'What is your bestest food ever?' people like to ask (mostly 4 year olds, but occasionally someone else with a curious mind too.) I spent some time thinking about this a few years back and came quite easily to the answer; fresh mackerel, preferably from the waters off the Western Isles and preferably barbecued, but that's being fussy, I'll take it almost from anywhere and any way.
It is the most glorious fish and for a long time I could chow down on it happy in the knowledge that a) hardly anyone else likes it (I don't know why that is important, but it is) b) it's incredibly good for you and c) it was on the Marine Conservation Society's list of 'fish to eat' (an actual thing) which is not the longest list these days. And then, woe and despair, all of a sudden it was not. Suddenly mackerel was being horribly over-fished and it was on the other, longer list, along with those chip shop favourites Alfonsino and Greater Forkbeard (you haven't heard of them? Funny that.)
The thing that really gets me about the over-fishing of mackerel is that 900,000 tonnes of it aren't being pulled from the sea because it's irresistibly delicious and surprisingly good slathered in any combination of spices you care to create. No, it's being caught to turn into pellets to feed to farmed fucking salmon. That flabby, fatty, gelatinous pink nothingness that's an insult to what fish can and should be. Lest you can't tell, I'm not a fan of farmed salmon and I'm pretty pissed off about the whole mackerel situation.
I still eat it occasionally and I try not to feel too guilty about it. Caught locally and without trawling it registers at 2 on the sustainability scale, which isn't too terrible as fish goes these days. (Personally I think it's more important to boycott the bloody salmon, but I have little to no science to back up my theory.)
Anyway, this was supposed to be about food and eating and food photography which is something that I had hoped to practice while I was in France where the food is so good but is actually something that I've done... once. I enjoyed it though and it's part of my portfolio that I want to expand (oh hi, yeah, I have a personal portfolio). Making time to cook slowly and creatively when for so long cooking has been something to do in a bit of a panic at the end of the day to make sure that everyone is fed and no one loses their shit because a) they're hangry or b) they don't LIKE cooked n'onions. We're sadly still in a bit of a tomato sauce and pasta rut and I need to start putting together (curating? lolz) a list of things I've been wanting to cook but haven't had the time or the access to good and affordable fresh ingredients thus far.
I've been looking at Deliciously Ella on the recommendation of a friend, at Laura's exquisite pinterest boards and sometimes at Mimi Thorrison's blog Manger, which is endlessly inspiring when it comes to French life and makes me feel like I aught to try some of her recipes but actually I'm not that sure that I really like French cuisine. Don't tell the French. It's just all, so, much. So much cream and milk and cheese and wine and my god, I'm bloated just reading the recipes.
Aside from the fact that dairy bloats me like a balloon, it's been absent from our cooking for a while now. About 18 months ago we realised that Ammie has a dairy intolerance, that cows milk was the worst trigger for the really awful eczema on her face and limbs. Figuring this out came a few months after I had realised that the reason food in restaurants tastes so good is because they put butter in everything. And so I started putting butter in everything. We were getting through a lot of the golden stuff by the time we had to quit it cold turkey. Letting it go wasn't fun, everything tasted rubbish for a really long time and I was grumpy about every curry, every risotto, every vegetable that I just knew would taste better with a great knob of butter on top. How hard I found it was probably as much of a sign as anything that I had taken butter too far.
* Oh! And you all were right, asparagus needs to be roasted. I don't know why no one ever mentioned this to me before. Boiled = yuck (unless there's copious butter involved), roasted in olive oil, salt and pepper = delicious.
If you have any other recommendations for sources of inspiration for colourful, healthy, dairy-free, mostly vegetarian but occasionally not cooking I would love to hear about them in the comments.