Food Trends

Photoshopping Food?

I know that photographer’s photoshop so-called “flaws” off of models. And I know that food styling is a big industry. I  even took a class in it. There was even a food styling challenge on Food Network once as part of their challenge series. So I get it.

But photoshopping food to make it perfect? I just don’t know about that. I think that can cause a lot of frustrated home cooks, amateur chefs and budding foodies who wonder why their dish didn’t turn out like it looked in the picture. Heck, I’m a chef and my food/plates don’t turn out that way either. Of course, I don’t have a food stylist helping me to make my plates look perfect.

Food is imperfect. Food is fun. And it’s messy, it can be greasy. But I don’t know if there is a perfect plate.

And mind you, I’m not talking about a balanced plate (that’s a whole different topic).

And fixing a smudged fingerprint, chipped plate, spilled sauce, dust in the camera, focus – that’s a different story. And I know we “eat with our eyes first”. We taken in the sight, then the smell, then we taste. That’s why watching all those blind taste tests and blindfolded food challenges on Top Chef and other food competition reality shows is so much fun.

Here’s the article in case you’re wondering what sparked this post – Photoshopping Food

Even Martha Stewart struggles with her food photos and has #struggleplates or she could just be bad at taking pictures of food. But as one of my chef instructor’s used to say – It’s just food. You don’t have to go quite this far with the #dinnercam.

Here’s a pro guide to taking better food photos on Instagram .

Just for fun check out these links:

#ThatPlate –  tumblr page “Because folks refuse to stay out of the kitchen.”

The Struggle Plate – Instagram “Bad food + confidence = the struggle plate

Foodgasm – tumblr page “Mouth-watering, Tummy grumbling, Eye-popping, Drool inducing, Finger-licking, Diet destroying, Scrumptious, Gastronomy.”

Food Porn It – tumblr

Hungry Happens – tumblr

WWW – Links of Interest

Art of Character– About characterization – the five cornerstones of dramatic characterization. One delightful tidbit from this link is “Characterization requires a constant back-and-forth between the exterior events of the story and the inner life of the character.” And goes on to discuss why these five essentials are important

Top 10 Writing Tips from Joss Whedon – Joss Whedon’s top 10 writing tips – “1. FINISH IT“. This first one is very important and something that writer’s sometimes struggle with. I know I did for a long time. I still have more than half a million (okay slight exaggeration) started but not finished. Check the link to see the other tips.

Write Something/ – Permission to fail and the feeling of stuckness

Overcome Internal Naysayers– Overcoming those NDDs (what I call Negative Doubt Demons) or Internal Naysayers.

Your Own Best Employee – Freelancing and how to be a good employee. A recent writer as employee/boss/self-employed came up in my writing/goals group so this seemed timely.

How I Write – Two Truths and a Lie

This week’s topic: Name 2 truths and a lie about your lead characters. You can reveal the lie later on in the post or the next day or the next week. Or even white it out so they have to highlight the answer to see it like a spoiler.

The current story I am working on is called Riding On Fumes. You can read the blurb on the project page. This story is different than any I have written before. It is not a romance but has romantic elements. I would say it falls into several categories or genre’s: Women’s Fiction, Family Saga, Contemporary Fiction. I have three lead characters for this stories – Derrick, Jeremiah and Julian. Natalie is also a big part of the story as well.

Derrick

1. I have a wicked sweet tooth.
2. I have been clean and sober for 4 years.
3. My friends call me Diesel.

Jeremiah

1. I admit, most women, find my smile (and dimples) irresistible.
2. I lost my virginity when I was 13.
3. I am looking for that special woman who will be my partner, my queen and the love of my life.

Julian

1. One thing on my bucket list is to go on an around the world vacation.
2. I am very picky and tend to frequent the same places, especially for dates. Because at least if the date sucks, I know I’ll get a good meal.
3. I bake to relax.

Natalie

1. I left home because I got pregnant at 16 and my mom made me get an abortion.
2. I came back home to mend fences with my family after a recent health scare because life is too short to live with regret.
3. I am a reality TV enthusiast.

To see what lie the characters told, just highlight the black box.

Derrick’s Lie –

I have a wicked sweet tooth. His response – I do eat the occasional sweet maybe two or three times a year but I am not a big candy or gum person. There are exceptions to the desserts. I have my favorites but it depends on who makes it. For instance, I only eat my grandmother’s peach cobbler.

Jeremiah’s Lie –

I am looking for that special woman who will be my partner, my queen and the love of my life. His response. This is the biggest lie ever. I love being a bachelor. And I am not looking to settle down anytime soon. Now I enjoy the company of a woman (or several) frequently but they all know their place in my life. I am too busy to devote time to a relationship.

Julian’s Lie –

I am very picky and tend to frequent the same places, especially for dates. Because at least if the date sucks, I know I’ll get a good meal. Julian’s Response – This is obviously the lie. I do tend to frequent the same restaurants and spots. But I am very flexible and easy going especially when it comes to dating. I love trying new things and exploring the wonderful restaurants and different cuisines in the area.

Natalie’s Lie –

I am a reality TV enthusiast. Her response – While I do like some reality TV programs, particularly the competition type shows. But I am an outdoors girls. I love sports and camping.

If you want to check out how a few of my writing friends write:

* Alexia Reed * Emma G. Delaney * Kimberly Farris *Kristen Koster *

Hair Wars – My Hair Journey

I have been chemical free for over 7 years. Let me explain, I had to stop getting chemical relaxers for my hair after an illness and medication which completely changed my how my hair reacted to the chemicals in the relaxers.

2012-03-08 15.43.15 <—- Gotta love the shrinkage.

So I did the BC (Big Chop) and used a texturizer for a few years to transition to completely natural. I stopped using the texturizer about 7 or so years ago. And I will admit there have been days I wanted to venture back onto the chemically relaxed and straightened side of the product aisle. But I am finally at a point (and age) where I am happy with my hair and embrace my natural style. I use very little to no heat. I maybe use heat once or twice a year. I switch up my style with protective styling (braids, twists, buns, faux hawks, twist outs, etc.). I hawk/haunt/stalk certain natural hair vloggers on youtube. I even switch it up with a wig every once in a while.

My family has been less than supportive. My mother doesn’t understand it after all this time. She has stopped short of asking the big question (one several friends have gotten). My mother hates my hair.

2012-06-27 15.22.26

Every time I go to the store I get stopped and asked by other women (some transitioning, some natural) about my hair and what I use. And yesterday I got the ultimate compliment – A stranger came up and told me I love your hair.

I have tried multiple products. And am still on that search for the products that work for me and my hair texture. I have kinky/curly hair. And my hair is fine is some areas, coarse in others and thick. And by thick I mean a lot of it. And it is very dry.

I recently tried the Hair Milk Collection from Carol’s Daughter and the Mimosa Hair Honey. So far I am liking it. I used it to do a twist out and used the Hair Honey as a finisher for shine.

2012-08-12 06.54.19

It hasn’t been easy. And this (continuing) hair journey has been frustrating and difficult. I have learned a lot about myself . And I may not have a lot of curl definition like I want. I may not be able to be a wash and go chick. But I can finally say I am at a place where I can say that I love my hair.

How I Write – Writing Places

This week’s subject is: Where is your favorite place and/or your favorite alternate place to write?

Most of the time I write at home either in my little office in my room or in the living room. The other places that I write is in the car (dictation or scribbling notes – only if I’m not driving).

My phone comes in handy with dropbox, google drive and documents to go apps. Especially because they sync with my desktop/laptop. I also generally write on my work break. And I keep a notebook with me at all times. I also use the Voice Note feature on Note Everything Pro. Another place I love to write is library. This is a picture of the Southfield Public Library one of my favorite libraries.

Or at my friend’s house. (Note: Not my friends house).

I have even written a scene while in the tub (Note: This is not my tub).

Panera Bread is another favorite place to write.

Basically I can write anywhere as long as I have my phone, a notebook or my mini recorder.

If you want to check out how a few of my writing friends write:

* Alexia Reed * Emma G. Delaney * Kimberly Farris *Kristen Koster *

Tiny Tidbits: 86

Tiny tidbits is where I will explore some culinary and foodie questions that I get asked a lot or that I hear get asked often.

86 –

We’ve all heard it in restaurants when orders are called. “86 the tomato” or also when refusing to serve a customer.

So where did the term originate?

I have heard it was from a restaurant (Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City) the 86 item on the menu (The steak and the most popular item) was the first thing they ran out of. It is said 86 originated there as shorthand for being out of an item.

I have also heard it was used because it rhymes with the word nix.

A favorite theory has to do with the a famous NY speakeasy in the 1900’s named Chumley’s that was located at 86 Bedford St. The entrance was discreet, private and through an interior adjoining courtyard. Allegedly, the cops were on the payroll and whenever they were about to raid the joint they would call ahead and warn the bartender. Again, allegedly, the bartender would say “86 everybody” which meant to get everyone out through the Bedford St. entrance cause the cops were coming through the courtyard. – I am particularly fond of this theory.

There is also the soda jerk theory. Which basically there were a lot of numeric codes used by the clerks. 86 meant out of an item. 33 meant that they wanted a cherry-flavored coke. 99 meant to be careful the manager was on the prowl. 87 1/2 meant there was a hot babe to check out.

Yet another popular theory is the soup kitchen and breadlines in the Great Depression. The standard cauldron held 85 cups of soup which meant the 86 person in line was left with an empty bowl and thus they were out of food.

There are several other theories that I an list. Like 86 being the end of the line for a Manhattan streetcar line. Or the 86 proof  whiskey reserved for the ladies in the Old West which was also sold/given to rowdy cowboys instead of the standard 100 proof.

Other Resources:

Snopes

How I Write – Success Obstacles

So this week’s questions is: What’s your current biggest obstacle to success? Name at least 3 things you can do to overcome it.

The biggest obstacle to my success besides me has been time management, focus/concentration and motivation. I also realized earlier that I was writing the wrong stories. Or more accurately, I was writing in the wrong genre – romance. I had these stories that were hounding me to be written but I kept ignoring them. With some help and a great discussion with my writing friends, I decided to pursue these stories.

Now for the time management, focus/concentration and motivation aspects.

Something that helps me, at least focus wise, is music. It helps me to better and I can easily tune it out when I really get into scenes so it’s not as big of a distraction as say the t.v. or the internet. I find that lack of sleep adds to to the focus/concentration issue. Sometimes it’s creating a playlist for a particular story, mood/emotion or scene type.

If I am struggling with a scene then I either skip it after making notes and move on. If it’s that I don’t feel like writing, I may take that day as my free day.

I usually get up early and write or stay up late. If it’s a long day at work (10 hour shift or an early morning) then it is usually harder because tiredness enters into play. But I try to push through it and just write. I have set a 1 hour minimum daily writing time.

3 things I can do to overcome these obstacles are:

1. I schedule time with myself. More specifically, I block off sections of time in my calendar as an appointment to write.

2. I make sure that I know my story and where it is going. I do a phase outline. I have  been doing them for years but did not know that that is what they were called, It’s loose enough that I don’t feel stifled but structured enough that I don’t feel lost.

3. I use my playlists to keep me focused. Sometimes what helps is taking a break so I either go walk around, read, cook or do something crafty (crocheting, beading, knitting).

4. The other thing that I do is say no. I say no to people that want to suck my time, energy or focus away from my writing. If I don’t make my writing and my writing career/journey/path a priority then no one else will. There are a few exceptions to the no rule but I have found it easier.

If you want to check out how a few of my writing friends write:

* Alexia Reed * Emma G. Delaney * Kimberly Farris *Kristen Koster *

How I Write – Guilty Pleasures

The subject: Name a guilty pleasure – one that is writing related and one in real life

Writing Guilty Pleasures

One of my biggest guilty pleasures when it comes to writing is world building, synopsis and emotions.

I like writing character emotions. Delving in deep into the inner workings of the characters, building tension with the emotions and showcasing the different emotional ups and downs in relationships. And it’s one of the things I actually one of my strengths. Often times, the characters will take me in places where I hadn’t anticipated which is frustrating but fun. It usually adds to the stories, character growth and makes for some interesting scenes and dialogue.

I do a lot of world building. Even in my contemporaries. If there is a restaurant, home, motorcycle club, club house, etc I make sure I know the design and layout. I have the restaurants, kitchens, jazz club, houses, strip club and even the banquet space layout done.

I have spreadsheets on the characters. I have my plot sheets. And a bunch of other tools I may or may not use (it depends on the story). Remind me to share some of them someday. And of course I do a blurb which I expand into a mini-synopsis (1 page). The synopsis is basic and helps to keep me on track. And I know it’s strange but I started it as a form of positive thinking instead of dreading the synopsis I decided to approach it as a learning tool and make it fun. And I found out that I liked writing synopses.

Real Life Guilty Pleasures

My real life guilty pleasures are Better Made Potato Chips and Vernors Ginger Ale.

I usually mix a bag of plain and bbq chips together. And I’ve even been known to crush the bbq ones up and eat it with pizza.

Deliciously different!

Vernors is what my mom used to serve us to settle our stomachs when we were sick as kids. Either warmed up, room temp or left out to weaken a bit. When I’m in the mood for a ginger ale it’s my go to drink. I remember going to the factory when I was growing up for a tour.

VERNORS DETROIT

Boston Cooler’s anyone?

A Boston Cooler is a Vernors float. It has nothing to do with the state of Massachusetts or city of Boston. It’s so named because Fred Sanders (from the Sanders Ice Cream Empire – and side note: another happy childhood memory I will share later) invented it at his ice cream shop which was located on Boston Boulevard in Detroit.

My sister when she lived out of town used to have my mom ship them to her along with some Faygo Rock and Rye (check out the flavor line-up.) I’ll have to talk about some of my favorite Detroit and Michigan centered food snacks another time.

Recipe:

    • 8 oz ginger ale – I use Vernors of course
    • 1 large scoop of vanilla ice cream

Pour ginger ale into a large glass. Add in ice cream. Or vice versa. It’s going to foam and you can add more ice cream or ginger ale if you like.

And I have a culinary guilty pleasure. I love making up spice blends, experimenting with recipes and creating recipes on my own. But the biggest is the creating my own spice blends. The other to is just secondary off shoots that are products of the spice blend creation.

Side note: Writing this post has made me realize how many food related happy memories I have that correspond to my childhood. And not just consumption but making and learning about. It’s a wonder that I turned out to be a foodie and a chef.

If you want to check out how a few of my writing friends write:

* Alexia Reed * Emma G. Delaney * Kimberly Farris *Kristen Koster *

Recipe of the Week: Lemon Vinaigrette

This is the vinaigrette I used for my composed salad for my A la Carte finale for my final practical for school. Chef loved my salad and said the vinaigrette rocked.

I did a composed salad of chopped romaine and chopped grilled romaine with marinated tomato concassé (marinated in a bit of the vinaigrette for flavor) as well as grilled squash to add a bit of height and a toasted almonds for garnish for crunch.

1/4c olive oil
2T fresh lemon juice
1/2 t dijon mustard
1 minced garlic clove
salt and black pepper

I was originally going to use fresh minced thyme or parsley or chives or even tarragon but I didn’t want to go against my thyme by having to go to the garden to pick the herbs. I played with the flavors until I was happy. I added a bit of the lemon zest and sherry vinegar as well as a touch of sugar to balance out the acidity.

The main thing is that this is a starter recipe. You can make it your own by adding what you want.

A great way to test the vinaigrette before you add it to a salad is to test it with one of the leafs of the salad greens. That way you can get a taste for how it will be on the salad. It is a truer way to taste than if you just use a spoon.

Definitions:

Composed Salad – A type of salad prepared with a number of ingredients that are all arranged neatly and symmetrically on the plate instead of being tossed together. Usually there is a main or centerpiece item. It can feature contrasting colors, textures (Crisp/Soft, Lean/Fatty), flavors (Spicy/Cool, Sweet/Sour) and temperatures (Hot/Cold). Each ingredient is capable of standing alone but enhanced by the other ingredients.

Concassé – It is a diced tomato that has been peeled and the seeds removed. Fresh tomatoes are scored on the bottom with a T or a X and blanched for no more than a minute, ideally no more than 30 seconds because you do not want the tomatoes to be mushy. The tomato should be firm but soft enough that the skin loosens. The length of time depends on the size of the tomato. It is then shocked. Remove the tough part of the stem by using the tip of a paring knife to carve a the small cone-shaped piece out of the stem. This can be done before blanching or after. You can also do this by slicing the tomato in half and cutting of the stem in a small V shape. Then proceed to remove the seeds. To remove the seeds, cut the tomato in half and either squeeze or scoop out the seeds with your fingers or a spoon. For each tomato, remove the tough part where the stem used to be by using the tip of a paring knife to carve a small cone-shaped piece out of the stem end.