Friday 16 August 2013

At last, a decent photo!

Last night Ria’s husband Jaco, a mountain of a man, a true Afrikaner with only the most basic grasp of de rooinek sprache (English), decided to cook a Potje.  Except he pronounced it ‘Poikey’ but assured me it was spelt ‘Potje’.  Mind you, being a true Afrikaner, if you asked him what he was wearing the night before, don’t be too dismayed (if you are a lover of the English language) to hear him reply, ‘I were wearing a blue jeans pant’.

A potje is basically a stew made with meat, vegetables, herbs and spices in a heavy cast iron pot very reminiscent of a mini witch’s cauldron.  This pot is placed onto glowing charcoal and left for hours.  Traditionally they were placed on the glowing embers of a fire in the morning and left all day, the food being ready in the evening.  They were the original slow cookers and were just added to as the food within was consumed.  It certainly must have saved on the washing up.

The resultant stew is delicious; the meat tender (don’t forget, sometimes they were cooking with some pretty tough cuts) and the gravy rich.  If they were eating this morning, noon and night, no wonder the average Afrikaner is twice the size of the equivalent Homo Sapiens to which they can only be loosely related.

Jako’s potje was no exception.  I am not given to over eating, most of my calories come in liquid form, but I surprised everyone by going for seconds.

So why am I writing a post about something mundane as a stew?

Well it is all to do with people such as Ian Hutson, Cro Magnon, Yorkshire Pudding, George (of the Flee and Float, not the jungle), the Fifth Columnist et al.  They ALL take beautiful photographs.  It seems that every blog I follow is enhanced with stunning photographs.  Even gay Welsh raconteurs take better pictures than me.  The photos on my blog are not just amateurish, they are crap. I love photography.  I have an expensive digital SLR with interchangeable lenses.  I bought it because I read all the reviews and it had the most stars on Amazon in my price range.  Well, if it so good and I can’t be bothered to read and digest the mammoth instruction manual so just set it to automatic in the expectation it will do it all for me, why does it take such rubbish photos?  The thing that really irritates me about it is the pop up flash.  It will not go off when I want it to and will go off when I don’t.  I really wanted to take a photo of the witch’s cauldron steaming on its bed of glowing charcoal but the flash kept going off, the resultant photo being, as usual, crap.  I tried placing my hand in front of the flash but then the camera would not focus and not take a photo.  Everyone had a fiddle with it.  We pushed buttons, we entered and were quickly lost in a maze of menus, the battery died, I fitted a fresh one from the charger, we finally found a way to disable the flash and then it wouldn’t take a picture at all.  In the meantime, the pot bubbled.

‘Right, that’s it!’ I thought and pressed the factory reset button undoing half an hour of collective effort.

I framed the shot of the pot.  I then put my left hand on top of the pop up flash to physically prevent it doing what it was designed to do and pressed the shutter release.  I heard the beep beep of the auto focus and the click of the flash release.  Obviously, with my maw holding the flash down, when the shutter released, if it did flash, the camera flashed its own guts.

My handling of the camera may have been slightly unorthodox but I was nevertheless quite pleased with the result:


  1. You're right; that is a good pic. There's a dish from the Auvergne area of France called a Potée (not potty) which is very similar to your one above. Good winter rib-sticking fare!

  2. And you should be chuffed with it too - photographing open fires is notoriously discomnobulating, that one is splendid!

    As for cooking, well, the nearest I do to such a dish is a ritual perfomed just before shopping days, when I scrape everything off the shelves of the fridge into a pot and light the gas under it. The pot that is, I don't light the gas under the fridge. The full recipe is as follows: add ingredients (no need to unwrap), simmer for several hours, throw contents of pot away and have a G&T instead.

  3. Flashed its own guts - I like that. Try putting your camera in A mode and then changing the little numbers till you get what you want. If it's dark out, choose a smaller number, the smallest number available will be written somewhere on your lens. If you have it on auto focus, press the shutter half way till it focusses on what you want to shoot, then press all the way. Viola.

  4. Nice shot! I too have a supply of expensive lenses and a DSLR, and have played photographer for 50 years, and yet more often than not, my game camera takes the better pictures.

  5. I have an expensive DSLR with interchangeable lenses. It takes beautiful pix, but I get lots of rejects while I'm trying to figure it out, and it seems like the good shots are random. I much prefer my Canon PowerShot S515. It's easy to pack around and sets up quickly, plus it's a bit smaller and easier to handle.

  6. Nothing better than a several day stew. Sadly in my household, I'm the only one who eats them. More for me then.

  7. Stunning picture, i can smell the food!


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