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Tuesday
Mar172015

Elana's UnFood Journal

This isn't food related. Or is it?

This is a phases of the moon chart. It's made from a music book salvaged from the trash (yes, I occasionally dumpster-dive for art), water color, parchment paper, and ink.

I don't really know why I wanted to paint the phases of the moon. Perhaps it's because in NYC, I feel slightly divorced from nature. Perhaps I just liked the colors. Perhaps I was sick of painting food.

Either way, perhaps we can just take it as what it is.

Sweet dreams.

Tuesday
Mar032015

Elana's Food Journal - Week 2

As part of a 40 day yoga challenge I'm undertaking (at Lyon's Den in TriBeca), I must maintain a food journal. 

This should be easy for me, yes? Hmmm.... 

Writing down what I eat is easy for me. But I felt as though there was an opportunity in this project to challenge myself.

Challenge is the very reason I signed up for this challenge. You following me? Thought not. 

Lately I've been feeling that I am relying on old tricks. For recipes, for social interactions, for career moves. FOR LIFE.

Like if I could just sous vide instead of sauté, I might have a break through. Or what if cardamom is the difference? I've often felt it is, but when I try to sprinkle it on myself instead of in my almond milk chai, nothing happens. Cardamom is not fairy dust, people. Mental note.

Anyway. With this food journal, I wanted to challenge myself to be creative every day. To paint my food. Or think about it visually in a different way than just photographing it. This is the result. 

It's not fabulous. It's not meant to be a masterpiece, but a place where I can play, not be too serious and see what works.

Just like my kitchen!

Monday
Feb232015

Elana's Food Journal - Taking a Break. Or Two.

What does it mean to take a break or even a step back? Both phrases have a negative connotation for me, as they suggest that whatever I'm doing might be in excess or require re-evaluation.

Historically, I'm not a break-taker. I like to keep the huskies mushing, believing (or being trained to believe, perhaps?) that all motion—regardless of direction—is progress.

But now, I believe this is not the case. By the above model, I (or you) would turn into the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil version of productivity—limbs (mental and physical) flailing in all directions at once, making it impossible to discern a left big toe from a right ear.

At a design studio I used to work at, we had a phrase for this: PANTS ON FUEGO. The intentional mis-combination of English and Spanish was meant to convey with even greater urgency how really ON FIRE your pantaloons were in that moment. 

Very.

Or mucho.

Readers of this blog (all 5 of you!) know that I've been a bit reflective lately. Years of operating "on fuego", some unfortunate athletic mishaps, and a complete career regeneration seem to have spurred this. Or else there is something in my water.

To encourage my reflective phase, I recently had two "breaks" which yielded some unexpected results, both artistically and gastronomically.

I spent a week at Iach HQ babysitting my dog while my parents were on vacation.

I thought I would be lonely. I was not.

I thought I would hate getting snowed in with no escape. I did not.

I thought conversations with the dog would get old. They did not.

The literal space this break created allowed me to asses my life from afar, like reading a recipe and deciding what subtractions, substitutions or additions I would make to make it taste better.

What's my new life recipe? I'll be constantly rewriting that. And it will never be perfect, but most likely lumpy, like an heirloom tomato. Those tomatoes always taste better...I think those might be flavor lumps.

Here is an excerpt from my Food Journal for Lumpy Life Heirloom Tomato Salad:

My next "break" was in Puerto Rico - a real vacation! No computer. I brought a set of travel watercolors (pictured at the top of this post), a few Sharpies and a sketchbook. I meant to draw and paint on my own but what happened instead was a series of painting sessions with the children (ages 3-10) that were in our group's number.

Every day we found time for painting together.

Sometimes we painted food.

Sometimes the three year old commandeered my sketchbook for excessive rainbow application.

And sometimes we painted animals.

By Max Philips, Age 10We made sure to keep everything drippy and unprofessional.

I didn't think I would enjoy this. I was wrong.

I didn't think I'd be running to the local school supply store for more art supplies two days into the trip. I was.

I didn't think the kids would be giving ME ideas. They were.

Here is the remaining pages of the notebook I kept, complete with a few loosely constructed recipes. This notebook is a combination of my works, rainbows by the youngest student and additions by the twins (aged 10).

I didn't think the book would be better with their help. It is.

Tuesday
Feb102015

Sensible Squash Soup

I've been painting and cooking. Cooking and writing. Sometimes painting with what I'm cooking. But never cooking with what I'm painting....or am I?

I emerge out of this in a cloud of smoke, just as confused as you are. Oh yes. Confusion sets in. And disappointment too.

Disappointment? Yes. The other day, I painted squashes. Then I painted orange things. And more squashes. And I looked at it all and I said, "OK, great, Elana, but what are you going to do with it?"

So I made some butternut and acorn squash soup to make it all make sense. Because if anything makes sense, it's soup. Especially of the orange variety.

But it still didn't quite. Make sense, that is. Even after eating most of the soup, which was quite good with a little quinoa for protein, crispy baked mushrooms and fried sage.

So I sat down, belly full of soup, and thought. 

"Huh. What now?" I said to myself. "I know! How about I pour the rest of this soup onto this tiny white table and paint with it? And then work it into these here watercolors to see if I can match it up?"

ASIDE: This was happening while there was a snow storm a-brewing outside. John and I were staying at Iach HQ while Marmo and the Box were enjoying a vacation. It was about this time that John walked in to inquire the whereabouts of our snow plow man when he saw me, manic gleam in my eye, painting with my food. If there was ever a doubt as to who is the "odd duck" of the family, rest assured, it is obviously John who did not see the merit in such activities.

But, you, fair reader, certainly do! I can smell it. Just like I can smell the maple syrup saturating the squash as it roasts in the oven at 400°F. 

As before, I am leaving you specific instructions. Just these images from which you can certainly, if enterprising, cobble together a similar sensible soup. You can even paint with it, should you like.

Sunday
Feb012015

Elana's Food Journal - Braided (and Painted) Bread

I've been putting off posting this, waiting until it was perfect. Perfect for whom? Me? You? I've posted about imperfect food before, but this is something different. This is ME waiting for me to be ready to show you my work. I'm waiting for it to be good enough. For the timer to *DING* and say, "Ah-HA! Perfect soufflé."

Sigh. I hate it when I do this.

The whole dang POINT of this food journal is sharing and spontaneity. It's about process...knowing that my work — whatever you want to call this odd blended smoothie of art and food — is always progressing and moving toward something. Without the process of showing what I'm working on, testing the "recipes" if you will, it's pretty pointless.

With this piece, recipe, whatever, I was waiting to do MORE with it. More sketches, more painting, more more more more more.

Stop. 

You know how pasta tastes really awesome with just olive oil and parmesan cheese? Simple is better.

I was going to wait until I had worked out the whole layout, recipe and all. But this is about playing with my food. And doing all that would be WORK. And I have a job (or three). So I'm putting it up here in its current state: unfinished.

Well, sort of. It's finished for now. Tomorrow I might decide to change it, rebake it, throw it out the window (watch out, pigeons on my AC unit!), but today it's finished.

If you would really, really like to make this multi-colored bread, you can figure it out from what I've posted in these images, and this recipe. And if you can't figure it out, you can post in the comments, and I'll try and help you out. K? 

And here is a fancy flip-through version: