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?


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?

Tiger, tiger burning bright... Friday links.

Today is July 4th, so happy independence day, AMERICA!  If you are on the East coast, I hope you don't get drenched and that your grilling will be ok.  I don't think I will be grilling today as we are to get a good dose of rain.  But I am prepared either way.  

Since today is Friday it is your what you should read and watch day!  But first a little update.  I know I didn't post a new food story or photographs on this blog or my Exposure since last weekend.  Hoping that this weekend will change that and the next weekend I am going to a BBQ picnic party so expect some BBQ and fried chicken photographs!  My friends and their families are some of the best and they always invite me to their annual party.  

At Birdie Smoothies in Costa Mesa, Ca.

At Birdie Smoothies in Costa Mesa, Ca.

The first story I am posting is about conservation and endangered species.  This might pull some heart strings.  I know it does for me.  My favorite animal growing up is the tiger.  Roughly 100 years ago, there were an estimated 100,000 wild tigers freely roaming their natural territories, from Asia to the middle east.  Today?  They are estimating 3,000 in small and confined wild areas.  Poachers are decimating the populations of these magnificent cats for their hides, bones, and genitals for snakeskin oil medicines that are traded to countries like China.  

National Geographic just recently published, among many publications for not just tigers but for all the other endangered species, an article on the dwindling populations of tigers.  We can expect a full extinction of these cats in the wild in our lifetimes.  Which not only sucks, but also destroy's the local eco system as they are the top predators in their region.  

Read the article here: Speaking For Tigers: A Call to End Asia’s Illegal Trade

But Kaziranga is an exception. Most people don’t realize that wild tigers are almost gone. A century ago, about 100,000 tigers roamed across Asia, from Turkey east to Siberia and south through Indochina to Sumatra. Last year, when Steve and I produced our book, Tigers Forever, experts told me that perhaps 3,200 wild tigers still survive. Since then, they say that their numbers may have dropped to 3,000—split among five subspecies, scattered in small pockets across 13 countries, living amidst Asia’s exploding human population. Despite millions of dollars spent on conservation over decades, India is the last real stronghold, with about 1,800 Bengal tigers.
— national geographic
I went to lunch with my SIL and nephew when I saw this moment in Costa Mesa, CA

I went to lunch with my SIL and nephew when I saw this moment in Costa Mesa, CA

On Scientific American, they are reporting that climate change is threatening the existence of the US national parks.  In their report, "Climate Change Threatens US National Parks" droughts are becoming much more common.  

“Whether or not you choose to think about the causes of climate change, all you have to do is open your eyes and look around you to see that climate change is real,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell recently said in a USA Today weekly video newsmaker series (ClimateWire, July 2). “So we can no longer pretend it’s going to go away. We have to adapt and deal with it.”

The secretary cited two 21st century challenges facing the National Park System: One is the need to engage with youth who may be too consumed in the digital world to have interest in the natural world, and the other is to address the changing landscape caused by climate change.
— Scientific American

LA times corroborates this report with their own findings that 80% of California is now under extreme drought conditions.  While there are national parks in other states, California's parks are being hit first because of the aridness of the area.  

In front of Cafeito Organico in Costa Mesa, Ca

In front of Cafeito Organico in Costa Mesa, Ca

These next two stories are from Modern Farmer.  

The first is the article about "Stop Romanticizing Farms."  A recent trend for the past 2 years in the wedding industry is to host weddings at farms.  Farm weddings can be gorgeous, though the focus of said photographs would and should be on the couple and their family and friends, it misses the plight of many farms in America.  The hidden costs.  Farming, being immensely important to our lives and culture, is a life of hard work and running close to debt or passed it.  Maintaining and running a sufficient and profitable farm is simply difficult.  The income farmers can get from space leasing can start as supplementary, if it becomes lucrative enough those farms will no longer be an active farm and just become an event space.  

The craze for rustic, weather-beaten barns, long farm tables and the other aesthetic trappings of traditionally conceptualized farm life has reached a fever pitch. We demand it in our weekend getaways, our dining experiences, and our leisure time. We travel to “farmstays” where we can pet sheep and book facials; we shell out cash for farm-to-table cuisine and go apple-picking. But many of the spaces that offer these activities are working farms that must do so in order to supplement their business, or are once-working farms that have found they can fare better offering a carefully curated version of farming to those willing to pay for it.
— Modern Farmer
A worker at Doublebrook Farms maintaining a part of the moving greenhouse.

A worker at Doublebrook Farms maintaining a part of the moving greenhouse.

I photographed a farm, Doublebrook Farm up in Hopewell township in NJ last October, of whom does not hose weddings or events, but is a sustainable and profitable farm.  The food that they produce supports their local economy.  

In more lighter reads... Argentina is known for their amazing steaks and beef.  It's a major cattle country.  But ever want to get an Argentinian grill to make your own steaks like how they grill them?  Or at least close, cause there is no substitution for actually going there. 

Making Argentinian Grills for American Cooks.

Argentinian grills are straightforward affairs: simple grates positioned over a wood fire, a cooking method that allows for intense smoky flavors and very high heat. Eisendrath’s model, built with the help of local welders after more than a dozen designs, was a portable stainless-steel contraption that included a cooking grate with small drains to catch meat juices, and a crank to move the grate up and down for heat control.
— modern farmer
Out on the streets in HCMC Vietnam, picking up some fruit before we left for Cambodia.

Out on the streets in HCMC Vietnam, picking up some fruit before we left for Cambodia.

Ever walk into a restaurant, for the first time, and wonder how the place fares?  I have and sometimes I have regretted that decision.  Yahoo Food wrote up a guide to help you think of what to look for if you haven't seen the reviews.  "How to Spot a Zero-Star Restaurant (Without a Review)"

Gear Envy: The Sony a7s.  Sam Hurd reviewed this full frame mirror less camera and writes that it is pretty good.  Check it out.  If I get a new camera system, I am going to go for these Sony's with some Zeiss optics.  Well if I can afford them.  I still love you Canon.  

A little plug.  I am heading to California August 12-26th and looking to shoot some food, lifestyle, and family sessions while I am out there.  $300 for the hour with 50 digital prints and one physical print.  Email me at to set this up.


Things around the net. Food guide in Saigon?

Interesting food, culture, and travel links.

I share a lot of links on my facebook and twitter pages and thought to myself that I should start a Friday post that have links and sometimes summaries on my blog.  Starting off is something that I am quite excited over....

Out at a market in HCMC/Saigon one day when it started to rain.  Shot in 2011 with a Canon 1D3 and 35L.

Out at a market in HCMC/Saigon one day when it started to rain.  Shot in 2011 with a Canon 1D3 and 35L.

I have been following Jodi Ettenberg for quite some time now from being introduced to her amazing food blog: Legal Nomads.  Actually I am quite envious that she has been able to stay in Vietnam for some time.  That time she spent researching the street food and where to eat.  Okay more than that, but the point is... she has accumulated a lot of knowledge of the food there.  Totally go read her blog (and buy some t shirts from her). I know that I will reference her guide when I head back to Saigon (or HCMC). 

From her guide:  The Legal Nomads Guide to Saigon Street Food

The focus is, of course, food. One specific soup, a sweet-and-sour canh chua (photo in the “street food” section below), was what initially led me to the city. I was lured in by the complicated tastes and unfamiliar sting of the rice paddy herb on my tongue. It might have been one soup that brought me to Saigon, but it was the rest of the food that kept me there, and keeps me coming back. It is not just taste of food that makes Saigon so enthralling, but the act of eating as well, and all of the craziness that eating comprises. The swirling noise, the families all sitting and enjoying a meal on the street, smiling at you fumbling with your condiments. The beauty of food being not just a necessity but also a sight in and of itself: a window into culture, and a source of endless wonder.
— Jodi Ettenberg, Legal Nomads
At Dim Sum Garden in Philadelphia.  Shot with a Canon 5D mark III and 35L

At Dim Sum Garden in Philadelphia.  Shot with a Canon 5D mark III and 35L

Bon Chon Korean Fried Chicken is set to open in Philadelphia this coming fall.  -Philly Mag

Making Tempura on Saveur.  - Saveur

Making your own clambake at home.  -Food & Wine

Lexicon of Sustainability on youtube.  An online PBS special giving you a closer look at our food, the food process, food culture, and issues with producing food for our world population.  Give it a watch. 

Water usage: Do's and Don'ts of Water Usage.  Water is, and has been, an issue in our growing world.  More specifically water shortages.  Modern Farmer has some tips to save water.  -Modern Farmer

Gear Envy.  One photographer's experience with the Phaseone MF camera.

Back on the home front.... I am thinking of what to make this weekend, and hopefully I can write up a recipe to go along with whatever I cook.  If the rain holds on Saturday I am also planning to check out some soba noodle shops in Philadelphia.