Chef Barry McLaughlin cooks some pretty special stuff. I once ate close to his entire Poacher’s Inn menu during a photo shoot. (Photography may be not be as well paid as it once was, but there are still perks – though I should stop wondering why my waistline won’t shift).
Barry speaks beautifully about his food and the thinking behind it. Watching him work is mesmerising. He moves fluidly and quickly, producing sumptuousness in minutes.
On Wednesday, we spent some time together and came up with this:
Brill with Truffled Savoy Cabbage and Crispy Bacon from Roger Overall on Vimeo.
Mark Cribbins of Ballyhoura Mountain Mushrooms © 2012 Roger Overall
There was a time when nearly everyone could pluck food directly from nature. For our ancestors, a woodland was a larder. For most of us today, it’s a collection of trees. It’s evidence of the increasingly remote connection between nature and the food we eat.
Not everyone is so ignorant, though. Some Westerners are still able to gather food from the countryside.
Mark Cribbins, who owns Ballyhoura Mountain Mushrooms with his wife Lucy, is such a person. He is also a source of eye-opening anecdotes about fungi.
Want to hear about the connection between Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and drinking mind-altering urine? Or that the largest living organism ever discovered wasn’t measured in feet or metres, but in MILES?
Hit the play button below.
Food from nature © 2012 Roger Overall
Baker kneading dough © 2012 Roger Overall
Making food requires skill. Watching a butcher make sausages or a baker knead dough is mesmerising – to me, at least. Their hands move faster than it seems possible for their brain to control. And when they are done, they have crafted something that I can’t. They’ve also produced something that I really want.
It’s a shame, then, that proper butchering and baking skills seem to be dying out. A high-end butcher friend of mine laments the demise of his craft. He is keeping the flame burning, but worries about the next generation. He once told me of a prediction made at a meat conference in the US: “Soon the only two cuts of meat available will be steak and mince.”
Partly that’s because it’s what the consumer wants. And what the consumer wants, the consumer gets. They barely know any different, because the number of skilled butchers who can show them different is declining. So they stick to what is familiar. It’s a vicious circle.
Some say it’s too late for the tide to turn. Society has progressed too far down the track away from artisan food production, they counsel.
So we should enjoy watching skilled food producers at work while we still can.
Maybe in doing so we can contribute to the slowing, if perhaps not the halt, of society’s dash towards the embrace of ever more industrialised food production.
Pig at Crowe’s Farm, Co. Tipperary, Ireland © 2012 Roger Overall
Pat Whelan and TJ Crowe are both meat men. Great people to talk to and learn from. Both trying to make a difference in the meat business.
Last year, Pat asked me to photograph the new James Whelan Butchers’ shop at the Avoca food hall in Monkstown, Co. Dublin. And TJ needed photographs for his new range of extensively farmed pork products.
Quite why, I cannot fathom, but it’s taken months for some of the work to find its way on to the portfolio website. I guess life moves so fast sometimes, we forget to pause and reflect on what we did.
The James Whelan Butcher’s shop work is here: The Butcher; the pictures produced for TJ are here: The Pig Farmers.
James Whelan Butcher’s shop in Monkstown – a shrine to meat © 2012 Roger Overall
This is a repeat of a post that previously appeared on the now defunct Cork Foodie blog. I was struck by the date, so it seemed appropriate to give it a second lease of life today. Sadly, due to a range of circumstances, we haven’t been back to Douglas farmers’ market as much as we would have liked in the past 12 months.
Fish at Douglas Farmers’ Market © Roger Overall 2012
“Look at the fish, Em,” I say.
“Eeeeeeeeow!!!” my daughter replies.
She is far more interested in the stand where she can buy gingerbread men. She wants to know how much the smallest ones cost. The lady on the stand tells her 50 cents. Emily is very disappointed. She only has five euros, not 50. I bend down on a knee and explain that each euro is worth 100 cents. She’s learning about money in primary school right now, but she can’t quite make the leap from classroom into the practical world on her own yet. The news about the euro perks her up. She buys two small gingerbread men.
Next she goes to a cake stand. She asks about buying a box of six fairy cakes, but they cost five euros. She understands that she doesn’t have that left, so she buys a single cake instead and races off to sit down opposite the fish stand to eat it.
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When I left the UK almost 10 years ago, I don’t remember seeing a proper baker’s shop where I lived (Richmond and Twickenham). Maybe I never really looked. I recall there was a chain bakery. Mostly we got our bread from the supermarket.
That’s in stark contrast to Holland, where you don’t have to wander far to find a genuine baker. I remember half a dozen or so in the village where I grew up.
I’ve come to love bread, (sourdough in particular), so it was a treat to come across a genuine baker’s shop in Twickenham while I was in London for an annual report shoot in January. I bought some bread for friends and had a conversation with the owner, Igor Occhiali.
We all need a fresh start now and then. A reboot.
That’s what’s happening here. I’m retooling my professional life.
Part of that process is a realignment of my photography. I should point out straightaway that I’m not abandoning documentary work. Far from it. Instead, I’m giving it a clearer direction.
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Something’s going on under the bonnet here on the blog.
I’m shaking things up.
Something new will start here soon. A journey. I hope you’ll join me.
In the meantime, you may be here looking for The Documentary Photographer blog. It’s waiting for you at a brand new address here: The Documentary Photographer.