Welcome back to another episode of #5QuestionsTo series. This time I am in talk with a talented lady, who I’ve been longing for interviewing: Emiko Davies.
I met Emiko the first time during a gathering at Giulia’s place, when I learned that she was a food writer. And in the many later contacts , I have also known that besides her talent in cooking, she also has an art study educational background, and a good photographer. The interactions between her and her daughter Mariu always inspire me to encourage my son to start helping in the kitchen. Emiko definitely has become the one (and maybe she hasn’t know this yet), to whom I will go for advise on getting kids involved in the kitchen.
Following her first cook book Florentine, Emiko published recently her new book ACQUACOTTA, presenting a list of recipes from the southern Tuscan riviera Maremma. Similar to the region itself, the dishes there are as well “not the usual Tuscany you know”. Inside the book, recipes are categorized into 5 sections: woods, sea & lagoon, vegetable, farmhouse, sweet. You can find many vegetable and seafood recipes inside the book, which make it a good references for vegetarian and gluten free ideas, as well as a wonderful gift to anyone that enjoys cooking!
In this Q&A post, let’s hear what Emiko talks about her cooking inspirations, ideas on everyday dishes, as well as tips on food photography, etc.
Name: Emiko Davies
Profession: Cookbook author
Blog/ Website: http://emikodavies.com
1. From the book and some previous interviews, I learned that you were majored in Art subjects at the beginning. What made you turn to food section? Does art education background contributes to your cooking inspirations?
I think I have always been a creative person, as in someone who needs to create, to work with my hands, whether that was drawing, printmaking, darkroom photography, restoration or cooking. I’m at my happiest doing things like that! And I see a close correlation between why I love the process of baking bread or pastries, for example, and creating an etching or developing a black and white photograph. They all require a bit of patience and what feels like a little bit of magic, too!
2. You mentioned in the book that one-pot dishes are preferred way of cooking in the Maremma area, and it ranges from seafood soup to lamb stews. That sounds amazing! As a Mom, I think one-pot cooking is such a great solution for preparing family meals: easy to prepare, spontaneous in the way that we can add in whatever we have/ prefer, and needless to mention that there are less to be washed!
Which of those one-pot recipes is your favorite for a lazy day meal?
Yes I agree entirely, it’s the ideal family meal! I particularly love the classic acquacotta, which is a tomato and onion soup. Once you poach the eggs in it too, it makes such a delicious and hearty meal with relatively little. And if you’re feeling particularly hungry, you can add some sausage in there too, or perhaps some cannellini beans. If you want more vegetables, anything leafy green goes well, but so do mushrooms or strips of red peppers, depending on the season. It’s so adaptable.
3. I also like cooking. I think it is one of the most precious and beautiful thing you could do for the others. And I definitely would like to involve my son in the kitchen more when he’s bigger. I’ve seen from your photos that your daughter Mariu helps a lot in the kitchen. What is her interpretation of “cooking” at this moment? A fun game, or a daily errand, or a way of showing love, etc?
We practically live in the kitchen, Mariu is always watching me cook and offering to help. Often, she will get an idea and ask to cook something herself – in particular she loves baking cakes and cupcakes, and this is always because she wants to give it to someone. A chocolate cake for her nonna, or strawberry cupcakes for her friends, decorated with icing and sprinkles, the works. The reason I know this is fully out of love is because she never once has eaten one of her sweet creations! Can you imagine a four year old that doesn’t like cakes or cupcakes?! I have one.
4. These days a like-able #OnTheTable photo helps a lot in food blogging & writing. In order to get a picture-perfect dish, do you need to compromise in certain aspect (cooking time, colors of the ingredients, table set up, etc.)? Tell us some truth behind the food-photographer’s lenses!
I absolutely cannot stand wasting food, so I’ll never compromise on the food itself, it has to be delicious! But I usually cook during day light hours so that I always have natural light to photograph the dishes. Natural light just makes taking a good photograph so much easier. And I use some portable surfaces so that I can even photograph outdoors – my own kitchen is quite dark, even though I have a huge window that looks out to the garden, we have a lot of vines covering and hanging down over the front of the flat that act like a curtain!
I also try to use very neutral colours – beige, off white, light greys and white, which keep things minimal and make the food the focus. To have different backgrounds, I often buy a meter of fabric to have as a “tablecloth” – there is a stand at the Sant’Ambrogio markets that I often go to that sells lovely linen and cotton fabrics.
5. Choose one of your favorite dishes from the Acquacotta book, and add an Asian twist in it. What would that be? LOL
Oh there already is one!
It happens to be the dish to try if you’re in Orbetello, an ancient dish that goes back about 500 years when the lagoon town was under Spanish rule. It’s made with eel (the lagoon is famous for it), usually, and is known as scaveccio, from the Spanish ‘escabeche’. Pieces of eel are floured, deep-fried then marinated in vinegar, white wine, garlic, chilli and herbs.
My first taste of it took me straight to my childhood in my grandmother’s home near Tokyo, and a dish that my mother often makes at home still, but with mackerel. In Japanese it’s called Nanbanzuke and it is also about the same age as scaveccio, a Japanese adaptation of a dish they learned from Portuguese merchants. It’s practically the same: pieces of fish, dipped in flour, deep-fried then marinated in rice vinegar, soy sauce, chili, sliced onions and perhaps thinly sliced carrot. It’s one of my favourite dishes, ever.
In Acquacotta I’ve done it with mackerel, which has a similar, meaty texture to the eel but is considerably easier to get and to prepare!