Lemongrass Banh Mi

As I finish making a blog post for Foodploration, I made a lemongrass chicken banh mi for lunch.  Also on my mind was where I will go next to work on my "Searching for Little Saigon in America" project.  I think that I will be heading down towards Virginia/DC area to check out Eden Center where a bunch of Vietnamese shops have set up.  Plus I will be able to see a friend of mine down there too.  Hopefully I can go there sometime in October.  I did go to Cheu Noodle Bar, Rival Brother's, and Federal Donuts this weekend.  You can read about that on Foodploration.  

In camera gear news, I recently bought a Sigma ART 50mm lens.  It's nice and sharp!  Said photographs were taken with said lens.

Searching for Little Saigon in America: NYC

Over the weekend I went up to NYC to the Elmhurst Queens area to check out the Vietnamese community up there.  I know on Mott Street there are two Vietnamese shops and a cart, but I wanted to see a larger picture.  So taking my project, "Searching for Little Saigon in America" to NYC I went to Elmhurst and saw that it was really a large pocket of the Asian American community.  I went towards Joju Modern Vietnamese sandwich shop to check it out and to get some lunch.  I was pretty hungry!  

I did see some pho shops and a major supermarket that had mostly Chinese and some Vietnamese products inside.  So this was not necessarily a Little Saigon in this area.  I could be wrong and I should go back up there to explore.  I was hoping to walk by nail salons, which a majority of Vietnamese run and own, more banh mi shops and markets.  But I didn't find them in the area I explored.  

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After meeting and talking to Kelly, the blogger, I had some new ideas- I am going to have to start interviewing people which means... I need to learn Vietnamese and or get a translator and try to see if I can make a kickstarter program to help fund this project.

Friday morning high. What to read on the interweb this week.

It's FRIDAY!  TGIF, right?   This weekend I am going to a friend's BBQ party and then work on my personal project- In Search of Little Saigon in America. Although there is also another BBQ event down the Jersey Shore that looks interesting.  But this project means more to me.  I don't know if I only scratched the surface of the Vietnamese markets in Philadelphia on Washington Ave or not, but I need to go back. 

Anyway this week's worth of items to read and watch, is another set of thought provoking items about how we interact with our food and food culture.  But first up is...

A rainy stroll around HCMC in Vietnam.

A rainy stroll around HCMC in Vietnam.

My youtube video on how to make iced coffee at home.  An easy way to make iced coffee at home. 

Smithsonian Magazine recently interviewed Anthony Bourdain about our recent food glamorization from food celebrity to popularity of instagramming your food.  I am a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain, so yes I got caught up in the food celebrity movement myself.  Starting from reading Kitchen Confidential to watching No Reservations and Parts Unknown, I have been a fan.  A quote from the article, that caught my eye, he says that it isn't really that we just realized this "revolution" of local, farm to table, but more like we are learning what the old World knew all along about our food. 

He has a theory about this I hadn’t considered. That the whole seismic food culture shift isn’t American superficiality but the New World learning what the Old World has known for centuries. “We’re just catching on,” he says. “We are changing societally, and our values are changing, so that we are becoming more like Italians and Chinese and Thais and Spaniards, where we actually think about what we’re eating, what we ate last night, and what we’re considering eating tomorrow. When I grew up in the ’60s, we’d go to see a movie, then we would go to a restaurant. And we would talk about the movie we just saw. Now, you go right to dinner and you talk about the dinner you had last week and the dinner you’re going to have next week, while you’re taking pictures of the dinner you’re having now. That’s a very Italian thing. A lot of the sort of hypocrisy and silliness and affectation of current American food culture is just fits and starts, awkwardly and foolishly growing into a place where a lot of older cultures have been for quite some time.”


— Ron Rosenbaum, The Smithsonian

I just hope we aren't Columbusing this idea though.  It's a real fascinating read.  And in a lot of ways, Bourdain is right in what he talks about.  And before I lead off to the next read, this interview has a nice segue to it.  From the article "Anthony Bourdain's Theory on the Foodie Revolution."

But not Instagramming food. He has strong feelings about the craze of Instagramming dishes that has taken over social media.

“Chefs bitch about it when it’s going on in their restaurants,” Bourdain says, “yet when they go out to dinner, they’re taking pictures of everything. And any notion that that’s sharing? It’s bullshit. It’s about making other people feel bad about what they’re eating. And a certain knowledge that what you’re eating is more interesting.”
— Anthony Bourdain being interviewed

Then on NYtimes, Pete Wells writes about Instagram and food, in his article: "Dishes Worthy of Instagram, But not your Appetite.  It's something that we all do.  Face the truth!  The truth will set you free!  One of the most posted instagram are the foods that we have ate at a restaurant or made.  As a food photographer, no really I am, I do it too. 

Besides a powerful research tool, digital food photography is a cheap marketing tool as well. A snapshot of a new dish uploaded last night can cause a bump in reservations this afternoon. Chefs who serve camera-ready plates find their dining rooms full of volunteer publicists, who work for free and leave money on the table when they go home.
— Pete Wells

Dishes, the entire look of the restaurant, and overall design of the place are now keeping in mind of the free publicity they get from customers making photographs of everything.  But the question is, will we eat first then take pictures or are we forever going to whip out the camera/phone first then eat?

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Modern Farmer has an article about dry farming.  Given the current extreme drought condition in California and given the fact that California grows much of our crops, it's quite an important read.  In their article, "When the Well Runs Dry, Try Dry Farming," finding ways to cope and grow through these long droughts, are vital.  Most of the drinking water originates from the Sierra Nevada snowpack, but it is annually dropping in percentage with this year only reaching 32%.  Much of the water usage is from the farms.  The idea of dry farming relies on detailed timing of implementation for the growing season.  It basically is trapping and retaining water, or moisture, like a sponge and tilling the land perfectly to make use of the trapped water that could last a long time in that plot of land.  Using dry farming techniques forces roots to go deeper for water.  Screwing up, however, would lead to no do overs.

Little explains the principles of dry farming with a simple metaphor: “Imagine you have a cookie sheet filled with water and you lay a dry sponge on the water and then cover the sponge with cellophane. The cookie sheet is the subsoil that holds moisture even when the topsoil is dry. When we till the topsoil, it becomes a sponge that pulls the water from the soil below. Then we go over the finely tilled topsoil with a roller pulled by a tractor, which seals in the moisture — that’s the cellophane covering the sponge.”

A sponge covered with cellophane will stay moist for a long time, which dry farmers hope will last through the growing season. According to Little, the precise timing of planting and tilling is the key to moisture retention. If the moisture of the winter rains evaporates from the soil before a field is properly prepared, Little has no irrigation system as a backup. “We make a lot of mistakes,” he says, “and there’s no going back with dry farming.” He has tried bringing water trucks into the field to save crops that weren’t making it, but has learned to let them wither — “they never fully recover, anyways,” he says.
— Modern Farmer

Dry farming, however, yields less crops.  It is a good strategy for community based farms, but larger operations it would not. 

These are actually long, but really worthwhile reads.  So grab your cup of coffee and enjoy!  What are you planning to do for the weekend?