I have been blogging for about five years now. I wanted very much to start a blog that reflected the kind of entertaining that I most enjoy – relaxed, informal and uncomplicated – and the kind of catering that I provide for weddings and events; simple, uncomplicated and generous seasonal food that feeds the soul and makes people happy.
I’m not a professional photographer, but when professional photographers were working with me on my book, “From Crabshack to Oyster Bar”, I realised that I not only wanted to write, I wanted to take the pictures as well. So it’s been a process of learning as I go along: devouring other peoples’ blogs; finding my own style and making a lot of mistakes along the way that have taught me what works and what doesn’t.
I love the raw produce as much as the finished dish. I love styling the shot, although when I’m photographing the food that I am also cooking for large numbers of people, the word styling is something of a misnomer! My favourite lens also happens to be my cheapest one.
I didn’t train at cookery school but have always loved food and been interested in where it comes from. In my twenties I bought a derelict riverside boathouse and converted it into a restaurant. Initially I did all the cooking but as we got busier I took on a very traditional chef who taught me all of the basics and a whole lot more. Even today, I find it difficult to cook for two – I cook “big” and like the buzz that goes with it.
My cooking style is relaxed and informal. I hate overworked food and menus, and I really dislike pretentious finishing touches. I love experimenting with flavours and with texture and think that food in its raw or barely cooked state is very beautiful.
I have nearly always been in the hospitality business. I had my own hotel on the West Coast of Scotland and that’s where I developed a passion for seafood and shellfish, wrote my book and started The Seafood Trail. When I sold the hotel I developed my own catering business which I have re-branded as Lazy Sunday. And, above all, I love weddings.
My photographic style, I hope, reflects my cooking style: unfussy and pared back. I enjoy combining new and old props for visual effect. I try to use natural light whenever possible and never do strange chemical things to food for photographic effect.
I co-ordinate weddings at Lunga House, in the Inner Hebrides, and cater for weddings there. It’s a uniquely special place full of eccentric character and characters. We refer to it as a little castle with a big heart. I use as much of the inherited crockery as possible and cook in a big kitchen overlooking the Sound of Shuna and the mountain tops of Jura and Mull in the distance.
Parties there are completely relaxed. People say that they never look at their watches from the minute they arrive to the minute they leave and that’s how it’s meant to be. We call it Lunga time. If people want to stroll into the kitchen and chat with me while I cook, they’re very welcome.
Local suppliers are wonderful and very generous with their help and their time. Guests leave well fed, often wobbly kneed from dancing vigourously to a local ceilidh band and usually come back time and time again. Lunga becomes part of their lives and traditions. They get married here, have their children christened here and celebrate birthdays an anniversaries.
My main writing focus is on the lovely Lunga weddings blog and my Lazy Sunday blog. My three children are older and doing their own thing, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do this.
I live partly on the East Coast and partly on the West Coast of Scotland, so spend a fair bit of time driving between the two. It is something I enjoy very much and I always pack myself a picnic to enjoy en route. I always sit outside; even a howling wind is blowing and rain is falling monsoon style.
I also have a fabulous husband who works alongside me in the business and helps in every way that he can. But life can be pretty full-on at times – with weddings in particular you are dealing with so much more than food – and I can be on my feet for fifteen or sixteen hours at a time and that is probably the hardest aspect of what I do.
Social media is fairly integral to my work. Facebook is a great way of raising your profile and prompting people to the blog. Twitter is social media in real time, fast moving and you quickly develop what I can only describe as a circle of support. Helpful people, who get what you do and like what you do, often introduce you to other like-minded people, and this can be very rewarding and enlightening. Facebook and Twitter also enable you to socialise and to interact – I find huge support from other small businesses and we share problems and experiences online.
In the future I would like to focus more on food writing, photography and styling and to offer experiential and interactive food photography workshops – the participants would also be part of the photo shoot. Blogging is something that I always seem to find time in my day to do and it gives me a reason to photograph my food.
Carole Fitzgerald’s Website: www.lungaweddings.co.uk