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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!

Mexican Cuisine

Notes on Cooking
three-minute interviews with chefs, filmmakers and food activists

This week Chef Iliana De La Vega, acclaimed authority on Mexican Cuisine, explains the Spanish and Arab influences on Mexican Cuisine.  Noting her philosophy of food, she advocates not covering up flavors with heavy lard or fats.  Techniques of roasting, charring date back to pre-Columbian times. But the final test of fine Mexican cuisine is the taste, delicious, rich, harmonious.


notes on cooking...

a series of video shorts
"critical thinking about food and its meanings"

3 minutes with a chef, filmmaker or food activist.  The series covers trends in food pathways, food conglomerates, kitchens, farms, labor and entertainment. Issues about social justice and the cultivation of enjoyment and fun. And of course, inventive recipes--delicious taste is IN!

The series uploads one segment weekly on

--a High Definition version is on the Vimeo channel, "Notes on Cooking,"

The series begins with critically acclaimed Chef Iliana De La Vega who speaks out on Mexican cuisine. Her call is for "no more burros!"  Originally from Mexico City and Oaxaca, she currently serves on the Faculty of the Culinary Institute of America and the Center for Foods of the Americas. She is Owner/Chef of El Naranjo in Austin, Texas.
 Other chefs included in the series are:

-Chef Johnny Hernandez, Chef/Owner of "La Gloria" in San Antonio, Texas is acclaimed for his inventive recreations of Mexican street food and regional cuisines. His stellar positions include the Mirage Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and the Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara.

-Chef Hinnerk von Bargen, International Consultant on Restaurant and Culinary Trends, Faculty at the Culinary Institute of America, His chef positions have included hotels and restaurants in Germany, South Africa and China. He is currently authoring a book on Street Foods of the World.

-Chef Melissa Guerra, Host of "The Texas Provincial Kitchen" Television series, author of Tejano and TexMex cuisine cookbooks including "Dishes From The Wild Horse Desert."

-Chef Alain Dubernard, His positions have included chef-owner and general manager of La Balance Pâtisserie in Mexico City, Chef de partie at Hôtel Bristol in Paris, and commis pâtissier/chef de tour for Roux Restaurants Ltd. in London.

See a High Definition version on Vimeo:

Produced by Adán M. Medrano

The series is licensed under Creative Commons License: Attribution, Non-commercial, Share-alike 

A wonderfully severe, sinister humor video art piece about food and cooking.  Don't expect the approach that:  "Video, like TV,  is a tool whose purpose is deliver food and cooks prancing about as entertainers or "stars."  Nope that would be the Food Network.  Here, the video itself is the content.  And it is a sharp critique.

The artist, Martha Rosler says "An anti-Julia child replaces the domesticated 'meaning' of tools with a lexicon of rage and frustration."

She takes kitchen utensils, one by one, in perfectly dead-pan delivery, and changes their meaning.  You won't use an ice pick in the same way again,,,nor a ladle!  Ms. Rosler made this in 1975. I think the critique speaks to today.  I think, we need more.  Let me know your reaction. 


"El Bulli: Cooking In Progress"

Just wanted to make this quick post about the 2-hour documentary by Gereon Wetzel that I  saw this week.
"El Bulli: Cooking in Progress" is beginning to screen in theatres here in the US and the critics are somewhat tepid about it.  I loved the film and just wanted to note that the director, in this work, has found creative synchronicity with El Bulli, the restaurant.  For me the film successfully and powerfully shows what it's like to make a serious, personal creative decision.  With no narrative (some critics wanted a voice-over to explain what we are seeing) and no interviews (some think that it is only in  the speaking that the idea is clear), the film gets inside the interactions of chefs, their desires, their personal relationships, the unspoken behaviors that lead to:  the making of a dish and with it the desire to express something new and meaningful.  The film is itself a work of art and the style mimics the style of the El Bulli cuisine which privileges discovery.  This is an example of the relationship of media to food that goes beyond media being a conduit for showing food.  There is an interaction of art forms.

Variety explains well the general US reaction so far, I think: " the pic doesn't have the narrative drive or emotional appeal of a documentary like D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus' "Kings of Pastry," but still will serve as a tasty item for fests on its way to broadcast."

I hope that you will see it if and when it shows at your hometown.  I think you'll see synchronicity of film and food.

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's been a long dry spell of non-blogging but now I'm back into a routine of cyber access. Para mis amigos en América Latino les recuerdo inscribirse para participar en el congreso nacional de software libre en Chile.

This week I shared with friends the dvd that I purchased in Ecuador for US$ 1.00, "Voces Inocentes." Screened at Cannes, this feature film is gripping because it does not take sides in regard to the civil war in El Salvador. Instead, it tells the story of an 11-year-old boy and his family caught in the insanity of all war. Children used for armies. English subtitles.

What also makes it gripping is that it is based on the true story of screenwiter Oscar Torres's embattled childhood. Director, Luis Mandoki deals with the violence effectively by showing faces, emotional reactions, rather than blood and gore ala Mel Gibson.

dual language

Max sent me this link to the commercial that aired during the superbowl because it reminded him of the documentary that I mentioned here a week ago, Rafael Salaberry's piece about bilingual, two-way education here in Houston.
The angry voices that punished me for speaking Spanish when I was in elementary and in high school are still around, but the "English only" movement in Texas is hopefully waning. Only 10 years ago, a judge here in Texas, Amarillo, accused Martha Laureano of child abuse for speaking Spanish to her five-year-old daughger. Judge Samuel C. Kiser ordered the mother to speak only English to the girl.


Video from Minneapolis

"We Are Sent: Eucharist And Our Living Amen" is a 17 minute video that features testimonials of a Catholic community in Minneapolis, tellling how important the Mass is for them. These Catholics are articulate. The simply produced video is just the right way to show total honesty and straightforward assessment of why the Mass is important.
I think other Catholic churches could use it to very good advantage. Unfortunately, the DVD is not listed on the Archiocesan website. The DVD cover says you can order a copy by calling (651)291-4521.
Maybe soon the producers will be able to share this resource widely. Why not stream parts of it on the Archiocesan website?


The bilingual education debate is the subject of "The Choosers" which will screen at Rice Cinema this Saturday, February 4, 2006 at 2 pm. It is made by Rafael Salaberry, a linguistics professor at Rice University.

Grassroots productions like this one are becoming more "normal" now that technology is accessible and all can be producers. Faith communities have yet to find their identity as producers, even though they live and breath in a media-saturated context. This essay by Eileen Crowley, is an excellent framework for local church productions.


Maid In America

Last night I saw a wonderful documentary, "Maid In America" after proscratinating about it for weeks. Generally, I don't like PBS films on Latina subjects because they are mostly depressing and circular in their vision. Although I know they are not all like that, nevertheless I have an instinctive aversion to them. Since I was small I have reacted against programs about us that display us as rueful. I don't like any depictions that do not foreground the agency of the poor.

Anayansi Prado has made an exciting, touching film that lets the story live through empathy and attention to detail about the lives of three women who left their country and find themselves as domestic workers in Los Angeles. This is a story of life lived on hope and faith. Of amazing suffering and endurance that shakes up all of us comfortable career folk.

Please do see this story of 3 women. Eva will unsettle you as she cleans bathrooms with dignity you won't believe. Judith is the incarnation of all that is fine and faithful and eternal about human daily living. Through enormous quiet anguish, she sustains life simply on the hope of a better future for her girls and boy. Telma effortlessly negotiates and crosses cultural and language boundaries, enriching those she touches.

Anayansi Prado demonstrates how good a director she is when she addresses the justice issues and victimization of domestic workers. Her instinct is absolutely perfect as she selects a dramatic device that leads us into the issues with interest and humor.

I think this is what I like most about this terrifically well crafted documentary. The protagonist, subject role of the women. As a filmmaker, Prado has to get very close to the women in order to reveal their personalities, their inner stirrings. She succeeds. She is an example of how Latinas are changing filmmaking and now I will be less reticent to view Latino subjects.

These are links about domestic workers, including ways to lend a helping hand to the agency of women domestic workers.

United Domestic Workers of America (UDWA)

Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles


Our Fathers

Showtime aired "Our Fathers" last night. A badly acted, hurried production, nonetheless I'm glad Showtime did it. The bright exceptions are superb acting jobs by Christopher Plummer and Brian Denehy. The rest of it was a sloppy production. It does, however, remind us of the secrecy and arrogance of the Catholic church. Thankfully, we also see the caring and holiness of the Church. The Washington Post review of the movie is apt.


Last night I saw "Santitos," finally. It was so funny that I roared aloud in my chair. I've not laughed that hard in years, and I'm still happy over it. I've not seen the English subtitles so I don't know if the humor translates well.
This is a visually complex film about material culture, religion, women/men roles and Mexican psychology. Beautifully shot, wonderful music, and ....the writing is gorgeous. One interesting thing is that every review I have read sees a different storyline. Each critic says that the story is "about......." and the story plots are all different. That's a sign of a good film.

Also, and AT LAST, we have a Catholic priest figure on film that can make us Catholics proud. The priest is not a central character but serves a central role as the foil to the adventurous main character, Esperanza. The priest is involved in Esperanza's life, in the life of the town. He really cares, personally and emotionally, about Esperanza. He guides her the best way he can, trying to accompany her by giving good advice about the ways of God. At one point he exclaims to God, "she tells me where she's been but not where she's going." And at another moment he is there for her to embrace (hug)fully in her moment of desperation. When after her repeated confessions he doles out penances to Esperanza, "just in case, throw in five rosaries before tomorrow," he is hilarious.

This is a refreshing depiction of so many priests whom I know and whom I have know since my childhood. They are people who try to be holy and who search like the rest of us, but who have that one special gift: they are sure sources of grace and groundedness when we search for God's voice.

The screenplay was written by María Amparo Escandón, a bilingual writer who lives in Los Angeles. It is based on her novel, "Esperanza's Box of Saints."


Last monday I saw "Tarnation" at the MFAH here in Houston. Jonathan Caouette, the filmmaker introduced the film and took questions following the screening. The film is a personal documentary about Jonathan's violent and tormented life as he coped with growing up with trouble on all sides, his relationship with his abused schizophrenic mom. One of the ways he coped was by shooting video of himself and his surround. "Filmmaking for me became a means of disassociation and escape. By picking up a camera when I was a kid, I found a way to survive the life I was enduring." He compiled the film from all the video, telephone messages and pictures that he kept since his childhood.

I loved the film. It ends with non-sacharin hope and a somewhat theological statement about the world and our place in it. The theatre was filled with mainly young people, 20's, and they gave the film a standing ovation. Jonathan is from Houston, so he has many friends here.

Hope it comes to your city.

John Sayles Film

Am serving on the Signis Jury at the San Sebastian Film Festival and watching lots and lots of films. The week started off slowly with not much that interested me. Woody Allen did his world premiere of Melinda and Melinda. yawn.

Just now i saw John Sayles entry, "Silver City." I hope it gets wide distribution in the US. It is really sobering. An essay about the hopelessness, politically, that premeates the US because we keep heading dead-ends--and we keep hitting dead-ends because the coming together of money and prestige is so strong. The film is way too long, I think. But nevertheless, it is an important essay about our society. I hope it is released NOW, before the election.

21 Grams

Here's a beautiful film, visually lush, sparse and gritty in parts. It probes death and forgiveness, revenge and remorse. "21 Grams" would be great for inclusion in church retreats. Make sure you have very good sound equipment so you can enjoy the score that lends emotional power.

Also, it is superb film making. Alejandro Gonz�lez I��rritu does what Tarantino and others attempt to do with non-linear storytelling, to manipulate time and sequence in order to reveal and make present the realities of life. I��rritu is a musician and has been a radio announcer and dj, so it is not surprising that he blends images, scenes and sounds with scant regard to linear sequence but with a sumptuous cohesiveness. "21 Grams" follows on a long line of film expression that breaks from linear time, as James Joyce did with "Ulysess" and which began, in filmmaking, with the 1903 film, "The Great Train Robbery" in which simultaneous actions were presented. The work of David Lynch, particularly "Mulholland Drive," advances this structure. In "Pulp Fiction" Tarantino simply reproduces what was already done in 1903. But "21 Grams" really puts it all together in a remarkeable way. I��rritu says that he wants the audience to become engaged with the film and construct it in their minds. "Not to just sit back eating popcorn (comiendo palomitas)."


desktop dvd and video

Technical notes: a relatively inexpensive way to capture digital video and format it for DVD is the Sonic Foundry Vegas and DVD Architect combination. Part of Sony Digital pictures, this software, Vegas, is making incursions into the Adobe Premiere market. Sonic Foundry is offering appealing discounts to Premiere users. I am using it with good success, thanks to Alberto who keeps me technically up to date.


I saw Baraka, (1992, Ron Fricke), this weekend on my large screen/surround sound system. I recommend it for classroom use, after having been told by Alberto P�gola that he has been using it in his classes at the Catholic University in Montevideo. It can be shown in 20 minute segments during a series of classes. Use good speakers. With no words at all, it carries the storyline and a wordless philosophy. The site says: Baraka is an ancient Sufi word, which can be translated as "a blessing, or as the breath, or essence of life from which the evolutionary process unfolds."

Hope you enjoy the visual journey.

Resources used in MACC Seminar

Hola to the MACC mini pastoral participants with whom I shared reflections this morning about media, culture and ministry.

As promised, these are the handouts in case you want to either read them online or download them:
Mary Hess, Ph.D. writes about the religious imagination and religious education. It is an invitation to not juse "use the media" but to rethink our education project.

I refered only to his University as a link, but you may want to see this article by Fabio Pasqualetti, Ph.D. He maps out the aspects of digital culture that have implications for religious educators.

David Morgan, Ph.D. promotes the art of listening to and accompanying their congregations and parishioners. This checklist about how to listen, ethnography, relates to still images but can be modified for use with TV, movies and film.

The video, "The Child, the Slums and the Pot Lids" has a reference in an earlier log entry, June 23, 2003. Go to this link and scroll down about a page.

The meditation, "Yo Trabajo La Tierra" is available on the JM website.

It was an energizing morning to be with you. Gracias.

Posted by

Chicano Video

UC Berkeley has a resource list that is a useful reference for looking up Chicano films, videos and publications. This is an example not only of resourcing Chicana materials, but also of a library that is making headway into integrating digital material with books. The library states:"The Media Resources Center (MRC) is the UC Berkeley Library's primary collection of materials in electronic non-print (audio and visual) formats. These formats include: videocassettes, DVDs (Digital Versatile Discs), and laser discs; compact audio discs; audiocassettes; slides; and interactive multimedia materials."

One good DVD by Susan Racho is "The Bronze Screen." By using the scene selection feature, you can easily include a 5 or 10 minute section in a class. I like the section about names and labels. It's funny and revealing.

Latino Cinema and Ministry

If you are intersted in media issues and the life of the soul, I invite you to sign up for a weekend seminar that I am leading about latino film/video and contemporary ministry. We'll attend screenings at the San Antonio Cinefestival the first latino festival in the US, which I founded in 1976. We'll arrange discussions with the video and film directors and discuss linkages between the imaginations, symbols and narratives of Latino films and the world views, symbol systems and narratives of ministry like: worship, community activism, religious education.

Sign up at MACC. It is scheduled for February of next year, so make plans early.


Peruvian Documentary, "Choropampa"

Ernesto Cabellos and Stepanie Boyd completed this riveting documentary, "Choropampa" about a community in the Peruvian Andes who was contaminated when a truck carrying a mercury-filled tank capsized.

Do try to see this inside view of current life outside Lima. The video has a rough edge to it and puts you in the middle of this life-and-death struggle. It has just won at Festroia in Portugal. Running time is 60 minutes. Available in both English (sub-titles) and Spanish.
The press notes say: "On June 2nd, 2000 at the Yanacocha goldmine in the Peruvian Andes, 151 kilograms of liquid mercury spilled over a 25-mile long area, contaminating three mountain villages, including Choropampa. The environmental catastrophe turned this quiet village into a hotbed of civil resistance."

The distributor in the US is:
First Run / Icarus Films
32 Court Street, 21 Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201 st
++ 718 488 8900 Phone
++ 718 488 8642 Fax
email :

Good viewing.

Brazilian Short for Liturgy

I've been trying to find a way to obtain copies of a wonderful 1995 Brazilian short film, 5 minutes, by Cao Hamburger,
"O Menino, A Favela E As Tampas de Panela"

Let me know if you have any info. about possible distributors. I hope we will soon find a way to access some of these independent productions that are not finding their way into Amazon or Yahoo Shopping.



Today I received an invitation to a performance by a local Houston band, "NTX&THEELECTRICSUTTEE." The name, Suttee, gives me the opportunity to tell you about a "must see" film by Anand Patwardhan that members of the study commission saw in Bangkok in July 2001. The film is "Father, Son and Holy War".

FATHER, SON AND HOLY WAR explores in two parts the possibility that the psychology of violence against "the other" may lie in male insecurity, itself an inevitable product of the very construction of "manhood."

Anand Patwardhan's films continue to be blocked from viewing. This year this happened at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC

The video price at Icarus First Run Films is way too expensive for any individual to purchase, and this problem is widespread among most independent filmmakers. You might write directly to Anand Patwardhan and at least congratulate him.


In Quito, Ecuador, during a February 3, 2003 meeting of the International Study Commission on Media, Religion and Culture, an important video was presented by the Afro-Ecuatorian Cultural Center. The title is "The Black Woman, Creating Our Own Future."

David Morgan, Chair of the Study Commission writes: "Members of the staff of the Afro-Ecuadorian Cultural Center (ACC) made a joint presentation on their work, called �Communication and Black Culture in Ecuador.� Ximena Chal� and Gabriela Viveros, video makers and community promotion staff persons at the Center discussed the mission of the organization, in particular their work with black women in Ecuador. They screened their video, �The Black Woman, Creating Our Own Future...� It uses a poem as narrative structure.

Chal� and Viveros described the interests of the ACC as collectively social, cultural, and political. A biblical and theological concerns form the other �axis of awareness� pursued by the ACC. The Center has published 45 books on black issues and produces a quarterly bulletin (called Palenque, or �Tethering Post�), sponsored training courses, produced over 100 videos, such as �The Black Woman, Creating Our Own Future ...�. Other videos are Coangue, Afro Pastoral, Breaking the Silence.

The purpose of �The Black Woman, Creating Our Own Future...� was to show Ecuadorians that black women are present in the society and to help blacks overcome their own denial of their blackness and their African heritage.

Father Mart�n Jos� Balda, the director of the Center, also made a presentation on the historical and present situation of blacks in Ecuador. He pointed out that blacks were first brought as slaves to the country in 1553. The next wave of black immigrants consisted of laborers for the mines, ranchs and railroads. From almost the very beginning, blacks have practiced forms of resistance, sometimes together with indigenous or other ethnic groups.

There is not a strong presence of traditional African religion in Ecuador. Most blacks are Catholic. 8 or 9 % (one million) of the national population is black, but only 1-2% of Ecuadorian blacks attend university. As a result, the black community suffers from the disadvantages of lower education."

More video titles can be found on their website video section and you can write to purchase copies. They are all in Spanish and made with and by community building processes. Really great. Don't expect the slick industrial look of the USA nor of the PBS documentaries, but rather a genuine, inviting home grown look and info about important Afro-American issues.

Ecuador: Audiovisuales Don Bosco

today I'm spending all my time preparing for an 11-day shoot in Latin America. The crew that will shoot is from Quito, Ecuador, under the management of a talented, very bright layman, Marcelo Mej�a..

Marcelo directs the production and training center, Audiovisuales Don Bosco and produces forward-looking documentaries about the Catholic church and indigenous peoples. Like good documentarians, his crew goes into a community and spends time w/them, shoots some, then comes back later. The rough cut is shown to the community before it goes into final editing in order to get their input and nod. If you'd like a list of their Spanish-language productions that cover topics of inculturation and the environment, contact him at the e-mail above.

What a wonderful video this is, with lots of Coraz�n! "Sweet Ambition" About Chicano teens and the courage and guts it takes to finish high school in west Denver. Latino dropout rate is 70 percent in the US!!!
Video running time is one hour. Last I heard, the production company, Little Voice, is editing a shorter version. See it. Get involved.

I recommend these video resources that were discussed during a seminar April 23, 2003 at the Mexican-American Cultural Center about � Pastoral Ministry and the Impliications of Media Culture.� The resources are:
�Mujer Extraviada� by Lourdes Portillo. Portillo is one of my very favorite Chicana filmmakers whose work I have admired since the 1970�s.

The second is a video I first saw in 1995. It is absolutely wonderful, taking a look at raw satellite footage of what goes on behind news when they don't know we're watching. Spin is by Brian Springer.


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