I will admit the name isn’t great but I’m not too worried about that. I started this blog… I wanna say sometime in 2013 with only the intention to write down notes on cooking, specially on baking. Also food science, some experimentation, french technique and some classic recipes that I wanted to try. The blog was simply an online place to stuff all of that and if you check the archive, those first few months aren’t articles on anything, just quick notes, partial recipes, a pic here and there, etc. I did this for a while, specially in the evenings after work. One of those evenings, not sure which one but seems like a long time ago now, I fell in love with food, cooking and food photography… and here we’re today.
If you want to know what defines the cooking on this blog, let me start by saying this: I support sustainable ways of food production and seasonal and local ingredients and organic and all that, but the truth is, we live in a very busy world with crazy working hours, day jobs, families, friends, BILLS, etc, keeping up isn’t easy and spending time in the kitchen is time consuming and hard work, enjoyable but still work, some times even back-breaking work. So the content of this blog will pay tribute to this reality. Recipes range from whipping up quick 10 minute dinner budget meals to more time consuming, elaborate and technical recipes. I believe in cooking without recipes and I will try my best to provide them as reference but you should know I type them from my memory after I’ve done all the photo editing and all the eating and all the cleaning so there will be some inaccuracies here and there and for that I apologize in advance. I will also do my best to show my thought process as I go, something I wish there was more of out there in cookbooks. A recipe is merely a list of ingredients and basic instructions that one must follow blindly. I hate that. There’s a reason why cooks do the things they do. Very specific reasons. I love food science and this blog has plenty of content dedicated to this subject. Anyways, this is my space and I hope you find it interesting, useful and hopefully entertaining too.
Enough about this blog. A little info about me. My Name is Paul Palop. I was born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1972. Went to college and got a degree in Information Engineering like a million years ago, almost before computers were invented. Then went to another college in the US and got a master’s degree in fine arts. I’ve lived in many places and traveled quite a bit over the years. I’m a self proclaimed food blogger and, food photographer with a day job (day … and nights too) in the film industry. I’ve held a number of other previous random jobs, including car manufacture’s manual translator, systems engineer at some car dealer and business owner of a dish detergent factory back in high school. I wish I was kidding but I ain’t. It was food related I guess.
About my cooking. If you’ve been reading this blog you’ve probably found by now that my food is all over the map. Literally. That’s because I really like food and I’ll try to cover as much of it as possible here. What I didn’t know a few years ago was that I really liked cooking as much as I liked eating if not more. And this is how this journey got kicked off. I was trying to figure out a problem with my personal home economics. How to save money. Home cooking made sense right away. Eating had the largest spending footprint after rent. So why the heck no, right? Let’s do some more cooking at home and problem solved. I didn’t even have a decent knife when I came to this realization, not to mention, I didn’t even know what a sharp knife really was. So after making a few batches of budget meals I thought I had it all figured out…but then I wondered if there was something more to be learned in the kitchen (see, that’s how clueless I can be) I went online and got a little book. What’s a cook to do. I was doomed right there. Where had this little book been all my life and why do I all of a sudden care about this cooking thing so much? No idea. After this book, I got a few others, some more on french cooking technique and then the food science thing kicked in. That’s around the time I read another little book. Cooking for Geeks. Actual science behind cooking? I’m all in!
Before I knew it I was trying to get an immersion circulator and a bunch of digital scales and infrared thermometers. Immersion circulators have gotten cheaper over the years, but when I first wanted one they were way over my budget. I built my first one at home. Here’s a pic of it. It ain’t pretty but it worked. I have to thank the Seattle food geek for the awesome DIY page. 75$ later I was in business. After this one, I ended up getting a second hand polyscience old model on Ebay which has been abused to death and just recently I got my new precision cooker from anova. This thing is the coolest toy ever. So yeah, lots of sous vide cooking on this blog.
So more about my cookbooks. I’ve collected plenty of cooking books since getting that little book on french cooking technique. And I do own a fair amount of recipe books now, some of them are real works of art but the real gem wasn’t in any of those expensive cookbooks full of gorgeous pics and extremely difficult recipes, the thing that made some difference in my cooking was embedded in those less expensive ones.. lessons on how to cook things, techniques, science and common sense. Almost every cookbook I own I bought second hand, including the modernist cuisine collection as well. If you want to invest in cookbooks, my recommendation would be to get books about how to cook, and not the books about what to cook, at least at first if you’re just getting started with cooking. Wanna learn technique? The french figured it out a long time ago. Their cuisine is perfectly stablished and their techniques pretty standard so if you’re wondering who to follow technique-wise, follow the french, but pay attention to the Japanese, the Italian and the Spanish and keep an eye on the rest. The world of cuisine is an ever changing ever evolving thing and today’s cuisine powers won’t necesearly be tomorrow’s. There’s something to be learned about food and cooking from every culture on this planet. Watch out! Pay attention, clean as you go, sharpen those knives every chance you get and have fun.
About my photography. Many people have asked me about the photography at that other cooking blog… so let me see how I can go over this quickly. I’ve been taking photos since I can remember. My dad loves photography so I kind of inherited his hobby. I got to play with all his toys, cameras, lenses, slide projectors, etc. I’ve been shooting analog 35mm photos for many years. I bought my first DSLR (canon 20D) in 2005 for travel photography. I was living in New Zealand at the time. I was traveling a lot then and was tired of my little point and shoot. I wanted to become a better photographer and shoot more wildlife and nature stuff. I have been shooting digital photography since then and if you want to check out some of my travel stuff you can go here: http://www.pbase.com/paul_palop So, that was a good training run and lots of fun. But then, the food thing happened and I was totally lost again, like back to zero. How do you shoot food, not that I was ever great at shooting nature either. Food photography is not easy! Specially if you don’t have a nice kitchen lit by the magical morning sunlight diffused by a nice soft white curtain and a ton of props. In the last few years of shooting food, sunlight is still my favourite light to use, but honestly, I rarely have the luxury of being able to shoot in this light. I shoot at nigh whenever I have the time to do so. I have read a few books on food photography but most of what I know I owe to fellow food bloggers who shared their knowledge with me. Don’t hesitate to ask about gear, lighting, colouring, workflows, etc, I love this stuff and love love love talking about it.
Almost all my photography is flash photography. I have a simple setup. My current camera is a canon 5D Mark II. My flashgun is a canon 430EX II speedlite. I have some diffusers, an umbrella and a stand for it. My gitzo tripod could be use as demolition equipment and rarely use it for food photography but it rocks out there in the wild. And I have a RRS BH-55 ball head that will outlast me and it’s the best piece of gear I’ve ever bought… but again, little use in food photography. I shoot handheld 95% of the time, in a really dark kitchen with only enough light to be able to focus. I have an array of lenses that I’ve accumulated over the years but I shoot most of my food using one of the the cheapest one I own. A 50mm canon, f1.4 It is extremely sharp. For photo editing I use Lightroom and Photoshop on my MacBook Pro. And I use Snapseed on my phone. I don’t do a lot of phone shooting, but when I do, I only do it in natural light and do my processing in Snapseed as well. Sometimes Lightroom, all done directly on the phone. I have a couple of Instagram accounts. @thatothercookingblog and @mirrorsandprisms. Just follow me 🙂
Enjoy that another cooking blog. Don’t cook naked. Bad idea.
PG, that other cook @