December 2010 Archives

Fry Cook

spring rolls 2.jpgThere's no denying that these were better than the baked version, but worth the stench and the danger? 

Until last week I had never fried anything in my life.  I don't think my mom ever fried anything in my life either.  We have always reserved our fried food eating for going out or for the occasional packaged potato or corn chip.  I'm hardly a paragon of healthy eating, what with my cheese habit and my beer gut, but the truth is that fried food doesn't make me feel good.  Every six months or so I'll eat an apple fritter and predictably I'll feel icky afterwords.  I can eat fries once a week, but I have been known to get fry burps afterwords, a real sign that fried food doesn't agree with me.

I have one frying ambition though- spring rolls.  I have made baked spring rolls but I think it makes the wrapping kind of tough.  I finally broke down last week and decided to fry some home made spring rolls.  Frying is easy, right?  You just heat up a bucket-load of oil and throw food into it until it turns golden...

Apparently there's a learning curve with frying.  First of all, I can't bear the thought of filling any of my pots and pans with inches of oil.  What do you do with all that oil when you're done frying?  Do you dump it down the drain? That seems wasteful and also unhealthy for the drain.  Do you filter it and save it?  Do you make it into oil burning candles?  I couldn't do it.  I put about a quarter of an inch of oil in a large frying pan. 

I heated it up.

Till it was really hot.

I added some spring rolls which sizzled satisfyingly.

But soon the rolls were frying too quickly and burning a bit.

The kitchen was filling up with a slight smokiness. 

The oil was looking a little suspect.

Turns out you should turn your oil down once you have heated it up.  I came very close to catching my kitchen on fire.  Apparently frying is much more of an art than I imagined.  Even if I hadn't almost made my oil catch fire, the kitchen was filled with fried-smell for hours afterwords.  Usually my kitchen smells great after I've cooked.  How can the smell of fried grease smell so good when you're eating the food and then smell so very wrong when just the grease smell is left?

I've decided that I'm not going to cultivate this kitchen knowledge.  I'm going to experiment with rice wraps next.  Perhaps I'll make thin pancakes to eat my spring roll filling with.  I make a plum dipping sauce and I want to eat more of it but I need to find a way to eat this without baking or frying.  Pancakes might be the ticket!

I think it's nice to find some things I don't need to master in the kitchen.
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My photo book is finished- come look!

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my book cover.jpg
I have taken a break from writing my novel to create a book of my photos with some of my very best observations, meditations, and advice from my years of writing Dustpan Alley.  Please come take a look inside:

Preview of "Straight from the Jugular"

I had intended (and worked hard) to get it done in time for Christmas ordering but unfortunately I didn't make it.  Doing it well was more important.  I'm not gonna lie to you, I'm very proud of this book.  Even if you don't buy it, go check it out and leave a comment if you like it.

Here's the introduction to the book which explains the connection between writing and photography and what I look for in photos:

When I first started taking pictures for my blog, Dustpan Alley, I committed all the usual photo crimes: lots of flash, not quite in focus, poor lighting, and no working on the pictures in Photoshop later. I am, above everything else, a writer, so at first I just used the photos to punctuate and illustrate posts in a perfunctory manner.  The writing was all that counted to me, but something happened along the way; I started playing with the photographic possibilities.  I started caring about the composition of my pictures.  I took pleasure in getting a sharp picture, a picture with its own story, a picture that could stand on its own.

My pictures still mostly sucked until I got my first good quality point and shoot.  My Canon SD850 took sharper better quality pictures than my ancient point and shoot could.  I could take much better macro shots and it was faster, capturing natural light better.  Suddenly my pictures were speaking to me, guiding my writing, inspiring posts rather than simply punctuating them.  I took my camera with me everywhere keeping my eyes peeled for anything interesting to capture, anything that might bring me more words, that might have something to say to me later.  Getting my first DSLR camera was a fresh revelation and though much bulkier to drag around than my little point and shoot, it takes even better pictures so I am rarely without it.

This is a book of my photographs that have sparked narratives and uncovered stories.  As is true with my writing, I'm not interested in capturing only the pretty or the awe-inspiring.  I'm not interested in self portraits that show me always at my best or pictures of other people that they would put in their school yearbook.  What I look for is motion, color, transitory moments; I want to uncover the blood and the guts, the trash, and the paint underneath the paint.  I want to see the sting, the opening, the flight, and the dreams that live and die just beyond our sight.  I want to revel in the minutiae, the detritus, the flecks of light that catch us, and follow the eye where it goes when we're not thinking too much about it.  I want to find the humor, the daily irreverence, and the jubilation of daily life.

Just like my writing, my photographs come straight from the jugular.

I have collected in this book some of my best and each picture is paired with observations and thoughts I've taken from my writing.  The words don't always immediately seem to go with the photographs and I'm not going to tell you why I paired each one as I have, I am only going to say that in each pairing there is something that binds them for me, whether it is mood, color, texture, or narrative.   

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