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Food Photography And More

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

Posted by johngl

This is my 105th post.  Yesterday was the Alcoholian’s first birthday.  Aren’t we special.

Now that the announcements are out of the way, we might want to get down to it…

Actually, this post isn’t entirely about photography. In fact, most of it isn’t about photography at all.  I am going to throw in some tidbits on the tastes and textures of food.  I will leave aroma for another post.

Good food, as with wine, is all about balance. In cooking circles, chefs frequently talk about balancing a sauce and usually that means they are going to add something sweet, salty, peppery, or sour to it.

But there is something more to consider: mouth feel.  This is the texture of the food.  Crunchy, smooth, mushy, chewy, and oily are all textures.  Take the sandwich in the first photo.  There is chicken, avocado, a touch of mayo, and bread.  The chicken is primarily associated with texture and aroma.  You take a bite and your teeth tear into the flesh (not in a T-Rex sort of way…you know what I mean).  There is a resistance there that we humans find pleasurable.  Ahhh….meat.  Compare that sandwich to this:

Same chicken, same avocado.  Bread is replaced with a potato chip.  Not just any chip.  Kettle™ brand chips.  These are super crunchy.  But what is with the pickle slice?

The chip has salty and crunchy elements.  The avocado adds smoothness (via its fat content).  The dill pickle adds a sour element and another bit of crunch.  The sourness of the pickle added just that right amount of tang to the party.  By itself, this chip thing has the same elements of this whole plate:

This is why most of us like chips with a sandwich.  We crave that crunchy, salty thing that the sandwich usually lacks.  Been to a deli?  This is also why a lot of delis serve a dill pickle spear with the sandwich and the chips.  We crave the sour element that is punctuated by salt.  There is method to the madness.  These combinations didn’t come about by accident.

Why do burger joints toast the burger buns?  To add some crunch (and keep things from getting soggy).  They also sugar coat the fries to punch the crunch up a bit and add that sweetness we crave.  They add a pickle and ketchup (ketchup usually contains vinegar), mustard (a little heat with vinegar), onions (adds sweetness), salt, and pepper.  Naturally, the fries are salty and we dip them in tangy ketchup.  All these tastes are spread around the mouth by the texture of the meat and the bread.  The meat contains fat.  This helps to smooth everything out.  Mayo does the same thing.

Without a happy mouth, people won’t normally come back.

Naturally, there are those of you who don’t like pickles, ketchup, onions, or mustard.  And those of you who don’t eat meat or don’t like spicy food.  I don’t care.  You live a tasteless existence.  You deserve bland food. It’s your choice.  There are at least ten million other food blogs to visit.  Go nuts.  You might live just a little longer, but I will have more fun.

Jeez, johngl, why the rant?

Ever tried having a nice dinner at a restaurant with a freaking Vegan in the crowd?  Good lord.  I really feel for wait staff, chefs, and the kitchen staff.  Ultra-high maintenance customers.  What a joy.

Sorry about that.  Now that the vegans and the holier-than-thou-think-they’re-vegetarians are all clicked-off, I can get back to tasty things.

I love avocados.

They are great on sandwiches with meat.

When you prepare a simple thing like a chicken sandwich, don’t just go through the mechanics of assembling the thing.  Experience your food. Think about why you like it.  Think about the textures and tastes in combination.  Vary the ingredients and experiment a bit.

Okay, so I put those last two photos in just because I had them.  I admit it.  It’s a shameless display of the photography stuff I have been working on.  The cool part of this is that you can actually see the texture of the food.  You may not be able to taste it, but I hope some salivary glands have been activated along the way.

Oh, and the full photo rig:

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned the cool stand that Erik picked up for me.  Here is that “magic arm” in action.  That is the Olympus 560UZ mounted to it.  The handles on the pans makes it really easy to adjust the angle of the lighting.

My “traveling” camera:

This is my most recent acquisition.  I wanted something really small and light that I could keep with me because one just never knows when some good food porn might turn up.  This little guy filled the bill perfectly.  And for $110, it is a great piece of technology.

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2 Responses to “Food Photography And More”

  1. johngl says:

    Thanks for the birthday wishes. 50 is a big one for me. I am having some trouble with it.

    40 I handled really well…just sorta blew through that decade though.

    I checked out your blog this evening. Seems your camera has some focus issues :-)

    The salsa looked killer!

    One thing I really miss about being back in Iowa is Graziano Brothers on South Union in Des Moines. They had their own brand sausages and salami. It is also the first place I found real Parmesan cheese (this was a couple of decades ago).

    Those little specialty type places are getting harder to find.

  2. Beth says:

    Happy Birthday John!

    I seem to have the best lighting from the cradenza behind my desk – at home, not so much!

    Nice set up!

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