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Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Why do you take photos of your food?

That’s a good one. Historically I remember taking a grainy picture on film of my Sunday dinner when I lived at home with my parents (late 1970s) in order to get it developed by Truprint (used to use them all the time and got very excited whenever a bunch of pictures I had been waiting for plopped through the letter box). The Truprint pictures always had curved edges to them. 

I would send a copy of the dinner picture to my pen friend in Germany. This was in addition to a long letter boring her silly with my excitable wannabe actor life as a twenty something English chappie from a big housing estate near to Derby and a pre-email way of showing her something of the English way of life. This is assuming that she had any interest in the first place given the random nature of my letters in the 1970s. Below is a rough version of what they might have been like.

eating many a boiled egg with the Jaumann family

Liebe Simone, here’s my Sunday dinner – the wet circular things are called Yorkshire puddings. I don’t live in Yorkshire and they are not a dessert but we still call them puddings. In England we like our vegetables mushy. As an English family we have no choice. It’s traditional to overcook things here.  I don’t know why. Do you know about mushy peas? They are very popular in England. Also, I adore roast potatoes, do you?  Sometimes we have Toad in the Hole but there is no actual toad involved in the cooking and to our English culture a chicken is a luxury. By the way, the ‘toad’ is sausages. I hope you understand. As a family we always have proper mashed potatoes and Smash is frowned upon. Do you have Smash in Germany? Perhaps it is spelt Schmash? It involves aliens on televsion that laugh a lot. I would be interested to know.

Our family collect berries from the bushes and also damsons from trees. Meine Step Muttter (Marnie) likes to make jam from blackberries, strawberries, damsons und goosegogs. She is a good cook. Here (nach oben) is a picture of mein Vater (Bob) with some blackberries in a bag. He is happy. He likes nature.

At home we have very strict table manners and are not allowed to put our elbows on the table, slurp our food, speak whilst eating or at all for that matter und wir suffer all manner of Victoriana aka dining. Mein Vater (Bob) sehr strict ist. Sorry I don’t know this in German. (Followed by a rather rushed - Heute das wetter sonnig ist. Ich lerne gerne Deutsch mit Linguaphone. Und so weiter.  Geht’s dir gut? Alles gute, Phil x)’ The responses were always on checked graph type 'recycleable' paper.

collage of letters and photos of my German friends
As possible revenge for my Anglo-Deutsch über confusing and un-interesting letters to Germany I got invited over in early 1980s to stay with the family Jaumann in Baden-Württemberg  for a fortnight during their Easter celebrations and my bowels have a terrible memory of eating about thirty boiled eggs per week. The German for constipation is die Verstopung and farting terribly on a grand scale is furchtbar furzen. Moving on… Parp!

Apart from learning to cook and taking a few pictures at my, long time ago, former employer ‘Rydes the butchers’ in the 1980s (prior to, and after I left home) I don’t recall any photographic endeavours by myself to document my culinary skills until I started to write this blog a few years ago. Suddenly after my separation and divorce and an introduction to by my ex-neighbour Allison I started to actively authenticate my life through writing and pictures and a love of cooking for myself truly developed. I also started to collate written material that referenced my own life story and times I lived through like the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s cultures in the UK. Some of this work was published in the Derby Evening Telegraph Bygones newspapers.

Me circa 1980 in my fisherman's smock top.
These days it is a regular digital habit for me to take images of my food and the process of food making to help document my writing and really because I love cooking and creating memories of the meal. The fact that the ingredients are colourful, full of textures and vibrancy encourages me in my picture taking and I will often go to great lengths to compose a good picture for my blog and collection of foodie pictures.  From this habit I am now used to eating eventually tepid food that looks great in a picture!
It seems almost in another world that I inhabited, not so long ago,  when I would take the picture, then take the film out from the camera and then send it off in the post or go down town to the nearest Boots shop to get it developed and printed (at a cost) and eagerly await the results.

Gott Sei Dank that the digital age now enables us to embellish our stories and documentation with quality pictures. Maybe future generations will be able to look back and benefit from this.


Dom at Belleau Kitchen said...

I have the odd photo of birthday cakes from years gone by but that's because my mum used to make them all by hand and so proudly shot them... other than that if the food was around for long enough to photograph it then it probably wasn't worth the film... I remember those curved edged trueprint photo's... such memories eh?

Phil Lowe said...

Dom: Indeed, I always semed to get good results through Truprint and rather annoyingly Boots used to slap on sticky error messages like 'too darkly exposed' on your photos. Arragh!

Dom at Belleau Kitchen said...

Hey Phil... just got your message... i'm at work and for some reason my phone went straight to voicemail... lovely to hear from you... i'll call later when i'm not in a hole!... and you're more than welcome to pop round for tea any time... just steal a car (or bus or moped) and pop over!

Phil Lowe said...

Dom:will do!

Peter said...

Hello Phil

I sometimes take pictures of things I have cooked. Mainly send them to my brother via the phone camera - far too non techy to post them anywhere!

I enjoyed reading the blog today - as usual. That was some hair style in the 80's!



Gailsman said...

I've never really taken any photos of my cooking. Always worried about getting gravy or custard on the camera!

Karen said...

It's only in recent, Flickr posting years that I have started photographing food. Mainly to help me remember meals out etc. Though I do try to take pictures when I do baking - it shows me if I'm 'improving' or not.

Your letters to your pen friends we much more exciting than those I wrote. I have no ability at French at all, & confess I used to write to my French pen friends mainly in English as after the first few attempts at school girl French, I usually got a letter back begging for a translation as it was generally gobblededook. Add to that my terrible handwriting, & my poor pen friends got a rough deal.

Ken Devine said...

Hi Phil
This post brought back a few memories as well as educating me. Where would we be without digital, eh?
I like the old photo of you although there doesn't appear to be much of a change:)