Sunday, January 16, 2011

Taste The Rainbow

In my writing/marketing/tourism/design/alternative healing/retail, Jill-of-all-trades resume, I’ve been called on to do some food styling for Kim Kauffman, a phenomenal local photographer.

*Her web link is below so you can see her work. Don’t miss her gorgeous and glorious nature & floral work using a photo technique she created!

While we worked, we’d get to talking a lot about what was being shot and over the years we have noticed a constant truth; fresh fruit and veggies, whole grains, beans and spices, look better on film than meat or other “filler” foods that we should be eating the least of anyway.

We could look at a pile of strawberries from any angle and they just sat there looking glorious. Even if we added a pile of chocolate shavings as background, the chocolate would wave the red queen forward saying, “No my lady. You first. They are here to see you.”

Meat is the hardest thing to photograph because it always turns out looking like it does after it has moved through your digestive system. I actually had to use a mixture of soy sauce and 2 stroke motor oil on a piece of meat so it would look shiny and appetizing on film. Yes. I know. We need some protein. Operative word: SOME. Not TONS. And protein can be gotten from beans and other healthier sources.

According to , “The human body can store only small amounts of excess protein. During digestion, protein is broken down into amino acids that the body uses for energy. Any amino acids that are not used are converted into fat. The digestion of protein releases acids that the body neutralizes with calcium. Eating excess amounts of protein requires a great deal of calcium, which can be leached from bones. A protein-excessive diet on a long-term basis could significantly weaken bones. A high-protein diet, like Atkins may increase the risk of kidney stones and osteoporosis
Those are not my words but theirs.

The photogenic foods; fruit, vegetables, whole grains- even spices fall into the top three categories on the new Weight Watchers Power Foods list! The ugly step sisters are the bottom three and, interestingly, if you pick your daily menu starting from the bottom of the Power Food Pyramid up (page 93 of the Pocket Guide), then your bottom will continue to resemble the same expanded shape as the bottom of a real pyramid.

The top of the pyramid holds the key to the single item we actually dream about when lost in food fantasies; flavor. FLAVOR!

It’s really a choice between good food and packing fillers. All of the things we should be eating don’t need any work done to them beyond cleaning, removing it’s little protective travel case or if you like, heating. The kicker is that THEY are the true flavor we seek and not the four pounds of other stuff we surround them with before we consume them.

Think about it; bananas, apples, oranges, carrots, asparagus, almonds, all of them are ready to go in ten seconds flat! But do we just go right for them when we feel hungry? Nooooooo. We take bland packing filler, like flour, toss in some grease and chemicals and we add spices and tiny bits of the good stuff from the top of the pyramid to make something vaguely resembling the thing we craved in the first place. Strawberry Cake is a delivery system for a microscopic drop of the essence of real strawberries. Even something like a pretzel is nothing more than a salt (spice) delivery system, because on it’s own, the packing filler (flour, grease, chemicals) has no flavor! When did you ever hear anyone say, “Man I am STARVING for a bag of processed white flour!” OK, my brother’s Labrador did once but labs think cat poop fresh from the litter box is Almond Roca.

On the almond thing– why is it that we inhale the scent of fake almonds and then search for almond flavor things to eat or drink like cakes, cookies, and coffee, wasting a boatload of calories on them when we can just eat a hand full of real, readily available almonds instead?

The scent/memory/comfort component comes into play here. It’s the strongest memory trigger the mind has. You can catch a whiff of something aromatic and if you just close your eyes for a moment, you will pull up a memory of what you connected it with. There will be an emotion tied to it as well and the nature of the emotion tied to the smell will mark it as an item to AVOID or BRING IT ON. Don't think so? Wave a bottle of Jade East after shave under the nose of a blindfolded woman over 50. Now ask her what she's thinking. I double dog dare you. You'll hear a whole story of drive-ins and date nights and Varsity letter sweaters and stuff that makes her blush. Scent triggers emotional memories.

The problem with food flavor memories is that we have to eat food, and different foods, everyday, to stay alive. Instead of a clear connection to a flavor memory, our original food scent/memory association has been polluted by daily assaults of good ingredients and the packing filler. It's as jumbled up in our heads as the mess of stuff in a deep fried, everything in it, chimichanga. Which smell are we going for there? The cheese? The cooked meat? The onions? The chilis? The flour? It’s confusing. The jumbled emotional memories that are triggered by jumbled scents are always of the sad, loss, longing, depression, unwanted, unloved genre. And when one chiminchanga doesn't make you happy again, you're deadened ability to reason tells you to eat another one and maybe THAT will make you happy.
(** Link to a BRILLIANT talk by Brene Brown below. 20 minute talk- don't miss the last five minutes! )

Here’s the test for good food vs. bad:
The more time the item has to spend in a factory being “readied” for consumption, the less time its kind should spend heading into your mouth.

Grab one of those cake thingies and mentally walk through it’s life story until reaching your hand. I present to you the Life Of A Snack Cake~~
(Deep Breath for run on sentence... aaaand, go) Chemicals and binders and fillers and preservatives and processing and then they have to wrap them up in two separate bags; plastic and boxes and  then they take pictures of what it used to be before they beat the hell out of it to put on the outside of the box and it has to be placed just so on a shelf to catch your eye amongst all the other packing filler foods in the store so you'll break down and buy it. (And breathe)

Don’t even get me started on how they have to get a cow ready for sale or this blogisode will turn into a Quentin Tarantino slasher film. And now what does it smell like? Nothing. Cardboard. Plastic. Something dead?

Now follow a strawberry's life until it sits in your palm. I'll let you fill in that short story. Real, healthy flavor holds it’s treasure of scent close so you will come right into it's radiant energy field, lift it to your nose and smell it’s wonder. Crap smells from yards away because it’s a confusing jumble of scents. Who hasn’t caught the scent of donuts being made from two blocks away? What you’re smelling is grease and 20 pounds of sugar. YUM!

Simple perfection lives at the top of the food pyramid. If I gave you a bowl of fresh strawberries, you could just eat them straight away. Ten years from now strawberries will still grow as simple and perfect as they do today and you'll be able to enjoy them and their scent will still say summer, and healthy and sunshine. Let’s try that same trick with a bag of flour. Nothing? I thought so.

Flavor derived from those top of the pyramid foods are the delicacies of Planet Earth. Years before the thriving import/export food business really took off, winter food supplies held only things that would keep or were preserved in salt or some other packing, drying, pickling method. The people didn't eat those things all winter because they wanted to. They ate them because they had no other choice. And what did the suck ups bring as gifts to lords and ladies when visiting their castles; Peaches from China, mangoes from tropical places, peppers from the exotic market places of Istanbul, almonds from far away Spain and wild strawberries from the fields surrounding Rome.
We are eating like Kings and Queens as we re-think and re-thin our bodies.

Would you care for a fresh berry your Highness?

* Here are Kim Kauffman’s commercial and fine art websites– have a look at the food pictures! ( side note; the lamb dish is the one with the 2 stroke motor oil “sauce”
Commercial Work-

Amazing Art Photography!

** Brene Brown's talk from
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