Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘food photography’

img_8938

Making food props for any theatre company has its own unique challenges, but making them for a high school adds another handful (and another unique, while we’re at it).

I’m in the middle of a run of Les Miserables, the much-loved opera with an unusually high body count. Most of its characters don’t make it to curtain call. I told the actors we could easily hand out pens with playbills and have the audience cross out characters throughout the play. When only Marius and Cosette are left, the French Revolution is over and so is the show.

Despite the loss and poverty depicted, there is also great wealth. When the above characters marry, they have a lavish wedding and cake. I asked what side of the stage the wedding cake will enter from, and when the director said stage right, I knew it couldn’t be too tall; that side of the stage has only shelves on which to store props. He agreed to a layer cake, so I made one (above) with three batches of homemade play dough, cake tins, mini tart tins, and paint applied with a piping bag and tips as if it were buttercream. Young Zak found a gold bead somewhere and pushed it into the cake. I’m not sure why. Being a freshman might have something to do with it.

But when I brought the cake in, the director said it was too low, and that if I built a taller one, we could store it somewhere off stage and bring it on just for the wedding.

Would that I had known this before.

So yesterday I built the below with three storage boxes from AC Moore stacked and glued together with wood glue, and painted using the same technique as above. My crew let me know that young David, who plays a police officer in the show, opened the lid of the top box to peer inside. I said if they see him doing that again to tell him Marisa is going to hide his billy club and he will never find it in a million years.

The cake is tall, and one of the young musicians saw me walk past with it and gasped, ‘Is that real?’ so my work is done.

img_8951

Actually, my job with food for this show isn’t entirely done; I have to feed four loaves of bread per night to the cast, who eats it on stage behind the barricade. I don’t want it to be stale, so I buy it fresh every day. The girls who bring it on from stage left eat most of it while they’re waiting to go on.

When I first brought bread to rehearsal last week the director skipped that scene, so I told Cristian, who plays Enjolras, to take the bread for his side of the stage downstairs to share.

Teenagers of every stripe don’t stop eating. It’s fascinating and almost eerie to witness. They always have their hands in a box of Cheez-Its. But this is a boarding school, which means the kids are even hungrier; and this was a sophomore boy I was talking to. He gaped at me and shouted, ‘We can have the whole thing?!’ When I said yes, he almost bit my hand off.

img_8950

Its hours are numbered.

Read Full Post »

IMG_1217

This is a Buddha burger, from the very popular and much missed ‘grease trucks’ at Rutgers University. It’s a cheeseburger with pork roll, french fries, mayonnaise, and a bunch of other things I’m better off not remembering. I wouldn’t have done this until recently. Then I did, and life was so much prettier.

In one of my very favorite scenes in the new incarnation of the Doctor Who series, little Amelia Pond finds the ravenous Doctor in her backyard and tries to offer him something that will satisfy his hunger. Matt Smith’s charmingly loopy Doctor says he loves apples; she gives him one, he takes a huge bite and then spits it out, calling it disgusting. Same goes for beans, yogurt, bacon…(this goes on). Then he tries fish fingers dipped in custard and they have a winner. Obviously, I mean, who wouldn’t go for that?

Amelia doesn’t understand why he is changing his mind so much. But the well-versed* Doctor Who viewer does: the Doctor regenerates from time to time, and when he does, he is a spinning roulette wheel; every characteristic—physical, emotional, everything—is in flux. When he’s in this state, his food preferences are like that of others in flux—a pregnant woman, or a child, for example. ‘New mouth, new rules,’ he says.

darker asparagus

Asparagus, which I never liked until maybe 10 years ago. Roasted or bust!

I wasn’t ridiculously finicky as a kid—I know kids who will eat nothing but processed cheese slices and frozen waffles—but I decided to abhor certain things and stuck to it. My dad once handed me a morsel of something fried, said, ‘It’s a french fry,’  and watched. That was the tell: if it had in fact been a french fry, he wouldn’t be watching for my reaction. He knew I liked french fries. I handed it back to him. Turns out it was calamari.

No. No way. Not when I was eight.

Another time I asked if whatever he was making had mushrooms in it. He said it did but, ‘You can’t even taste them!’ My reply: ‘Then why did you put them in?’ This is a tough question to answer if you want to hang on to your original statement.

IMG_2037

Pizza with ricotta, caramelized onions and figs. The second two were no-go’s as a kid.

Environment also plays a factor. We all know kids who wouldn’t even sit at the same table as pasta fra diavolo at home, but if somewhere else, will gobble it blissfully.

IMG_2272

Pasta made with the black ink of a squid and fresh garlic. A horror, both, until maybe five years ago.

But more interesting to me than environment is how time and experience alter our food preferences. We’ll pick the raisins out of everything we see at 11, but at 31 we’ll double them in our cookie recipe.

IMG_2402

Sandwich with tuna and anchovy. First fish, fine. Second, forget it—until I was in my twenties. Now I think almost anything can benefit from anchovy except maybe strawberry shortcake.

For all of the foods I didn’t like as a kid, there are a few I liked then that I’m not crazy over now. Milk chocolate is one. Unless it’s great quality—smooth, not gritty tasting like Hershey’s—I stick to dark. And I hated dark as a kid.

In my wild, misspent youth I also ate chem lab projects like Pixie Stix and those freaky little candies attached to long strips of paper. Do you remember those? The paper stayed attached to the backs after you ripped them off the roll. Fiber and artificial flavors—quelle deal!

IMG_2404

Horseradish, another no-man’s land until maybe my 30s. Fresh grated and kept in vinegar, it’s surprisingly sweet and works in dozens of ways.

My food tastes changed toward the spicy after I had an ulcer. Wrote about it. That esophogeal burden prohibited me from eating citrus, chocolate, and more, but especially from eating anything with so much as a fleck of caliente. When the ulcer was gone, I hit the hot pepper full force—much more than I did before the ulcer.

IMG_3189

The sausage sandwich, that favorite of my Italian family, and its spiciness made it out of the question for me until I was well into adulthood.

New mouth, new rules.

How have your food tastes changed? What did you used to scorn but now love, and the other way around?

IMG_4466

Mushrooms plain grossed me out as a kid. I didn’t eat them until I was in my mid-twenties, when my friend ordered them on a pizza and I was too hungry to pull them off. Now I can’t get enough of any variety.

IMG_2227

When I was a kid, tomatoes always tasted like sodden gym socks to me. I suspect many still do. Then I tried heirlooms. Home run.

IMG_4549

The only nut I’d eat as a kid was peanut butter. Not peanuts, mind you—but peanut butter. Now I love them all. This is a cupcake with my homemade gianduja (Nutella) in the batter and on top.

*Euphemism. Obsessed is closer to accurate.

Read Full Post »

IMG_4887

A vintage cake on my vintage Christmas tablecloth. It works.

A couple of days ago I baked my friend Kim’s grandmother’s holiday cake. A year or so ago I was treated to a jar of Granny’s grape jelly that would embarrass Welch’s, and so I was looking forward to trying this. And the below, from Kim, was quite an endorsement as well:

These recipes are all from a family cookbook that Granny (my mother’s mom) put together in 2004. The cover of the cookbook has a picture of Granny with sugar and butter, because they make things taste good! And as Granny says in the foreward, “Remember that love, and family – (and food!) are some of the most important things in your life.” Enjoy!!

Apple Sauce* Cake

 

2 c sugar

1 c shortening

4 eggs

2 ¾ c unsweetened cold applesauce

4 c all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 c raisins, cut fine

1 c nuts, chopped (I used walnuts)

1 ½ tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cloves

 

Cream sugar and shortening with eggs. Beat baking soda into apple sauce and add to sugar mixture. Use about ½ c of the flour and dredge the raisins and nuts.** Add rest of dry ingredients then add raisins and nuts. Bake for 55–60 minutes in a 350° oven.

**********************************************************************************************

My edits: I substituted butter for shortening and toasted the walnuts. I also cooked down apples from my favorite local, organic farmer.

 

What came as an unexpected plus what how much this cake hit the spot after the glut of heavy-duty sweets I’ve been eating all month. Full of apples, nuts and raisins, it is homey, and delicious as it is wholesome. Kim says Granny always serves this with the plum pudding sauce below. I should have, but didn’t this year simply because of how perfect the cake tastes to me just as is, for breakfast. Next year I’ll do it, and I’ll make the marshmallows!

 

Plum Pudding Sauce 

 

This is my great-grandmother’s recipe from 1935.  My grandmother, Granny, generally has this on hand at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

 

1 C butter (not margarine)

1 ½ c brown sugar

1 c canned milk (Pet or Carnation)

2 egg yolks

2 c miniature marshmallows

 

Cream butter and sugar together. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks and add to mixture. Heat and add milk. Mix all together and cook in double boiler or at a low heat until thick. Add marshmallows. Keep in refrigerator. If too thick when ready to use, just use milk to make it thinner.

 

Good on Apple Sauce Cake.

 

One more note: the spicy smell of this cake baking mixed with the woodsy smell of the Christmas tree is pretty unbeatable. If you weren’t in the holiday spirit before, you will be afterward. Thanks to Kim and Granny!

Kim Raynor

Wanamassa, NJ

*Editing skeptics are wondering why I separated apple and cake. It’s because Granny does. Period 🙂

**This is to keep the raisins and nuts from sinking to the bottom of the cake like lemmings.

Read Full Post »