At The Foodie Bugle we regularly tune in to the Blog of Emma Bradshaw, www.emmabradshaw.blogspot.com. It is so very charming in its composition and heartfelt in its writing, giving the world a weekly insight into Emma’s food, family, foraging and photography. There is a very compelling draw to her diary entries, showcasing her love of the outdoors and how she teaches children to co-exist with Mother Nature and the bountiful supply of food she offers us with every season. We wanted to share our findings with The Foodie Bugle readers, so we sent her some questions, and she sent us her answers and photos. Here is what we found out.
Question: Emma, can you tell us when your Blog began, and how and why you decided to start it? You have two Blogs now, one for your everyday life and one for your professional photography. Do you find it hard to juggle both of them, keep them updated and look after two boys and a job?
Answer: In a word, yes! I’m a working mother, and try to balance family life, a fledgling photography business and a blog, all at the same time.
I started blogging in 2007 when I had a young babe in arms that didn’t sleep. I would often end up online in the small hours with a whole world of creative and inspiring blogs and Flickr at my fingertips.
Q: How does your work with nature and conservation affect your everyday life, and how do you teach your own children how to respect and nurture their environment?
A: I work in marketing for a nature conservation charity and believe passionately that everyone should have access to nature and the outdoors. Society has moved so far away from nature that there is even a phenomenon called “nature deficit disorder”.
The only way for children (and anyone else for that matter) to love and protect their natural environment is for them to experience it. It’s sad when children don’t know what time of year strawberries are in season, or own a pair of wellies. The surprising thing is that it affects rural children too, as parental fear and pressure on family time has a huge impact on children spending time outdoors.
I’ve even heard of a teacher who, when asked whether was she bringing her class for a pond dipping session, said, “No, I don’t need to take them outside anymore, I’ve got a DVD that they can just play on the computer”.
I assure you that I’m no Ray Mears or David Bellamy, but I have got a husband and two energetic children who love spending time outdoors and having adventures, so I learn through their eyes. If I don’t know something I just look it up. Often the things I write about in my blog about are things that we’ve done for the first time as a family.
Q: Can you give our readers easy ways in which they could get the whole family more in tune with, involved in or knowledgeable about the natural world around them?
A: There are lots of clubs you can join and books to inspire you, for example:
I love “The Bumper Book of Nature” by Stephen Moss and “Nature’s Playground” by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield, which are full of easy things to do together as a family as well as being beautiful books which make great presents. I also have Annie Bell’s “The Camping Cookbook” for inspiring my outdoor cooking and Martin Dorey’s “The Camper Van Cookbook”.
The Wildlife Trusts, junior club ‘Wildlife Watch’ http://www.wildlifewatch.org.uk/ and The Woodland Trust’s ‘nature detectives’ http://www.naturedetectives.org.uk/ are both the children’s clubs of nature conservation charities, with websites packed with free fun and exciting resources (if you join you get magazines in the post too).
The Wildlife Trusts also have thousands of (often free) events throughout the UK that you can get involved in, from rock pool rambles to bushcraft. Find your local Wildlife Trust here www.wildlifetrusts.org
I would also recommend for younger children you invest in an all-in-one suit I have bought mine from Muddy Puddles as there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.
Q: There are lots of foodie references in your photostream. How would you describe your cooking style?
A: I am quite a traditional ‘roast on a Sunday’ kind of girl, who also likes foraging and cooking on campfires.
One of my all time favourite things to make as a family is damper or campfire bread, which is easy to make and you cook it wrapped around a stick, turning over a fire. My friends from New Zealand tell me they grew up eating damper but take it off the stick and fill the hole with butter and jam.
We love foraging as a family and often make things like elderflower cordial, wild garlic pesto and blackberry jam. There is something very satisfying about foraging, and food for free certainly helps our limited budget in these times of rising food prices.
The boys often help me to cook, even though their ‘help’ can prolong the process. They love baking biscuits and cakes and making jam so I let them do as much as possible. We also grow a few vegetables every year, which they can pick and eat, things like pumpkins and potatoes are really easy and lead to satisfying results for a child’s expectations. They also have a hen each, so they collect and eat a fresh egg every day.
Q: Where do you shop for food? How does your knowledge of the environment influence the choices you make as a consumer? Do you grow your own food?
A: I went a bit nuts when I had my first baby, everything had to be organic, I’m far more relaxed now. I do however support the ‘shop local’ movement and am lucky to have great local providers such as the amazing Stroud farmers market, where we make a beeline to buy Days Cottage cider and apple juice, Trealy Farm chorizo and Hobbs House bread and cakes.
But we do still shop at the supermarket and find it impossible to cope with our work/life balance without the convenience and affordability that it provides us as a family. We do, however, buy British salads and my biggest weakness is cut flowers, so I try to visit the WI stall in Stroud on a Friday morning to buy them freshly picked from local gardens.
Q: If you could change three food and drink spending habits of consumers round the world, which would you pick and why?
A: Reduce food miles, it is amazing how far food travels to reach your plate. We seem to have it the wrong way round in this country, processed food, flown or shipped, is often cheaper than food from a farm nearby. Surely the more ‘processes’ the more expense?
I really respect Jamie Oliver’s work, if you haven’t watched his TED lecture (http://www.tedprize.org/video/embed/oliver_jamie.html) you should. I believe he is right when he says that children need to be taught cooking at school and at home in the kitchen.
Reduce packaging of food
I would put all packaging in ‘Room 101’ I get quite annoyed each Easter with the amount of plastic and cardboard used!
Q. Your photography looks really natural, showcasing natural light and natural settings. So many foodie bloggers have difficulty with photography. What advice would you give them?
A: I try to always use natural light, and shoot a lot of film, I find it more enchanting and nostalgic than the perfection that digital imaging gives. I think life is grainy and imperfect just like film! I’m lucky that my family and friends are quite used to me saying “Don’t eat that yet!” as I want to take a picture of their plate of food before they start their meal.
The light from any camera flash is terribly harsh, but for indoor shots where you have a white ceiling, I have a handy little device called a ‘light scoop’ very cheap from the US http://www.lightscoop.com/, it just angles the cameras own flash to bounce off the ceiling and fits on most models. It is very cheap, clever and means you can achieve a natural look without fiddling with settings!
Q: What plans do you have for the Summer, and do you have any special events or exhibitions that our readers should look out for?
A: I’m running two family workshops at Prema Arts Centre in Uley, Gloucestershire. Something a little different for me, and I am really looking forward to them. The first is an ‘Ugly Bug Workshop’ on the 2ndJuly, we are going to study different bugs in homemade pooters and then make big processional puppets of the bugs we have discovered.
The second workshop is more of a family affair on the 25thJuly 2011, with a family den building day. Find out more here http://www.prema.demon.co.uk
I also offer bespoke photography work and feature writing too, although at the moment I am trying to build up my film photography portfolio while the sun shines.
Follow Emma on Twitter: @_emmabradshaw