Thursday, August 28, 2014

Photos of Food I Ate (before I ate it) 

“I ate alone while watching Netflix on my laptop”
For a certain Generation, “I Am Here” could very well be their motto. Be it Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare, or Twitter, for some people, exclaiming, “I am here with someone doing something" has become an almost reflex reaction to any experience.

Photographing a meal and sharing that picture on your social networks quickly went from trend to cliché. Yet people still do it. Some genuinely wish to commemorate the occasion or capture the moment to try and recreate it later while others seem to be engaging in a kind of competition of who's-having-more-fun braggadocio. Or sometimes it's just fun to talk about what you did that day and sometimes that thing is an extraordinary meal.

I often call home when I'm cooking as it seems like an appropriate amount of time to chat and if in doubt compare cooking notes with my mother. To be honest, I have a pretty nice kitchen but most of the meals I've made in it have been salads that I ate alone while watching Netflix on my laptop (sounds cheery doesn't it?) But something happened one day after I bought some Ontario peaches. They were pretty spectacular. I mean like “savour the moment” spectacular. Then came the strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. Then vegetables like asparagus, lettuce, peas, beans and potatoes were suddenly available. It seemed like you shouldn't waste this one time of year when local food was aplenty and easy to get.

Then there was the ice cream. One night, feeling particularly ravenous, the nearby grocery chain had a sale on some junky Sundae-flavoured ice cream. $2.95 for over a litre. It was so cheap they had to limit how much you could purchase at once. After I gorged on the first half of the tub, I accidentally left it on the counter. What struck me was it didn't really melt as you'd expect. Instead of being runny like a milkshake, it was foamy — more like a pudding or a mousse. I read the ingredients. The list of weird contents didn't even strike me as odd but that strange foamy texture gave away that what I had paid for, more than fructose and lactose powder and chocolate syrup was air. The “ice cream” was more like a frozen foam than ice cream at all. Seemingly within days of my foamy sundae, an e-mail about a no fuss ice cream boasting only four ingredients appeared in my inbox. I knew from a Haagen Daaz campaign that they marketed a simple ice cream with only four ingredients at a premium price that was supposed to be only cream, sugar, egg and vanilla. I'd also just seen a television cooking show where the host made ice cream with cream, custard, sugar and stewed apples. He basically mixed everything up and plopped it in the freezer for a couple of hours, stirring it only once after the first hour. The recipe in the e-mail was even simpler and used ingredients I could find here.

image of ice cream

Here's the ice cream that I made.

Mix 1 1/4 cup of whipping cream with 2/3 cup of sweetened condensed milk with a tablespoon or two of instant coffee powder or cocoa and a tablespoon or two of alcohol such as rum or gin or vodka. Whip until stiff or until peaks form and then pour that into a pan or casserole dish or something that you can cover. Place in the freezer for 2 to 4 hours. When it sets, it is ice cream. Not something like ice cream but actual ice cream.

image of scallops
Here are some new potatoes roasted with PEI scallops on a tomato and olive and basil salsa.

One Friday I had taken off (I took off every Friday in August), I decided going to St. Lawrence market might actually make sense because I wouldn’t be fighting the maddening crowd. So I took my leisure and picked up some more fresh local vegetables and berries and as there are 3 or 4 fish mongers in the market, I bought some PEI sourced scallops. You just don’t want to waste food like that. It seems like I started cooking only when I had really great ingredients to start with. It’s as though I owed it to this food to treat it well. Also, growing some simple herbs like Basil and parsley sort of inspires you to use them. One of my favourite things in the summer is a caprese salad which is just some tomato, basil and buffalo mozzarella, (which lately has been easier to find in Toronto shops), but it only works if you have really fresh ingredients. Pesto is the same way.

image of strawberries
Here are some Ontario strawberries with whipped cream and grated chocolate.

image of strawberries
Here is an Ontario beef strip loin marinated in olive oil, soy sauce, rosemary, tarragon and lime juice which I grilled and had with fresh local peas and new potatoes.

image of caprese salad
Here is some caprese salad with fancy buffalo mozzarella and garden grown basil.

image of caprese salad
Likewise with this pesto sauce (my own basil, with olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic and walnuts - in lieu of pine nuts).

Why photograph meals after you've made them? I don't know really. Pride of creation? The desire to share a meal with everyone? To prove you eat? It seems a mostly harmless trend. If you talk about food with friends I guess you'd also talk about it on your social network. Just as long as you aren't photographing your food after you ate it.

I forgot to mention, I also bought a digital thermometer and using only a cooler and some hot water, I cooked a couple of eggs for about an hour. That is to say, I put a couple of eggs in a bath of hot water in a cooler for about an hour at approximately an even temperature (monitored on the digital thermometer). When it cooled down too much, I topped it up with hot water. When the hour was up I had two nearly perfectly cooked eggs. Perfectly and evenly cooked eggs. It is an unusual amount of effort for eggs but you can use the same technique to cook meat or infuse alcohol. Such is the way of sous vide cookery. I'm not sure I would really benefit from buying the equipment but I'm glad I tried it.



Post a Comment

<< Home