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Ellen Murphy is not only a tattoo artist who loves food, but she is one inspriational girl. We recently chatted about her love for food and what inspires her eating habits. Here is what she had to say, so read on!
M: How long have you been tattooing?
E: I started my apprenticeship in late 2004.
M: Do you tattoo anyone thats a chef?
E: I have worked on a lot of chefs and people who work in the food and restaurant industry and it’s a good thing because I usually guide the conversation to food sooner or later.
M: In all your talks with culinary professionals, have you noticed a correlation between the tattoo and culinary industries?
E: I Have! A lot of Tattooers seem to be Foodies and Visa Versa. Tattooers and chefs both have jobs with long hours that kick the shit out of them but they love it. And what better way to reward yourself after a long day than to lean back and have someone serve you a fucking awesome meal made by people who care about what they are doing and using real fresh food. I’m sure people feel the same way when they get tattooed by some rad tattooer who gives a shit about what goes into their body.
M: Interesting! So, what is your fondest food related memory?
E: Picking and eating wild blueberries in the woods as a kid. My mother grew up eating what they could find so she taught us to forage for wild food. We used to pull over on the side of the highway and cut the bark off bayberry trees or collect wild red clover for tea.
M: Uh, that is amazing. Seriously cool. And what is your favorite style of food?
E: I would have to say Asian and Middle Eastern. Both tend to have good flavor and simple healthy ingredients. Honestly though…I love all food. Ramen, Pho’ and Sushi are a big staple in my diet. At home I usually just eat fruits and vegetables. Raw foods.
M: Yeah raw foods are really good for you. I’ve noticed tattooers eat at odd hours most of the time because of their jobs, how do you balance your diet with your work schedule?
E: It’s hard to be healthy at a tattoo shop. When everyone else is getting fried chicken and biscuits your bean salad doesn’t look so good anymore. I save the real gluttony for when I’m not working. I eat mostly vegan gluten free during the week and everything else on the off days. I also go to the gym 4 days a week and yoga plus walk 30-90 minutes a day. Sitting on your ass for a living and eating when you have five minutes every five hours can really make it hard to have a healthy diet.
M: You live on the East Coast, any restaurant recommendations?
E: I have a few of them. But the one that really stands out is Coppa in the south end of Boston. It’s an Italian restaurant and the Chef is Jamie Bissonette. He uses every part of the animal you can think of. Some of my favorite things I have had there were calves brain ravioli and chestnut pasta with a boar ragu. Vinegar bleached sardines and a pig’s tail braised with a honey glaze and Ethiopian spices. I could go on and on and on…….
M: That sounds like heaven! You travel a lot for work and just in general. What do you end up eating, anything interesting?
E: Whenever you go to a convention or a shop somewhere else, the first thing people want to do is show you where they like to eat. Or find the best place to get good food in town. Not Applebees and TGI Fridays.
Going from place to place makes you interested in the culture and a big part of culture is in food. First thing I wanna do when I get off the plane is eat. It’s what I think about most of the day haha! And if you don’t want to starve in other countries you eat what they have when they have it.
When I was in San Francisco last year I went to a really great sushi place called Tekka. It’s so awesome. You have to wait outside in line for an hour or so before they open. And they have 10 seats and only two seating’s a night. There’s one guy making the sushi and his wife serves the drinks. It was so quiet you could hear a mouse fart in there and all of a sudden he turns the TV on and Johnny cash Live at Fulsome prison starts playing. The sushi was awesome and the cuts were as big as my fist. There was a sign above the chef that basically said, we make it the way we want and you will eat it like that and like it or get the fuck out. Genius.
Once in Japan I ate a sashimi fish at a restaurant where you catch your own. It was still moving while I was chewing on it. That was interesting.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on food, Ellen, suddenly I feel like hitting the gym!
Ellen Murphy recipe
Sautéed Tofu on Quinoa and lemon pepper asparagus
Extra firm tofu
First, bring one cup of water to a boil. Add 1/2cup quinoa to water. Stir and then lower heat to simmer and keep covered for 15 minutes. While that’s cooking
Drain Tofu and press it in between two paper towels to make it less soggy.
Then cut it into cubes. Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to frying pan and bring to medium heat. Then add Tofu. Once the tofu starts to cook, add a few tablespoons of agave nectar, 1teaspoon of chili powder and a few pinches of salt. Stir around every few minutes until browned a bit on all sides.
In a separate pan add one teaspoon of olive oil. Then add Asparagus. Let sear for a minute or so and then squeeze half a lemon into the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Then cover on medium heat for two minutes.
Plate asparagus and quinoa. Add tofu to quinoa. Done!
Enjoy and happy eating!
photos courtesy of Ellen Murphy