When people ask how I am able to take step-by-step photos for the recipe entries in my food blog like this and this, I tell them, in all honesty, “With difficulty.” It means mounting the camera on the tripod, stopping after every step of the cooking procedure to take photos and, more often than not, because cooking means dirty hands, I have to wash and dry my hands too between the chopping and the mincing and handling the camera. It’s easier when I’m not pressed for time. Otherwise, readers have to be content with a shot or two of the cooked dish.
But I love those step-by-step photos. They make a recipe come alive! So when someone volunteers to take them, I feel ecstatic. Most times, it’s Sam who volunteers. Like a couple of weeks ago when I was planning on baking a key lime pie but both Sam and Alex insisted that it be a mango custard pie instead. I relented and there was Sam with her camera taking photos up until I put the glass dish in the oven. The photos were so great — there is even one that shows the egg yolk in midair between the cracked shell and the blender. I love motion photos like that — something I can do by myself only by using the camera’s timer which really prolongs everything. But with an assistant, I go through the normal cooking procedure without bothering to run back and forth between the food, the sink and the camera.
Sadly, the recipe for the mango custard pie has not been posted to this day. It turned out very well, by the way, so that’s not the reason why it isn’t in my food blog yet. The reason is that Sam still hasn’t given me the photos she had taken. I have reminded her a dozen times, she’s always busy with something, and I don’t insist because it’s her freshman year in college and I don’t want to add to the pressure. So until she finds the time, the recipe entry remains on draft mode because I don’t want to post it with photos only of the baked pie which I took. I want it complete with the ones that Sam had taken.
But it wasn’t the first time that Sam took step-by-step photos of my cooking with the representation that she’s doing it for my food blog. She did the same thing the last time I made siopao but there’s a very different twist to that episode. Heaven knows how long I’ve wanted to update that siopao entry with new photos. So, last summer, when Alex was craving for siopao and volunteered to help me, that in addition to Sam’s promise to take all the photos, I figured it was the perfect opportunity.
So, I sprinkled the yeast into a bowl of lukewarm water and Sam took photos. I mixed in the flour and she took photos. She went on taking photos of the initial kneading of the dough inside the bowl, of the hand-kneading on the granite top of the kitchen island and I was so happy that I’d finally have a complete set of step-by-step photos of how to make siopao.
But you know how it is with dough… you have to let it rise, right?
Okay, so the kneading done, I gathered the dough into a ball and placed it in a lightly greased bowl. Then, I covered it with a damp towel. Sam asked how long it would take for the dough to rise, I told her about an hour and she said she was going up to her room. I told her to just come down after an hour so she could photograph the risen dough (photos of unrisen and risen dough side by side just look so great in a food blog) and the rest of the procedure.
The dough rose, I took it out of the bowl, I cut it into equal portions and Alex and I started to stuff the dough with asado filling. Where was Sam? She had fallen asleep. The dough has to rise a second time after it has been filled, right? The second rising of the dough came and went and there was no Sam. The pork filled dough went into the steamer and still no Sam. Oh, she came down just in time to eat the cooked siopao.
That’s really the problem when your assistant is not your employee and she works on a voluntary basis. You can’t threaten with pay cuts much less getting fired. I can’t fire my kid, can I? Of course, if she were my employee, that would be a different story altogether.