cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What is this Mardi Gras and Who is this King?

Salty's Not-So-New Orleans King Cake

I don't celebrate Mardi Gras, Carnival, or anything that has to do with the Tuesday prior to Wednesday's ashiness. I dunno, I just never have. There isn't much ado about the whole thing in American culture, Louisiana New Orleans culture yes, but American culture no. Catholics celebrate Mardi Gras as the last big hurrah before lent. I do not participate in Lent. Ergo i have never participated in Mardi Gras. Quelle tristesse je sais. The Louisiana Mardi Gras image; boobs, beeds, and beer. Oh how i have been missing out! And we could have baked a box of Zataran's for dinner! I paste my sarcasm here, though i harbor no disrespect for the culinary creole culture of the great South, on the contrary--i am quite eager to sample it. Someday. But, today I happen to live with a New Orleans (well she thinks she is) girl. And when pouty eyes ask for a cake--pouty eyes receive. on y va.

No, i'm busy, i'm not making you a "king cake" there is no "cake" in my mid-week schedule, i have homework and magazine work to do, and journals to edit, talk to me on the weekend! I spat at S. Ok sorry Mal, perhaps tomorrow then... she muttered in gallant defeat as she went out the door to work. Mardi Gras cake, i grunt, bah humbug. Twenty minutes later sitting in French class "listening" to a presentation, i begin to think, how cruel am i!? I have been asked to produce a cake and denied the good soul who is of the utmost important in recipe sampling for this blog? Quelle bete! So i start sketching; damn it i am making a king cake after all. But a king cake is a yeast cake, i have no time for blasted yeast! Something different, then, oh merde must it be those ruddy purples and least there's yellow. Layers, Salty loves layers...what the hell is New Orleans besides! I have it! Oh finish your blasted presentation already, i have a cake to bake!

Salty's Harlequein Tuesday Cake
Sour Cream Almond Pound Cake (in honor of the South)
ingredients: 3 cups flour ~ 6 eggs ~ 2 sticks butter ~ 1 tsp bs ~ 3 cups sugar ~ almond extract ~ 1 cup sour cream
method: cream sugar and butter, add sour cream 2) add eggs and flour mixed with bs alternately, then add extract 3) divide into three bowls and dye 4 ) spray and line 3 loaf pans with parchment and then bake at 325 for ~40 minutes. let cool completely on rack 5) groom/shave/carve and then cut out a hole for your plastic baby 6) layer with Cream Cheese Frosting (in honor of what's in the fridge) but not on the top--on top cut out paper diamonds and then sprinkle with powdered sugar around. Decorate with jewels or silver sprinkles. fini!

The baby...the baby. But, a Jesus pencil topping will do just fine. And all this too before S came home from work. Time for a party! Quick whoever finds the Jesus is the King! He's arisen, and early too! The cake has now turned into Lisbon/Rio. Now i've done Mardi Gras? No, now i've done a cake. A king cake? No, a Salty Cake. Happy Mardi Gras S.

Thank you for reading this Salty Cod mid-week hiccup, now, get back to your Lenting.

à bientôt

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Faces of Photojournalism

The Set Up vs. The Set Out
SPOKANE-WA, a premise for a story. If i were to claim one field of photography as preferred above the others, undoubtedly it would be that of the styled studio setup, aka food photography. there's a shocker. But the word preferred (obviously) implies the notion of preference and not of exclusiveness. What's your favorite food? I like it all. What's your favorite music? I listen to everything. How was your day? Good. Don't you hate those people. But here, let me add--when it comes to photography, there is no genre which i despise. Studio photography is night and day to field work. wait--is it? Is the photo of a flower really so different from a photo of a sleeping child? Of a styled cake? Of a swimming duck? Of a wounded soldier? Of rubble and fire? Of a foot in the goal? Of a model gazing through the lens? I really don't think so. I don't think so at all. A chef can prefer to prepare the duck, but that does not mean that he does not also love the rhythm and feeling of steaming rice, of stirring soups, or of poaching pears. on y va.

Mallory, the girl laughed, you are the perfect photographer; you're a creeper, and apparently that's what it takes to press a button. Those words have stuck with me, and often i ponder their validity; am i really a creeper? Hey wait do i actually deserve the term "photographer"? Every time i return to these questions, my thoughts return unappetizingly toward my high school photography teacher, Mrs. AA, who at the time instilled within me the greatest detestation for all things aperture, pin lighting, film speed, and film rolling. Do you know how many days straight i rolled the same practice negatives? over and over and over again until every little peg caught every tooth just right, and yet no matter how many hours extra i remained in the dark room after school hours had closed, squinting my eyes and chemically burning my hands to try and reach the 15th print of perfection, nothing was ever good enough for her. I hate photography, i remember telling my mother, this evil woman is a failed professional and wishes to take out her angst on destroying the pristine grade point averages of the non-artistic types--that would be me. But to show her who would win this battle, i challenged this detestable medium to a duel of mind versus matter. I'll show you photography. Who would have ever thought that out of detestation i could find a love. Do I owe Mrs. AA something? Nahhh. It was, like she said--a love for photography starts in the darkroom, and things develop from there.

I do indeed walk around with my camera draped around my neck, rhythmically bouncing on my chest, permanently bruising that hearty section of ribcage. Mallory do you have to have that thing out? we look like tourists. But, i stammer, but i always have it, i am naked without it, you wish me to be naked? At least i am not traipsing about in a hawaiian shirt for pete's sake. If i am awkward stumbling into a room, i no longer feel lit. Awkward? I muse, well you cannot be shy, if that's what you mean, particularly when subjects need names; hi i work for the bulletin, i just took a bunch of photos of you stuffing your face full of barbecue, would you mind giving me your full name please? Wait--the scene from Spider man comes to mind; you know the one, he's staring at the attractive receptionist with that goofy look on his face, camera swinging around his neck, and with the utmost of grace manages to blurt out "hi, i'm a photographer!" Oh no--is that, is that me? Am i spiderman? Let's not go that far. But i recall a monday morning history class--professor asks; hey i saw you crawling around up in the balconies at the church yesterday with your sniper lens, you work for the paper? Me, camera perched as per usual front and center, yes, i reply, i'm a photographer. Spidey senses away!

So, the question is, what's important to take a shot of? Is it all, worthy? The most powerful images our eyes inhale are those that strike for emotion; the photographers whose works display in such publications as the New York Times, National Geographics, and Time magazine time and time again kindle attraction through depiction of sometimes harrowing, sometimes heartwarming, images of humanity--of us, always of us or the impact of us. Photojournalists working in dangerous fields risk it all. Captors of poverty, of sufferance, of toil, of crime, of violence, of death, of heartache, and of pain are no less life preserving than say an open heart surgeon is. Living is not a requirement for preservation. Robert Capa swam with the soldiers on D-Day at Omaha Beach, French photographer to Vietnam Henri Huet lasted the war longer than any conscripted soldier--twenty years longer to be exact. Dorathea Langue waded through dust in order to capture the faces of the Great Depression. Genocide photographers such as Lynsey Addario, Pep Bonet, Colin Finlay, Ron Haviv, Olivier Jobard, Kadir van Lohuizen, Chris Steele-Perkins and Sven Torfinn traveled to Darfur to provided images to the world of travesty that no one dared to peer into the face of. Could i? Could i stare into the face of a starving child knowing full well that perhaps his last breath has been forever trapped in the circular maze of rings that form the lens of my camera. could i? Could i, like those who click for National Geographics, spend hours and hours in tick infested forests hungry and tired yet determined to capture the faces of villagers and warriors that time has forgotten; to live for the purpose so that others can see?

I then look down at my own work, is this even photography? Well, yes of course, but does it mean anything in the greater scheme? Photographing for a university newspaper is not exactly Nobel prize winning material. Your assignments range as follows: we need sunday mass photos, could you get a shot of the new security guard? Students passing in the hall please, make sure you get names. There's an article on stealing food from the dining hall--make it work. New art gallery opening down town, and there's a piano concert, we need shots of the winter play. People standing around collecting books. Students sleeping in the library. Muffin sales. The freshman picnic. Army rifle training in Idaho. And my favorite, the six am call for a shot of a sleeping homeless man, preferably under the I-90 overpass. But trumping all other calls at the university paper is that for sports. Sports. There is an event every day. Far off golf courses, five am riverboat crew sailing. Baseball. Tennis. Track meets. The volleyball court. The soccer pitch. Look at me how special and important i am with my little press pass for court access to the basketball game, what a stud. But, again, what is important enough to be photographed? All of it?

In my small town world my subjects smile back at me. They smile back at me for now. Should i not be grateful? To share their happiness instead of their grief? Would Capa have gladly traded places? I would never compare myself to the greats, in photography there is no commonalities, only eyes. I photograph what i see, and again what i don't see. Trivial perhaps in comparison to life caught by others, but that is life is it not? You cannot take anything other than what is living and given around you. Yes i am lucky for that which surrounds me is full of smiles, and dances, fashion, and games. Of course there is heartache and toil at times, and perhaps when i leave here my surroundings will change; but for now i am content with the smiles they give.

Be it a happy little cake winking back through sparkles of sugar, a baby beaming up after gigglies with her dog, or the sun sending down low golden threads on the sleepy spires of the chapel, what matters is not what you take a photo of, but how you take it.

a bientot

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Eu Sinto: 224

The three little Gossip Girls and the big bad baker

There's this show; perhaps you've heard of it--the life and times of rich, snotty, self absorbed, sexually promiscuous, cellphone addicted "teens" who all happen to be uncommonly gorgeous and on track for Yale and Brown while in the midst of the most heart-wrenching love quadrangles of their lives. Why yes, don't we all look like top models in real life and get into IV league with an impressive 2.0 grade point average. The image of the modern MTV generation is that of reality gone terribly wrong. Curse you beautiful people, it is because of you that i waste the many precious hours of my life every week ironing my hair to that grill-cheese flat sensual state of silky smoothness; will i never be loved with just this curly mess! But, in all fairness to the marketing geniuses that are the writers/producers of prime time television drama, they wouldn't write it if it didn't sell--and how oh how does it sell.

Now, dear reader, before you start wondering how i of all people could reference precious edibles to such a hoity toity monstrosity of plastic materialism, you must remember that we at the Salty Cod beleive that everything deserves a second glance, even that which produces the desire to gouge out one's own eyes. It is from this introduction that i announce the television program of Gossip Girl; a Monday night teeny-bop drama to replace that which was once Laguna Beach, was once the OC, was once god-what-have-you. I am a critic, i will not lie. A cynic, a nose turner when i walk in the room; why do you watch such garbage? I question my three little roommates, my three little gossip girls, this is nothing but empty stereotypical trash that devalues what is good and idealizes all that is wrong. Yes, we know, they sing, but that is what is great about it; we know it's trash, that's why we watch it. Who wants to entertain in reality, no for real drama we have life, for escape we have those whose lives are filled with glamour and beauty, for the treat is when we realize we would nor could ever wish to emulate such pathetic disproportional drama. Alright, alright--watch your show, but make sure it's flipped to the Travel Chanel afterward, Bourdain is on at ten, and if i have to miss it for this crap i'll start a rumor on you--oh that's the thing, the Gossip Girl, she texts in rumors on everyone and everything to stir up trouble. So here is one of my own--meet my roommates of 224, S, F, and A; housemates even the gossip girls would have trouble making look bad. on y va.

What do a business major, an art student, a psychology major, and a history major have in common--surprisingly enough. We have polar opposite interests from each other in our respective fields of study, in our tastes of cuisine, in movies, in men, in dress, and in music--yet we congregate under the same roof by our choosing. A doesn't like coconut, F can't get near the thought of coffee, and tapioca and beets send shudders down S's spine, yet we manage to coexist in this cozy little cottage of white walls and wooden floors. One bathroom does pose perhaps at times a problem, though our rainbow array of soaps and shampoos lining the shower wall signals that harmonious chord of crowded comfort. We met Freshman year, the four of us stuck in the same rotten dorm; and here we are three years later each profoundly changed, matured (huh?) but yet the same. The truth is, one of them eats far too many pickles and leaves on all the lights, one is a human beat box and sadly loves top ramen, and one turns off the lights and only drinks soy; but i would not wish it any other way. We are so strangely different, yet find the smallest things to bind. An enchilada and margarita from Jose at Rancho Chico's, a rousing chorus of Ireland's rugby fight song, a "boyfriend's gone home" hot dog at Costco, kitchen chatter on nostalgic cartoon characters, and of course, of course macarons.

I made French macarons for the first time in this house, with my roommates as the first tasters. Not only were they my first macarons produced, but also their first macarons consumed. It is always evident the look of a first timer; (you should have seen the face of my bartender at my sushi place tonight, hehe. oh K we love you) the face is caught between surprise, ecstasy, and felicity; what is this, this creature! Since their first appearance here they have continually been on request. Alright alight, i give in--i promise i will make some for valentines day, only the best for my gossip girls. But what in a macaron do gossip girls covet--house rules peanut butter, and dark chocolate, no doubt. Pink, well of course, and a gossip girl xoxo in white; damn this was too easy. Glamour and style; aside from champagne and caviar French macarons are the girliest edible beauties possible. The Marie Antoinette cookie; perhpas this show offers us just some silly frillyness, well, let me offer some of my own--and even better, we can eat it.

Gossip Girl Macarons
shells: 110g (3/4 cups) ground almonds ~ 200 g (2 cups) powdered sugar ~ 3 egg whites ~ 1/8 cup sugar ~ food coloring
method: please see Helen

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache
ingredients: .5 cups heavy cream ~ 8oz dark chocolate ~ .5 cup peanut butter
method: boil cream, and pour over chocolate to melt, add peanut butter. when cooled whip until desired consistency.

white chocolate ganache: same as above, but with white chocolate and no peanut butter. no way! and make quite a bit less.

All in all, F, A, and S deserve macarons every day of the week. They are my physical shoulders to cry on, my comrades to laugh and to smile with, and my constant reminders that it is always the unexpected that provides the greatest treasures. While you never complain from the constant flour coated counters, the crazy make shift dining room table photo-set ups, and the thousand other oddities i proffer, i beleive it far past due to give a proper mention of gratitude to these girlies who mean more to me than what is ever said. Gossip Girl ends each episode with a line of XOXO, precisely my point. I mean what can i say besides eu sinto, i feel 224; the three little gossip girls, and the silly baker in her flowery apron stuck right in the middle. Maybe a little gossip is ok every now and again, so ladies--xoxo.

a bientot

Friday, February 6, 2009

Letters to the Editor:

dichotomy of the perfectly lousy birthday cake

A dichotomy, in Salty terms, is a division in distinction between the thought and action in reference to the same object or event. For example, the dichotomy of the French Revolution, the action: terror reigned, heads rolled, and royalty dethroned. the thought: liberté, fraternité, égalité! The dichotomy of waking up in the morning, the action: shower, eat, dress (unquestionably in that order). the thought: must be presentable for work, to make money, to survive. Action sans the other is futile; nothing but robotic mimicry of movement. What is the point without a purpose? My point exactly, a playground of p's, a circular logic that speaks for itself. But touché around the other coté, for thoughts without action produce nothing but poetry, day dreams, and CNN broadcasts. Ergo one cannot exist without the other. Volition amounts to nothing if there is no result of product. And so, where my round table adjectives will eventually lead, is to the simple fact that a cake is never just a cake. Just, being the most pathetic adverb in the English language--will never do. In cake, as opposed to in life, there is always method to the madness. A cake is never just a cake; a cake is an action and a thought. A cake is my cake, the cake, your cake. our cake. on y va.

What of this cake then; let us dichotomize. Part one, action: a chocolate almond flour sponge cake rolled with a swirl of dark chocolate and port ganache to form a pinwheel jellyroll which is then tightly rolled in red marzipan and covered with white marzipan polka dots, all of which is then placed on a raspberry and port syrup reduction. chouette non? can you breath? Part two, thought: wherefore cometh this here cake of mine? Today is my best friends birthday, and this is his cake. Yes you heard my little kid cliché right, my bestest friend, who also happens to be the perfectly lousy editor of this here blog, grabs twenty five candles today--a quarter century! Ahk! it's all down hill from here buddy. That being said, let us embarrass all members involved and faire une discussion sur le gateaux stream of conscious style. You're awfully fond of roll cakes (this i actually know) so hooray we have the frame. Almond flour, of course so i can eat it. The filling, let us see, chocolate (who doesn't like chocolate) and hmmm porto do vinho ganache (don't worry not that bottle!) Excellent, now all rolled up, but oh so ugly atop. Marzipan--do you even like marzipan? Well i do, so that's what counts. And oh how you love red with white polka dots! Attends-- i suppose that is me forcing red with white polka dots on you yet again. But pas grave. Not enough port i agree, so some more; a syrupy sweet bed for our petite baby cake. Et voila! A cake just for you, though it looks half like me, mais tout est bien! So Joyeux anniversaire! Eu só agora percebi que eu fiz soar como se tívessemos tido um bolo bebê juntos - qual seria o nome dele?

And that is how you make a cake, and--in the word's of my 11th grade poetry teacher--tie it to a chair and beat it with the garden hose of analysis.

Poulet Pinwheel
cake ingredients: 1 cup (100 g) ground blanched almonds ~ 0.25 cup (50 g) corn starch ~ 4 eggs ~ 0.5 cup (100 g) sugar ~ .75 stick melted butter ~ pinch salt ~ 0.25 cup cocoa powder

cake method: preheat over to 400F/200C 1) beat 3 egg whites and salt until stiff 2) meanwhile whisk the yolks plus the 4th egg and the sugar, add corn starch and almond powder, add cocoa powder, and then the melted butter. Gently fold in the whipped egg whites 3) grease a cookie sheet or tray with at least .5 inch sides, line with parchment (not wax) and spread cake batter evenly 4) bake for 8-9 minutes, do not over bake or it will not roll. 5) immediately after you take it out sprinkle a clean towel with powdered sugar and then transfer (cover and flip works) to a flat surface and slowly peel off the parchment 6) using the towel, roll the cake slowly like you would roll sushi, but roll the towel with it, and then let it res for 30-60 minutes to cool.

dark chocolate port ganache: 1 cup heavy cream ~ 8 oz good quality dark chocolate ~ .5 cup port wine 1) boil cream in a saucepan and pour over chocolate in a bowl, mix until fully melted, add port, and let cool to room temp 2) when ready, whip in mixer or by hand until thick and creamy.

to assemble: once cake is mostly cool, slowly unroll, spread chocolate ganache, and then roll back up. To make the marzipan cover, sensually massage food dye into almond paste until the desired color is achieved. to roll flat, place marzipan between two layers of wax paper and then roll, your life will be so much easier. Wrap around and cut, or cut then wrap around. Make polka dots out of undyed marzipan, and attach.

Am i silly? yes, you would have a plausible case in such an argument. Do i like to make dramatic cakes for people who are sadly a world away only to feed them to my neighbors, roommates, and visiting vagabonds? yes. Would i do it for you? prolly not. Do i have the best editor in the world? Sim meus bons amigos, sim. For I have something that is better than a dog, and dearer than a horse--i've never actually understood what that means, and neither do i think did Tennyson, but i have always liked the ring of it, and whatever it does mean, i am sure that i have it--a something that is perfectly lousy.

happy birthday dearling!

a bientot