Vegetable Still Life


I always thought vegetables were more photogenic than humans. At least fresh vegetables compared with fresh humans. Unless of course they were supermodels in bikinis on a remote Hawaiian beach (though many of them aren’t so striking in person and when stripped of make-up). Time and time again, the natural beauty, color and shapes of fruit and vegetables and even seafood make for naturally stunning still lifes. I have mentioned this before, and have posted other photos of produce (here, here, here, here, and here, for example) that were simple and yet stunning. So in preparation for my attempt at as authentic an Ilocano pinakbet as I will probably ever make, I had not only the palayok and wood fire at the ready, I assembled the following selection of veggies…


Gorgeous native tomatoes in their characteristically irregular shapes and sizes and pale orange green color, which turn to a light pink when fully ripe, some tiny ampalayas that the Ilocanos seem to prefer, wickedly bitter but in a pleasurable sado-masochistic manner, small red onions, ayap, fresh squash flowers, tiny eggplants, okra, siling mahaba, garlic, ginger, bagnet, fish bagoong, etc. (the last three not in the photo). The only thing I wanted but didn’t have that day was katuray flowers… But with the right equipment and this bounty of produce, one would hope a decent dish would emerge from the clay pot…


28 Responses

  1. Naku, Mr. MM, I salivate when I see those bunch of veggies… very Ilocano indeed. My maternal family is Ilocano, from Isabela and La Union and pinakbet is definitely a staple viand over at my Lola Puring’s house, alternating with pinakbet’s cousin viands— inabrao and dinengdeng.

    And those squash-shaped tomatoes are really the best of all the tomatoes I’ve ever eaten so far, very juicy!

    Too bad most veggies found in Manila markets today are imported and they’re just all about the size, all wanting in deep flavor and aroma. Tsk, tsk, tsk…

  2. Those veggies look very fresh and gorgeous (no bruising or signs of decay).

    I’ve never seen that kind of tomato, didn’t even realize they were tomatoes at first.

  3. as for photography I met a famous food blogger in UK…

    whose photographs are soo stunning that won her awards and freelance work all over the world…. i thought she has all the bibs and bobs but it turned out she only has one body and,,,, MACRO LENS.

    the secret of still life i think since i dont use props is natural light

    PS I love the way you describe the ampalaya wickedly bitter but in a pleasurable sado-masochistic manner that reminds me bordains book the way he wrote..

    “I am deeply suspicious of any cook who is less than enthusiastic about sex, movies, music, travel and LIFE!
    A few years back dining with friends at one of the best restaurants we sat back, after many courses of lovely artfully arranged food.
    I wondered aloud what was wrong. One of my companions suggested that the chef “cooked like someone who s never been properly fucked all his life!!!”

  4. I looove pinakbet esp with the small ampalaya and the small round eggplants. We cook our pinakbet in a clay pot too and add a lot of bagnet for that sinful touch!

  5. careful on buying veggies in your usual manila markets (palengke)..specially the ones near your houses. As most veggie stalls uses formalin to pro-long the shelf life of most local veggies. ;)

  6. Those heirloom tomatoes are the best ‘sawsawan’- mashed (by hand ha!) with a little salt and slivers of onions. Saraaaaaaap with anything fried!

  7. Goodness me, the vegetables are so gorgeous! Your photos are always beautiful. Bravo, Mr Marketman!

    As for the authentic Ilocano pinakbet, I am looking forward to how it turns out. My mother’s family is from Abra while my father’s family is from Pangasinan while I was born and raised in Cagayan de Oro (I have since moved back to Manila) so I am exposed to plenty of variation in food but I find my maternal grandmother’s pinakbet the most mouthwatering of them all. Until she got too old to stoke a wood fire, she would cook it in a palayok and to he** with the neighbors complaining of the usok.

    Goodluck on the pinakbet. I have read the posts and comments on your pinakbet posts (and all your other posts, actually *lol* ) and I am excited as to how your authentic pinakbet will turn out!

  8. I’ve been craving for pinakbet and I had the hint you’ll be cooking pinakbet in your pot(which you posted. I received bountiful baskets of veggies last sunday so I asked my mom to cook pinakbet for lunch today. I had the same veggies as yours, plus the addition of malunggay pods, sigarilyas, fresh kadyos, and if Im not mistaken there was saluyot too. All veggies are homegrown at a backyard from the North, we’re so lucky! It was so good paired with some fried tawilis. Even my 3-year old nephew loved it!

  9. Maricel, yes, malunggay pods would have been good as well. farrah, I agree that a lot of our veggies are less than brilliant, but if you go to sukis at some of the weekend markets, you can find some pretty good stuff! lee, so Bond. suzette, I think “purists” would say most pinakbet from the Ilocos region will not have squash… though I think at the heart of the idea is using whatever veggies you have in your backyard… Eina, many years ago, these were the predominant tomatoes available, now we have all sorts… but I find these ones to be superb for many uses in local dishes… they have very thin skins which saute nicely… sha I love nordjus, GORGEOUS photos always. nina, you are in the middle east, right? Hmmm, tough on veggies I think! Trish, just when you thought you were eating healthy, BAM! a lot of bagnet! :) marlon, they are my photos and are in theory protected. I don’t think I could afford to bring them to a copyright office and register each one individually… so I will simply have to go after anyone who steals them. As for the formalin, there have been reports, but nothing conclusive. Even PCIJ refers to news reports, but there doesn’t seem to be any conclusive evidence of widespread use. It may be true but for what percentage of veggies, I wouldn’t know. For that matter, your fish could have been caught with cyanide (believe me, you will feel it if you eat a tainted fish and probably end up getting your stomach pumped), the cows and pigs and chickens (except the likes of Solrayas) shot up with hormones or whatever, etc. etc. so I would keep the formalin scare in perspective. Joey, yup, I love these in sawsawan… I think the really thin skins are a big part of the attraction… kasseopeia (geez, it is SO hard to spell your name, I have to keep looking at your comment!), pinakbet up soon! tulip, shucks! I should have thought of kadyos and sigarilyas as well! Darn. Next time.

  10. you are funny MM! there are people out there who are more photogenic than veggies even if they don’t have makeups…

  11. Edik, but imagine what those “beautiful” people would look like if you steamed them in bagoong with bagnet…would they be so attractive then? Hahaha. I am obviously a bit off center this evening! :)

  12. Gorgeous veggies! I saw those tomatoes at the market…they look so interesting…better for cooking or for eating raw would you say?

    Can’t wait for your palayok posts! I have one but haven’t used it yet so I will be waiting with baited breath for all your tips!

    Off topic…did you see Gil Caradang selling the meat of his just slaughtered free-range pot belly pig??? I bought some, roasted a big hunka rib that same day and OH BOY! What flavor!

  13. Yes, yes beautiful pictures of veggies in their serene arrangement and much bigger in life!.

  14. Hello there Marketman,

    The picture looks great you should win some kind of award. I could only imagine what the outcome when you’re done cooking them. Bring on the hot rice with “Inihaw Na Bangus Dagupan Style” with kalamansi and bagoong monamon sauce on the side we are good to go. “Pinangat Ni Baket” my favorite Ilocano dish. Way to go Marketman you ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:-)

  15. I agree with everyone, those vegetables look photogenic and look like they were picked at their prime especially what looks to me like heirloom tomatoes. I notice too that you have a beautiful antique-looking basket. Must be from Ilocos?

  16. These veggies looks so fresh, very inviting, and just beautiful! They look as if you just picked them yourself from the farm! I can’t wait to see the final dish! oh yummY!

  17. Your pics looks stunning! Those tomatoes are to die for and crikey! we can’t get enough of those tomatoes here where we live.

  18. those tomatoes are called “tumana” here in Marikina. by the way, are shallots the same as those small red onions? i read somewhere that shallots are not really onions, but a combination of onions and garlic. however,some supermarkets label these small onions as shallots. nice pics and looks like a good lot to cook with.

  19. Beeeyuutiful! i’ve been a long-time admirer of your photos.

    What other ways would you cook squash flowers? i’ve recently tried a dish of flowers stuffed with ricotta and then baked, quite nice…

  20. These photos I wouldn’t have mistaken to have come from Campo d’Fiori. Unmistakably Pinoy. Galing!

  21. Gorgeous still-life, the segments of the tomatoes, the wrinkled pods of the ampalaya (which looks more interesting than it tastes), the smooth pearly skin of the eggplants, and the orange-yellow petals of the squash blossoms against all the greens. Someone should paint it!



Subscribe To Updates

No spam, only notifications about new blog posts.