Culture Spoon Continues, New Comedy Writing Blog

I will continue updating my blog Culture Spoon, but in the meantime, check out a new blog I've begun called I Fall Walking Upstairs. I am determined to write in one way or another, even if that is not food writing; this blog will focus on different types of writing I find interesting, particularly comedy. I'm not sure if it will lead to anything, but I'm determined to see it through. Thanks for all your support, readers!

Wanderlust in SA

I fight the urge to roll my eyes whenever a person tells me they have "Wanderlust." Anyone who has read travel and culture magazines in the last five years knows the word belongs on a list of words and phrases to retire- it's up there with "nestled" and "rolling hills" and "picturesque." The only thing that annoys me more than "wanderlust,"  is the fact that I haven't found a word that better describes my own compulsion to wander, travel and move constantly. I have kept busy with work in San Antonio since August, and I admit I have scattered my professional energies since October  trying to incorporate travel in my work in 2014. I am excited to be traveling throughout Belgium, France, Spain, and possibly Asia in the coming months, and I hope travel is something I can incorporate in my career and assignments more in the future.

I am trying to stay mindful of which people and things are around me at this moment in my life; I have grown so much in my professional and personal life because of them, and I know this moment in my life will pass. I am proud to be working in San Antonio in a time where the city's creative communities are beginning to come into their own,  particularly in the food community. Recent writing and photo assignments have reminded me that travel will always be part of my life, even if I can't find a better word than "wanderlust" to describe it.  We are always moving even when we are standing still, and I am traveling even when I simply bake souffles in the family kitchen.

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What would Margaret Bourke-White do?

People often tell me I was born in the wrong decade. If I had graduated 30 years ago, I would have easily found my place as a successful news writer and photographer. I try not to think about these comments too often, mostly because I wasn't born earlier so the comments don't mean much.  I prefer face-to-face interviews, I still write all my notes by hand (though I'm beginning to digitize them), and my favorite work still involves walking, listening, and exploring streets with my old 35 mm. I have a journalism/photojournalism background that stretches back to my high school newspaper days, and I use that specialized training and resentment to this day. Holly Hunter in Broadcast News, 1987.

I always ask established photographers and writers, "If you were a new writer or photographer, in today's market, what would you do?" Many of them tell me they simply wouldn't be a writer or photographer- they wouldn't make it today.  I'm sure this would apply to a few individuals, but I think true writers and photographers always find a way. I would define "true" photographers and writers as the people who work in the industry not just because they love it, or because they're particularly good at it, but because they have to do this. I've tried to envision what some of my photo and writing heroes would do if they were entering the market today, and I think many of them would still find a way to create meaningful work.

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I can see Margaret Bourke-White tweeting updates from her travel assignments, but she would put the phone away to make beautiful and intelligent photographs. If Joan Didion did create a Tumblr, I would actually spend time on Tumblr, but I don't think it would detract from her writing for Vogue or The New Yorker. M.F.K. Fisher would Instagram all her food adventures, but I would still read and respect anything she published or blogged. If individuals like Nora Ephron and Elisabeth Eaves and can do it, why can't I?

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Do all writers and photographers find their niche path by working? Social media certainly confuses the path today.  I increasingly find that just because I can do something well, doesn't mean I should do it. This is why I will never be a social media associate or a traditional metro news reporter, and I've learned to be okay with that.

Finding my niche has been a difficult process, but it's beginning to make more sense. My current job title: Freelance food news writer and photographer/ commercial food photographer. I used to worry that news and commercial were incompatible, but I find that multimedia skills are necessary for a new generation of writers and photographers to remain relevant and credible (and well fed). I hope to add other credentials to this title within the year, and for the first time, I'm not worried about compromising my ethics or work quality.

What would Margaret Bourke-White say to that? I think she'd agree I was on my way, and remind me to keep backing up my work in multiple locations.

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'Prisoners' features strong performances despite shaky storyline

The film 'Prisoners" focuses on several well-known cinematic themes, including tests of faith, fear, and values. In this film, Hugh Jackman portrays Keller Dover, the small-town everyman who finds his family, faith and values questioned when his daughter and the daughter of the Birch family,  (Birch patriarch portrayed by Terrence Howard) are kidnapped while left unattended for a few moments. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the part of Detective David Wayne Loki, who works with and sometimes against Jackman to find the missing girls. 

Much like"The Vanishing" (1988, Franco-Dutch version , and the 1993 American version with Jeff Bridges) "Prisoners" shares the intense psychological stress of the characters with the audience. Viewers slowly feel themselves take on the stress, and the unnerving sense of dread that permeates the film. [gallery columns="2" type="rectangular" ids="1094,1093"] While Jackman and Gyllenhaal give impressive, increasingly intense performances throughout the film, the storyline fails to develop with them. The film attempts to withhold information and pieces of the story to keep the audience guessing,  but the film's greatest accomplishment is that we know what will happen but still feel frightened. Paul Dano's performance as a damaged, disturbed individual is haunting. There are several memorable visual scenes, but the plot never meets up with the rest of the film.

Film Review Prisoners

The story of parents losing their children to predators is not new; the biggest fear lies somewhere between never knowing and learning the truth.

Prisoners Terrence Howard Copyright http://www.andsoitbeginsfilms.com

Overall, the film left me feeling manipulated and emotionally traumatized, as though I had just watched three hours of the Houston nightly news and then re-watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Prisoners: Melissa Leo stars as Holly Jones and Paul Dano stars as Alex Jones in Warner Bros. Pictures' Prisoners (2013)

I'm curious to see how the film will be received during Oscars season,  but I'm even more curious as to how this will affect the ongoing "nerd trends" and sales of oversize glasses.

Despite the weak storyline, once the credits appeared, I quickly exited the theater to meet up with a friend for coffee. Even after ending, the film "Prisoners" leaves you with a chill you just can't seem to shake.

Rating: B-

Behind the Scenes: One Lucky Duck

I recently wrote a story on One Lucky Duck, a new juice bar and raw food establishment located in the Historical Pearl Brewery in San Antonio, Texas. Here are few more photographs from my time spent at One Lucky Duck.  You can read the story as printed here in the SA Current: One Lucky Duck , or check out One Lucky Duck Texas menu. Happy Eating! (L to R:)Emily Melngailis with One Lucky Duck founder, Sarma Melngailis at the Grand Opening of One Lucky Duck Texas.

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Matthew, at One Lucky Duck

 

Sarma's Green Kale Shake

 

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Coffee Talk with Culture Spoon

Today Culture Spoon celebrates International Coffee Day with a new “Coffee Talk” interview series. Each month, Culture Spoon will feature an individual who has pursued their passions in work and life, and how they’ve used that passion to better their local and global communities. In our first Coffee Talk, Culture Spoon sat with Rebecca Anne Ruiz, a powerful advocate for the Fair Trade Movement. Ruiz works as a Chief Storyteller for Ten Thousand Villages, is the co-founder of the Tender Heart Foundation, and recently traveled as a Fair Trade Ambassador to Oaxaca, Mexico. In this interview, Ruiz explains her passion for fair trade, and proves that great things can happen when you follow your passion.

International Coffee Talk

Photography and Place revisited

  Photography may not preserve absolute truth, but it reminds us of the places we have been, the people we were or felt we were, and helps illustrate transitions too difficult to explain with words alone.

The black and white film photographs were taken 2 years ago, when I was a photo student living in Austin. I wanted to document my environment and how  surreal the relationships between buildings, art and people. felt to me.

The second set of photographs were taken earlier this week, on a roadtrip to Austin with my siblings. The only relationship between the two sets of photographs is the physical spaces. I enjoy documenting the changes in cities, and I enjoy documenting my changing relationships with cities. Revisiting places and planning trips for new, unfamiliar cities is at times frightening, but overall, an exciting process.

Photographs help me to create narratives that better explain why I am in my current city, who I've been in the past, who I am at this moment, and I search for clues as to who I will become.

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Creative CANstructing for a Cause

Most people don't feel inspired when they reach for a can of black beans or sliced carrots, but non-profit group CANstruction proves that each can become a work of art.  CANstruction's work illustrates that overwhelming, somber issues like world hunger can inspire beauty and creative solutions. ©Atlanta Competition in 2009, photo credit : Collin, http://www.atlantaintownpaper.com/2009/11/canstruction-project-returns-to-underground-nov-6/

Since 1992, CANstruction has helped increase canned donations to local food banks across the country, and throughout the world. Each year, CANstruction  hosts regional and international canned food sculpture competitions for architects, designers, students to increase food donations while engaging local communities.

© The Watering Mouth, 2012,  http://thewateringmouth.com/canstruction-exhibition-2010-nyc/

Some interesting numbers to consider:

  • Between 2011-2012, Canstruction exhibits and competitions collected over 3.4 million pounds of food for local food banks throughout the world.
  • Between 2011-2012, Dallas, Texas ranked as the number one participating city in food contributions. They collected 85, 302 pounds of food, which roughly amounts to 86, 175 meals

Click on your city below to learn more about the free Texas CANstruction art exhibits available to the public

Dallas, Tx (10/05/2013- 10/20/2013)

Fort Worth , Tx (10/05/2013- 10/13/2013)

Austin, Tx (11/09/2013- 11/17/2013)

Houston, Tx (11/18/2013- 11/23/2013)

To learn more about participating in the CANstruction competitions, visit  http://canstruction.org/content/host-competition

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Hatch Pepper Salsa

Bright green, smooth and symmetrical- these are qualities to look for in a great hatch chile pepper. Hatch chiles may have originated in New Mexico, but Texas has adopted them as a favorite spicy ingredient in summer dishes, particularly in salsa. I used what was available in my family's garden, but you can find hatch peppers in season at most grocery distributors. Enjoy! Warning: You want the beauty of the salsa, not burning chiles to bring tears to your eyes- always wear gloves when handling peppers!

Ingredients: 4 Hatch chiles 2 tbs Garlic 3 Roma Tomatoes Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Total time: about 20 minutes Serves: 4

Pre-heat oven to 350. Brush hatch peppers with olive oil and place on baking sheet. Roast peppers ten minutes, or until the skin blackens and blisters. Wearing gloves, add roasted hatch peppers to food processor.

Roasted Hatch Chiles

 

I added 1/2 of a Habanero pepper, but if this is out of your spice range (slice off a sliver to test), try substituting with more hatch or a combo of red onion and cilantro for some kick.

Habanero Peppers

Dice tomatoes and garlic before adding to food processor.

Roma Tomatoes

Pulse until ingredients are combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Hatch Pepper Salsa

I rarely make salsa the same way twice; I think it's more fun to experiment and see what works. Instead of tortilla chips, my family tried the salsa on veggies (like zucchini), quinoa and salads. Have fun!

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#Collaboration #Baking

Any good cook or chef will tell you- Kitchen experiences often translate to life realizations. My pastry arts background taught me to follow the recipes, keep mis en place, and expect consistently delicious results. Recent kitchen experiences with chef friends have showed me intelligent collaboration is a necessary ingredient for growth.

It's okay to deviate from your plans, and it's okay to deviate from the recipe. You can substitute cherries when the recipe calls for plums. If you have almond meal, don't waste time grinding almonds yourself. Decide what a "pinch" of salt means to you. At the end of the day, life is whatever works. I've found this applies to baking friands as well. It's much more satisfying to share.

Friand

collaboration

 

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Still and Still Moving

Baby's breath We must be still and still moving- T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Yesterday marked the beginning of my training in the store's floral department, which was a nice,fragrant break from my usual cashier job. Training was simple enough. Clip, trim, turn and position flowers. Tie a bow around the bouquet, price and then place for sale. The repetition allowed my mind to wander. Still and Still Moving. The idea that we should remain present while actively moving forward in life.

The florist informs me she read a recent article written somewhere about my generation. Children live with their parents longer than they used to, the job market is scarier than ever, and people never want to make up their minds and settle down these days. This is why three of her four children moved back home to save money and "take some time" to "figure things out".

I am suddenly filled with gratitude for my own parents. I've found that doing what scares you makes you braver. Well within reason that is. I can avoid skydiving, large insects, and jeggings but I can't avoid growing up.

After completing a few arrangements, the florist seemed satisfied with my work and left me for a coffee break.

I began creating different variations of the dozen roses bouquet, and continued to think about "still and still moving"

I am still here. But I have just booked my first "real" food photography shoot. I am still living in a ugly apartment, but it is my ugly apartment. And everything in it is mine. I am applying for real jobs that I want, and feel confident that I will soon have one I love.
Still and Still moving.

Yellow Roses

#HaveCake #WillEatItToo

Your first "real" job (a job that follows your career path, gives vacation days and health benefits) is a milestone and a godsend in the life of a writer/photographer...This is what I tell myself everyday as I clock in for my current job as a cashier. Eight days into the new year and I've never felt more frustrated or uninspired in my life.All I know is my current approach to life is no longer working. A new plan of action is needed, but I don't even know where or how to begin again.

I have no apparent direction in my writings these days. My once ultra-organized binders and notebooks have spewed photographs and articles across the bedroom floor. Despite new freelance jobs, I feel more and more that I am just making pretty pictures without a real audience or message.

I'm feeling desperately ambitious these days, and the only release I seem to find is when I'm cooking and baking. I have limited access to editing equipment, so while my DSLR fills up and waits, my camera phone helps record my current creative processes. Instagram:LEABIAPHOTO

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