Photographer and foodie, Brent Parker Jones, gives an entertaining insight into the cover shoot for The Food Book.

Photo of radishes on a chopping board

‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’ Thank you, Shakespeare, for that quote. If only the radish were as perfect as the rose!

My story begins here: I am looking for the perfect radish to photograph for the cover of The Food Book.

My brief was to photograph a few radishes on a cutting board … simple. Or so you would think.

The market was busy that day, my friends, but I knew the organic stall sold small salad radishes, because I’d seen them there two weeks earlier. Not that I needed organic ones, but I did need ‘small’.

I had already purchased the cutting board (from a two-dollar shop, no less). Although it was a bit too new-looking, it was the right size, so I worked out the scale of the radishes I’d need for the cover.

Easy, right? No, not really!

So, I find myself at the busy Melbourne markets and I go to the stall where, two weeks earlier, I had seen small radishes. But who knew that radishes grew so fast? (Note to self: radishes are one of the fastest-maturing vegetables around.)

Talk about bad timing.

Radishes and a knife on a chopping board

Another interesting and little-known fact is that the radish was highly regarded in ancient Greece. So much so, that the Greeks made gold replicas of the vegetable. Now that’s cool! Imagine wearing a gold radish on a chain. ‘Hey buddy, nice radish!’ ‘Cheers, thanks mate.’

I digress. I am after small radishes, so I buy every bunch I see that contains at least one small radish.

Fifteen bunches later I go back to the studio to sort out my bounty. It is probably expedient of me to remind you that I only need one perfect radish. Easy, right? No!

As I discover, the problem (as far as my job is concerned) lies in the way radishes are picked and packed. The poor little root veggies are yoinked out of the ground and a red elastic band is shoved over the top to hold a few of them together, in what we call ‘a bunch’.  I use such words as yoinked and shoved to describe the condition of the stems and leaves when I later unwrap them at my studio. This is not a disparaging comment or reflection on the freshness or tastiness of the radishes.  Nor is it a remark on the love and care that radish-growers show towards their cash crop, but only a comment on the condition of the leaves.

But because of the sheer quantity I have purchased, the odds are on my side. That, and Photoshop, of course.

I have photographed some strange things before, but the sight of fifteen bunches of radish spread across the floor in graded piles from biggest to smallest, from smashed to usable, was bewildering and strange even for me. The level of adoration that was bestowed upon the final radish from food stylist Miss Lee and me, was as though the cover-worthy radish was (well, more in Miss Lee’s case than mine) the combined Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt of the radish world.

Only problem was, its curly tail was not twisty enough, it had suffered a caterpillar attack, and a few of its leaves were missing.

To be continued …