sells sprouts of ALL KINDS. I’m normally not a sprout girl. And I imagine lots of people probably aren’t. But if you linger in curiosity at her stand, she will give you a cup of this. This, my friends, is her special sprout salad, topped with fresh, peppery radish sprouts. And it is good. $5 a bag? Shoot. I sometimes pay that much for drinks at Peet’s.
I also have a new What’s In Season post up at the LA Weekly. I’ll be doing more market posts for them in 2010. Which means more market visits and chatting with vendors. Darn. So if you want to learn about this vegetal Sputniks, go there.
I also FINALLY found someone who grows leeks right. Look at the length of white on these! Perfectly etiolated AND organic AND grown locally. I had to calm myself – but not before I exclaimed to the sleepy market goer next to me that these were pure leeky gold. The last time I saw decently etiolated leeks was at a Paris market in 2008. I know it takes extra effort – you have to diligently hill the soil around the base of the leek to keep the sun from greening it up. But the final product is actually useful. Two inches of white on a leek stalk does not a happy cook make – especially when the other 80% of it ends up in the trash or compost pile. These beauties will be properly enjoyed. Yes.
Also enjoyed a nice oyster breakfast on Sunday. Carlsbad Aquafarms happily shucks you some of their freshest bivalves (these were plucked from the ocean mere hours before the entered my mouth) for $2 a pop at the Hollywood Market. On the left a Carlsbad Luna, and on the right a Carlsbad Blonde. Got to talking with Patrick at the stand – I normal eschew shellfish in my home cooking, for no other reason than good, really good shellfish is sometimes hard to come by unless you drive out to San Pedro and stalk the boats. The Blonde oyster was crying for a beer chaser – it was like a raging ocean in my mouth, full of salt and foam and brine. The quieter Luna had this creamy, melon-like aftertaste. Loved them both. But ended up buying a bag of their Sunburst clams instead. Made a nice clam chowder that evening. Mmmm.
I used to say that the fall harvests were my favorites. But winter is winning me over big time this season. More soon…
You know you want one. Well, I went back to Super A and got another one. The masa spreader. A tool I will never again be without at Christmas. I kind of beat it to death in my tamale making post but that’s entirely because I love it so. I will wield it like a Colt 45 in pre-asphalt Los Angeles next Christmas. And now you can, too. Seriously, it’s amazing. Watch the video:
Retweet the following and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a free, brand new, in-bag masa spreader:
RT @FeliciaFriesema Tamale making http://wp.me/pzVbx-3g
…and then comment here telling me what your favorite tamale is. The masa spreader I’m giving away is like this, but in white.
Drawing will be held Christmas Day @ 12PM. A little late for THIS year’s holiday. BUT you will be properly preparada for 2010, no?
Feliz Navidad y gracias!
When I was about nine years old, my Tia Gloria taught me how to spread super sticky masa onto floppy corn husks (hojas) to get them ready for filling and folding. She was one of eight sisters, and together we and a handful of my cousins would make many dozens of tamales every Christmas.
And I didn’t even like tamales.