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Food and Media are Deeply Connected

Food is direct cultural memory;
it nourishes as it keeps us alive and connects us to the past -- our own, our families,' our communities.'

Our media is also direct cultural memory.
It has the fierce ability to nourish our consciousness just as powerfully and to keep us alive to imagine realities other than our own. -- -- Helen De Michiel

carrotsinjeans.jpgWell said! 

This quote is from Helen De Michiel's article, "Toward A Slow Media Practice," in which she outlines the relationships between food and media.  Her ideas are a good platform from which to explore the many ways in which our daily immersion in food and media can make sense as unifying experiences, one nurturing the other. 

Both presenting the same choices about how we choose to address corporate control, local food and media independence, transnational yet grassroots collaborations, fair trade.  And what I like best:  both offering joy.

Michiel goes on to say that "Both Slow Food and Media Arts represent significant niches in our cultural landscape.They are quiet movements built on the ideals of self-determination, community empowerment, and preservation of legacy in a throwaway milieu. While neither valued nor well understood by the mainstream, they both are sustaining individuals and communities with imaginative practices that transform consciousness in a slow and steady flow.

While Slow Food defends endangered foods, we struggle to carve out and protect a public space where independent media arts practices can thrive."

Now I'm going to make a nice breakfast!
It was good to hear the words.  "A great poem is one that resonates with us, that challenges us and that teaches us something about ourselves and the world that we live in."
President Obama, in a relaxed, amiable mood, delivered those opening remarks at An Evening of Poetry at the White House  that I attended last month. (He and the first lady seemed to be energized during the entire evening of poetry.) The event underscored the importance of poetry, music and, unintentionally, food. I'll comment on two moments.

First, the sounds generated by DJ Daniel Musisi (aka moose) during the reception in the East Wing foyer were a combination of digital and vinyl.Musisisml.jpg I loved the street/club/urban pop music feel that he gave to the space and schmooze-chatter.  To me it ratified the importance of  the everyday.
Listen to the entire track of that opening reception, thanks to Daniel who recorded it and uploaded it here:

The second comment is about my favorite food in the sumptuous buffet following the performances. 
WatermelnTwrsml.jpgThe Intense Red of Watermelon!
It was brilliant to  "Techno" the watermelon
slices using the sous-vide technique that vacuums each slice with high precision.
This makes the color shout-out red and also
compresses the flesh slightly.

As you can see from the pic, each devilish slice was topped with white cheese.

The Prosciutto was a nod to the classic past -- but clearly it played a muted secondary, (tertiary after the cheese) role.

I chose these two elements of the whole wonderful evening to say simply that modern techniques always find their way into the sphere of the beautiful and delicious if they are in the hands of true artists.

Last night Stewart and Karen Hoover took me (as in treated me) to dinner at Frasca one of the region's highly acclaimed restaurants. The Northern-Italian-inspired food is fresh, direct, but subtle and I found the subtlety hugely enjoyable. The trend in many fine dining restaurants is to load the plate with flavors, lots of flavors, and the outcome, for me, is cacophonous. Frasca does in fact use various flavors in each plate but the elements are expertly studied so that the chemicals lead to a oneness when you taste. My wild sturgeon was on top of a small bed of sweet potato and then just pearl onions and Maitake Mushroom with a light bacon infusion. It was a lavish taste, but subdued -- that's really hard to do.

Karen ordered sunchoke tortelloni with bits of salsify (sal-suhf-eye ) in the sauce.salsify2.jpgThe overall plate was super rich, complex and dynamic -- but calm and balanced. Again, I think that's really hard to do.

WORDS: The waiter explained each of the dishes on the menu in painstaking detail. I was losing patience with him until I remembered what Stewart, who is a Professor of media and anthropology and an expert media theoretician, had said earlier about media. He could understand how taking pictures of food and then sharing them, re-looking at them, brought on an experience of embodiment and intimacy by recalling images and memories. I don't claim to understand this completely, and soon I hope to ask Stewart to explain it, but when I started to listen to the waiter, I realized that his words were intended to evoke images and memories! The ingredients we were about to eat came from a very specific location: cheese from cows grazing in the mountains, near the alps. The fish from those rivers, the sea in that region.
So food really is an experience that evokes images of our memories and locations.

SOUNDS: Chef Heston Blumenthal uses sound to do the same thing, evoke images and memories, when he serves seafood with sounds of the sea coming from an Ipod inside a Conch! Why? To place the diner in a location via memory and imagination.

The waiter did this through his descriptions, words, and I'm sure that the chef has coached each of the waiters to do this carefully.

I look forward to my next meal when I'll play closer to attention to words and sounds.

It was hugely important yesterday that Secretary of State Clinton told the Mubarak government not to "block communications, including on social media."

Non-government-non-corporate-controlled Internet is simiilar to the protections for community radio stations, a fight that is ongoing here in the US. I'm reminded of the role that community radio stations played in the 1980's overthrow of the Marcos regime in the Philippines. oustgloriademo050907.jpgMarcos recognized the importance of community radio and began to bomb many of the Catholic church's radio stations. He was unable to get to all of them and it was through these small radio stations that the streets were organized towards the successful overthrow of Marcos.

The bombs that governments use today to stop grassroots Internet communications are called "DPI," Deep Packet Inspection." Built by NARUS, it is a type of web filtering system that allows governments to monitor where all emails, web posts and phone calls come from -- what is being said -- and who is listening.

It can also be used to shut down traffic at the main routers or servers people use to connect to the Internet -- a so-called kill switch.

I'm adding my name to a letter authored by Free Press telling Congress to investigate DPI and surveillance and control technologies.

Just got back from Buenos Aires where I visited an on-line, e-learning project for an advanced catechetical certificate. In Spanish, the ISCA, Instituto Superior de Catequesis Argentino offers three on-line courses. You can register for a course only if you are in a group of 3 or 4 or more. Individual attention and help is given to every student, based on work submitted in compliance with assigned learning activities. Activities include both individual and group work.

As the of official training unit of the Catholic bishops conference, ISCA functioned for two decades with a large building that had become worn. When the new director looked at renewing the training program and faced the costs of
refurbishing the building, he found that costs would be unfundable. Moreover, students from outside of Buenos Aires could not afford the transportation and housing costs, let alone the time to get off work. Faced with this, the new director decided to go on-line and has had great success. He now faces a more difficult challenge: how to update the curriculum to include reflection about popular media culture as a source of religious experience and expression. The technology helped him make a change that reaches the pastoral agents who want to learn, but the church culture is proving to be more difficult in terms of making the change in curriculum.


This may be duplication for some but I want to mark this article submitted by Rodd Clarkson on the listserve. It is one view of the future of Linux.


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