Archive | November, 2012

The Foood Show

As I have mentioned before, I co-organize an experimental film series in Providence, RI. Tonight we are presenting The Foood Show, a program of short films about food. In thinking about different food systems in Rhode Island and with increased baking, cooking, sharing, and eating that happens during the holiday season, I tried to organize a program that offers many views of our relationships with food. If you live in the area and are looking for something to do tonight at 9:30pm, come join me at the Cable Car Cinema and Cafe. And yes, they serve food there (on real, reusable dishes, with silverware).

Magic Lantern Cinema Presents:

A Second Helping
Curated by Colleen Doyle
Wed. Nov. 28th // 9:30 PM
Cable Car Cinema // Providence, RI
Admission $5
The discovery of a network of 100 billion neurons in the gut led scientists to nickname it our “second brain.” Like the brain in our head, it is engaged in perpetual contact with the outside world—via the food we swallow. It is the job of the gut to take in an extensive array of external matter, break it down to component parts, send it off to various organs, and turn it into us. Whether we use food to nourish, fuel, pleasure, punish, or heal, it is a part of our human experience. It is no wonder that in its incredibly wide-ranging forms, food is a subject rendered in every medium from paint, to music, to motion picture. This program is the second installment of a Magic Lantern series of food shows that examine different representations of foods on film. As the holiday meal leftovers empty completely from the refrigerator, consider a menu of films about systems new and old that put food in our bellies. Moving from educational films about the body as a machine and the produce canning industry, to an experimental film about a camera’s rude encounter with a breakfast table spread, to an abstract animation of a dancing stringy green vegetable, these works promise to stir up the appetite of our second brain, while bedding down that of our first.
FEATURING: Carpenter-Goldman Laboratories, Inc., “How the Fires of Our Body Are Fed: A Study of the Human Digestive Process” (1926); Charles and Ray Eames, “Bread” (1953); California Packing Corporation, “Pick of the Pod” (1939); Michael Snow “Breakfast (Table Top Dolly)” (1976); John Whitney, “Celery Stalks at Midnight” (1952); Videofreex, “Chicken Dinner” (1971); Naomi Uman “Leche” (1998); Dimitri Kirsanoff, “La Mort du Cerf (Death of a Stag)” (1951)TRT ca. 96 mins


“How the Fires of Our Body Are Fed: A Study of the Human Digestive Process,” Carpenter-Goldman Laboratories, Inc., 1926, 16mm film on video, b&w, silent, 10 min
In this early educational film, the human body is not unlike a steam ship. Both require a regular supply of fuel to work. The image of a man shoveling coal in the stokehole of a ship at sea parallels a shot of a hungry man eating a sandwich during his lunch break onshore. Early microphotography reveals peristalsis (wave-like muscle contractions that move food through the digestive tract) in a nematode, illustrating basic the mechanics of the human gut.

“Bread,” Charles and Ray Eames, 1953, 16mm film on video, color, sound, 7 min
Witness the splendor of bread!

“Pick of the Pod,” California Packing Corporation, 1939, 16mm film on video, color, sound, 10 min
Opening shots of bustling city streets bathed in late afternoon light are injected with the narration, “5:15 American standard time, the day end rush is on as homebound workers throng the streets of every city, town, and hamlet. The Jane and John Does of the worker day world, all of them made kin by thoughts of home and that looking ahead to dinner gleam in there eyes.” So what dinner awaits them at home? Del Monte brand canned peas of course. Enough for the whole family, available any season of the year because of the new technological marvels of the canning industry.

“Breakfast (Table Top Dolly),” Michael Snow, 1976, 16mm, color, sound, 15 min

A camera tracks across the length of a breakfast table, toppling over and mowing down any flatware, vessels, and fixings in its path.

“Celery Stalks at Midnight,” John Whitney, 1952, 16mm on video, b&w, sound, 3 min

A short by the experimental animator best known for his work on the opening credits of Vertigo.  According to David E. James, “Celery” was made with the aid of an “oil bath that could be manipulated to admit the passage of light,” and visualizes the music comprising its score: Will Bradley and His Orchestra’s rendition of the jazz song by the same name.

“Chicken Dinner,” Videofreex, 1971, video, b&w, sound, 6 min

Summertime in rural upstate New York, a group of young adults walk each other through the steps of tying, beheading, plucking, cutting, and cooking a chicken for dinner.

“Leche,” Naomi Uman, 1998, 16mm, b&w, sound, 30 min
On a small family dairy farm in Aguascalientes, Mexico, a ranchero practices rope tricks, a woman’s hands press liquid from cheese, children stand still in the frame as if posing for a still portrait, a calf nurses, an intolerable snake is decapitated, another set of hands pound tortillas, cows are branded, a dead coyote hangs from a tree, crickets mate, and finally an ailing dairy cow is loaded into a trailer and driven away down the road on her way to the market. Uman hand processed this film in buckets and hung it to dry onsite.

“La Mort du Cerf (Death of a Stag),” Dimitri Kirsanoff, 1951, 16mm on video, b&w, sound, 12 min.
A documentary of a stag hunting party known for its expressive use of cross-cutting.

**Magic Lantern is generously funded by the Malcolm S. Forbes Center for Culture and Media Studies at Brown University.

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Venda Ravioli

Picked up some Mozzarella from the cheese counter at Venda Ravioli on Federal Hill. There was some hemming and hawing between the employees over whether or not they were allowed to accept my reusable containers, but in the end they decided it was okay. I did come away with the paper price sticker…

Magpie is very interested in the contents of this jar.


Castelvetrano olives from Venda Ravioli.

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Tomato soup

I also stopped at the Rocket Fine Street Food truck, which was parked outside of Hope Artiste Village and got some tomato soup in another steel container I had carried to the market. I warmed it on the stove in that same container when I got home. It was a delicious lunch.

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Picked up some hake in my stainless steel container from The Local Catch today at the Farmer’s Market.

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‘Tis the season for family gatherings. I visited with my grandparents yesterday for Thanksgiving. After work on Wednesday, I swung by the Wintertime Farmer’s Market at the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket and picked up some ingredients to make a couple dishes to share with extended family and friends. I bought a butternut squash, an onion, bulk cranberries (displayed in a large reed basket), russet potatoes, and apples. With the orchard bought sugar pumpkin I had on my counter at home, I made organic vegan potato, butternut squash, and pumpkin mash—seasoned with ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I also made cranberry sauce with my fresh berries, co-op bulk honey, lemon, and ginger. I poured the food into stainless steel and glass containers and refrigerated them until Thursday morning. My grandmother reheated the mash before dinner and the cranberry sauce was served chilled. The container above sits on the maple dining table my grandfather built for my grandmother. Dinner was delicious, and the conversations even better.

Back home with a friend tonight, I made soup from the leftover mash, sautéed onion and garlic, homemade vegetable broth, cayenne, cracked pepper, and olive oil.

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Romanesco broccoli from the farmer’s market. It has kept well in a shallow bowl of water (stem side down) in the refrigerator for the past four days. I never tire of admiring the forms of this vegetable.

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Last December I wrote a post about running. In it I talked about my desire to replace my worn shoes. Unable to find a pair that I could get excited about, I postponed purchasing new ones and since then have managed to squeeze nearly another year’s worth of running out of the old pair. These have carried me over my weekly 25-30 miles of blacktop, concrete, gravel, and packed dirt trails for almost four years now. They’ve held up remarkably well under the pounding.

Everyone wears their shoes differently. I seem to always destroy the “heel counter” of mine from the inside out. I think this could be due to the fact that I have a narrow heel that seems to slip around a bit in most footwear. I’ve finally worn these down to the plastic cupped part of the heel under the padding, which is now putting holes in my socks and blisters on my skin. So, to save my feet and keep my running habit, I will indeed need to get a new pair. My search for a shoe that uses minimal materials and will hold up to New England winter running resumes.

Since starting this project, I’ve been more than happy to purchase most of my clothing used from consignment and thrift stores. I make an exception for socks and skivvies. I will also make an exception for the running shoes. Fit is of utmost importance and having an unused instep and sole that will form to the shape of my foot is key. But great amounts energy go into the production of the synthetic materials used to construct athletic shoes, more energy and chemical adhesives are used to produce the shoes, and even more energy is required to ship them to a store near me. So choosing a new pair has so far been difficult for me in the context of this project. When I do find the new pair I won’t throw my old ones away, but rather donate them to one of these organizations. They will probably have to be recycled given their structural damage.

Running is my favorite way to exercise. I can do it any place, any season, in nearly any terrain. It’s one of my best defenses against stress and it’s a time I use to process all of the matters of my life. Since last year’s running post I have taken up yoga (a conveniently barefoot form exercise), which has been wonderful, but so far hasn’t replaced my beloved daily run.

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Roasted eggplant

Mmhmmm. Organic oven roasted eggplant with olive oil, balsamic, toasted sesame seeds, and cracked pepper. Scored to let the steam escape. Crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. This is my favorite way to cook this amazingly versatile vegetable at the moment. I’ve been particularly busy lately and this method requires so little work. Just halve and score, drizzle with oil, and roast at 400˚F for 30-40 minutes. No flipping or rotating required. I enjoyed this one for lunch with leftover red quinoa (dinner the night before) and fresh salad greens.

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The perfect thing.

Long before beginning my No Trash Project, I used to store carrots in disposable plastic produce bags in the crisper drawer of my refrigerator. They’d hold up fairly well for a couple days, but then quickly become limp and rubbery. While researching ways to keep foods fresh without plastic, I read that storing carrots, celery, and radishes in a bath water keeps them fresh for weeks. In my experience, this is absolutely true. Submerged in fresh water, the veggies stay crisp, crunchy, and flavorful. Sometimes l change the water if I’m storing them for more than a few days. Because the stems and leaves draw water and nutrients from the vegetables, cutting the greens off also helps preserve freshness. And of course, the greens are great for making vegetable broth.

I love my 5 cup glass refrigerator storage container. The size and shape is particularly well-suited for keeping carrots. It can be used in the oven at temperatures up to 425˚F. The glass is also far easier to clean than any kind of plastic container. Plus I find the utilitarian design of the container aesthetically pleasing, especially when it’s filled with vibrant, nutritious food!

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More cruciferous veg from the market. Brussels sprouts still attached to the stock will stay fresher longer than those sold individually. I always put the end of the stock in a cup of water and refrigerate it, snapping the sprouts off over the next several days as needed. This one is pretty tall so I will halve it to fit.

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A beautiful treat from the Saturday Wintertime Farmer’s Market at Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket. I found a recipe online for whole roasted tandoori cauliflower that I can’t wait to try! I will post my results…

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An unexpected visitor

The nor’easter brought the first snowfall of the season. I had no idea it was coming. I wonder what the winter has in store for us this year…

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Single stream

The informational video I shot and produced for Rhode Resource Recovery Corporation is complete. Thank you to everyone at RIRRC, Animal Studio, and Machines With Magnets for all your great work!

The purpose of this short piece is to provide Rhode Island residents and anyone else interested in recycling in RI with an up-close look at the way recyclables are sorted through the new single stream system at the Materials Recycling Facility in Johnston. For safety reasons, visitors of the facility may only view the operations through the windows of an observation room. As well as being available on the Recycle Together RI website, this video will play on monitors in the observation room to reveal what can’t be seen through the glass. It is also meant to stress the importance of placing proper materials in our collection bins each week so that the facility operations can run efficiently, workers remain safe, and a better quality baled “product” is produced.

The MRF is just the first stop that our papers, cans, and bottles make on their long road to becoming resource materials. Great amounts of energy and resources are required to simply sort our waste so it may be sold as commodities to companies that will process the materials.

Filming at the facility was intense. During each shoot, I was required to wear a reflective vest, a hard hat, safety glasses, and ear protection (the sounds of the machinery and material in motion are deafening). Seeing truck loads of materials dumped on the tip floor one after another was overwhelming. On the one hand, it is gratifying to know the waste has been diverted from the landfill, but the volume of materials and the speed and consistency at which they arrive to the facility is disheartening. The experience has served to underscore the importance of No Trash Project and similar efforts.

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Spray deodorant

In September I posted some thoughts on chemical-free and package-free personal hygiene options, including baking soda and cornstarch deodorant. I’ve been using the powdered blend for nearly two months and it works really well. The active ingredient is the baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), which works as a deodorant, not an antiperspirant. Antiperspirants inhibit the body’s physiology by clogging pores, blocking the natural release of sweat. Baking soda neutralizes odor-causing bacteria that live on the surface of the skin and hair. Some information on the controversial health effects of antiperspirants and deodorants can be found here.

As I mentioned before, I’ve never been someone who perspires heavily, but I appreciate some odor control, especially in the dog days of summer and on days when I’m particularly active throughout the rest of the year. Now that we’re into the heating season in Northeast, I’m readjusting to familiar challenges in temperature control as I move between the crisp outdoors and overly heated University buildings at work. Applying and shedding several layers of clothing throughout the day is a dance New Englanders are adept at. But there are many occasions when I enter a building and start to sweat before I can remove my mittens, scarf, coat, and sweater (usually in that order).

While the powder has indeed been very effective, I find it’s a little messy transferring it from the salt shaker to my hand to my underarms—especially when I’m in a rush (most days). Also, cornstarch is more difficult to find in bulk than baking soda and I’m always interested in using the least amount of ingredients necessary for any job. So I’ve decided to give a baking soda and water solution a whirl, which I’ve read works well for many people looking for a safe alternatives to aluminum and parabens. To start, I dropped a quarter teaspoon of baking soda into a 4 oz glass spray bottle (I could only find one with a plastic spray nozzle), filled it with water and shook it well until the baking soda disolved. Finding the right ratio might take some experimenting—too much baking soda will likely cause skin irritation and too little will be ineffective. I used it today and so far it seems to be working well! I will be sure to post updates.

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Along with books from my childhood, I also brought back a diary, which I will keep. It was given to me when I was 5 years old, so as you might imagine, there aren’t a lot of lengthy recordings of my day-to-day activities. Instead, several brief entries like the one above are scattered throughout the book of mostly blank pages. In case you can’t make out the entry, it reads:

“Dear Diary let me tel you about Dolphin. Did you know that there were more than fifdy kind”

Sifting through the belongings I saved growing up, it appears there are some fundamental similarities between the child I was and the adult I’ve become. And I’m filled with the sense that perhaps we’re more than a product of our experiences.

I plan to use the rest of the pages. The paper is good and even in this age of personal electronic devices, I still hand draw and write notes, lists, and ideas on a daily basis. So I figure I might as well fill every inch of this precious little book. Plus I kind of dig the floral fabric cover.

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Book seller

My parents are getting ready to move and one of the reasons for my visit with them last week was to collect some belongings that they’ve generously stored for me over the years. I’ve talked about paring back the items in my apartment to make my No Trash Project run more efficiently, but I left out the fact that I still had a closet full of things in another location. Getting my immediate space down to a carefully curated collection of objects—both essential and beautiful, has felt wonderful. But knowing that there was another out of sight pile that needed to be sorted and unloaded was always a bit daunting, especially since I knew these keepsakes from my childhood would be difficult for me to make decisions about. Nostalgia is a mechanism that operates strongly within me.

Before the electricity went out in the storm, I got through the first of what will probably be several passes. My mom and I sifted through the boxes together, which was not always productive, but very enjoyable. There was a great deal of giggling over construction paper elementary school projects, earnest diary entries by my six-year-old self (brimming with spelling errors), loved and battered stuffed animals and dolls, letters from first boyfriends, and sketchbooks full of drawings and poems. Though everything in those boxes was at one time precious, I was able to fill my car trunk with items to let go of.

The stack pictured above is a sample from two boxes of books I brought back to Providence to sell and donate. These books were at one time well adored (I was really into Roald Dahl), but they have been sitting unread and unopened for years. I decided it’s time to put them back into circulation so that they may have a chance to be enjoyed once again. Today I took the boxes to Cellar Stories—a used bookstore downtown. I like the idea of supporting small local booksellers… and of course it’s always nice to get a little cash in exchange. While the shopkeepers looked through my books I perused the aisles of treasures. Just over half of my collection was accepted and I received about $60. I wasn’t able to leave the shop without purchasing a beautiful vintage botanical book that I will share with a friend. But my load is much lighter. I will try to sell the rest at Paper Nautilus (formerly Myopic Books) in Wayland Square, and whatever they wont take I will donate The Salvation Army.

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I visited my parents over the weekend. My stay was extended when the travel ban went into effect in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy and I rode out the storm with them. Fortunately, my mom and I were able to get to the grocery store before the worst of it hit landfall. Customers and employees were anxious to get home. Shoppers stocked up on “non-perishables”—namely canned soups and meats, jars of sauce, boxes of pasta and rice. Last year my parents were without power for 10 days after Hurricane Irene. I thought about how to shop without making trash if I weren’t able to refrigerate foods for 10 days or longer.

The majority of the groceries I buy day to day are fresh fruits and vegetables, most of which sit on the countertop because I shop frequently enough (at least twice a week) that I don’t have to worry about refrigeration. But there are certain foods I eat regularly like greens (salad and sauté) and some vegetables (carrots, radishes) that I usually put directly in cups or containers of water, then into cold storage. The rest of my regular groceries include dried bulk items and occasionally meat (fish, poultry). Dried bulk foods like legumes and grains certainly qualify as non-perishable and are rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. There are quite a few in season fruits and vegetables that will keep for a while (depending on variety and freshness) without refrigeration, such apples, citrus fruit, unopened pomegranate, potatoes, yams, garlic, onion, and squash (delicata, butternut, acorn, pumpkin, etc…). Selecting unripe fruits that can soften slowly without rotting and choosing bulk dried fruits and vegetables that offer some nutritional value are also options for long-term room temperature storage.

Back at the house we filled the tubs with water to wash and cook with if we lost the power. My parents are on well water and they don’t have a generator to power the pumps during outages—this has never been an issue for me in Providence because I’m on city water. But my parents are lucky to live on a river, so they can collect water in buckets to flush the toilets, conserving the tap water reserves in the tubs. Sure enough, we lost power early Monday evening as the winds whipped through the river valley. My dad cooked us dinner by flashlight with the little water that remained in the pipes. My parent’s have a gas stove, which my dad was able to light with a match. As I watched him it occurred to me that in the event of an outage I wouldn’t be able to use the electric stove/oven in my apartment to prepare many of the above mentioned foods that require cooking. I do however have a wood stove with a steel cooktop and could use it to steam, boil, or sauté foods. When dinner was ready, we sat eating by candlelight listening to the sounds of nearby exploding transformers and trees breaking and falling on all sides of the house. Without the distractions of the TV or our respective laptops (all of which are often in use at once during my visits) we stayed talking with each other until the early hours of Tuesday morning. It’s a time spent with my parents that I’ll never forget.

In the light of day on Tuesday we were able to see the damage the storm had caused. Trees were down everywhere and power lines littered the roads. The interstate travel ban was lifted and I was able to snake my way around impassable backroads to the highway home. I got a flat (shredded) tire on the highway probably from debris left by the storm. I will post more on dealing with the tire business soon…

Losing electricity and running water for nearly 24 hours makes me realize how much I take it for granted every day. As we move closer to the winter solstice, the days are getting shorter and much of my work is done after sunset. I think about my parents and the rest of the 8 million who lost power during the storm and could be without it for weeks while crews work to clean up after Sandy. The weather is supposed to shift to colder temperatures as we enter the month of November and many will be without heat. And I think about the people in the world who live their whole lives without plumbing or electricity. At the moment, I’m especially aware of how much I depend on the internet. For my work but also for my No Trash Project research and blog. My friend just sent me a link to WWWASTE, a site that calculates the amount of CO2 you emit each day by surfing the web. One more site to spend energy by visiting, but perhaps an important measurement to be aware of as our lives become more and more interfaced.

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