There’s something wonderfully pure about summer, the incessant sunshine (at least in Australia) and copious amounts of daylight really tends to lift the spirits in the most morose of people. The combination of Summer and the festive season means an extra extra relaxed December down under. I’ve jetsetted overseas the past couple of summers but this year I’ve decided to spend it at home, chilling out, catching up on everything I’ve missed during the year and finally…working my way through my much-ignored bookshelf. Often I feel on one hand overwhelmed by holidays and yet complacent about them as well. I always feel like I need to accomplish things but then the other side of my brain goes, “Whatchyoo talking about? It’s summer, kick back and CHILLAX”. Well here’s a bit of both.
# SUMMER BERRIES
A bowl of sweet fresh summer berries is something that’s hard to culinarily top. I’ve been dealing with a foot injury recently so I’ve limited myself to swimming these couple of weeks for exercise (the no running rule is killing me though!). Swimming always makes me ravenous but the heat means I don’t really look forward to coming home to a steak or something heavy. I found chopped strawberries, handful of blueberries, some mango and other additions really do the trick. The following is Strawberries & Blueberries, macerated in vanilla sugar, mint & butterscotch schnapps. It’s insanely good!!!
# GORDON RAMSAY
Gordon is the sole reason why I have killer knife skills. I remember been back at uni and getting into cooking seriously for the first time and his F-word series for Channel 4 was really what taught me the basics. No matter his business failures or his somewhat embarrassing mugging for the American market (See Hell’s Kitchen & Kitchen Nightmares US), this guy is still one of my heroes. He’s the classic working class lad made good through hard work and the dude can freaking cook. So I was delighted to find a new series he’s done for Channel 4 recently (Gordon Ramsay’s Home Cooking) which includes cooking with his 4 awesome kids. I mean I’m already a sucker for well shot and produced food shows (Anthony Bourdain & Co, I’m looking at you). But the additional upside to this show is you get to see Gordon being a funny and goofy dad. Awwwww, something to keep in mind the next time he calls someone a donkey for using a non-stick pan. I’ve watched all 20 episodes in the last few days, that’s how good this show is!!!, WATCH IIIIIIIIIT!!!
My book shelf these days is fast running out of room, the good thing is that I’ve got a pretty awesome food and photography collection at the moment, bad thing is there are always more awesome books I want to purchase. I probably approach buying food/cook books a little differently to a lot of people. For me, photography comes first and foremost. If I flip through a bookstore and the pictures strike an arrow through my heart then that’s it.
The photography of Donna Hay’s New Classics, struck me well and truly in the solar plexus as I was browsing in the bookstore. Hay is an ubiquitous name in the international as well as Australian food scene, but what strikes me most is that the photography which accompanies her many publications is just FREAKING TECHNICALLY PERFECT. The styling, the photography, you just can’t fault any of it. Usually when I see really commercial food photography there’s a insipid blandness that comes across with the perfection but not here. Her new book, New Classics, actually also contains some brilliant easy and timeless recipes amongst the gorgeous photography. It’s a dense, thick, heavy and beautifully bound book highlighting multiple photographers and stylists, so it’s a great tool for picking different looks. This is actually my first Donna Hay publication, and I fear it might not be my last.
Nathan Mhyrvold is a freak. There’s really no better way to put it. He’s 5 volume Magnus opus, Modernist Cuisine weighs in at a hefty 24kg and costs around $500 and although tempting at first, I really couldn’t justify purchasing it (I gather my poor bookshelf was thankful for that decision). But when The Photography of Modernist Cuisine was announced I put it on my Amazon wish list immediately and waited for the right price to pull the trigger. Although at first I was a little disappointed in the actual photography and styling compared to Donna Hay’s book, this book is nothing short of a nerdy achievement in the best of ways. Firstly it’s big, like bigger than a Britannica Atlas, big (yeah remember those?). I have trouble carrying it between the bedroom and living room, that’s how big and heavy and cumbersome it is. When pictures are blown up that big…well most photos would look impressive. The book is mostly a collection of studio shots of food, a combo of microscopic, macro, cutaways (where they literally cut food vessels in half) and minimalist styled shots. Although minimalist styling can still work wonders (See Ditte Isager’s work from NOMA book), the photography here however feels a little commercial and outdated, due to studio only lighting. It’s not a style that I’ve always liked or wanted to emulate but I see myself trying it out as a challenge. Luckily diagrams are included…nerdy awesome!
I do like how different both publications are, it’s always good to get a variety of photographic inspirations. Both will have coveted places on my very full bookshelf (although Modernist Cuisine unfortunately doesn’t fit).