Secrets Revealed, Issue 1

"Gross."

"You’re totally freaking me out."

"I can barely handle one of you, what’s this crap with 3 arms?"

"You grew another arm and you still can’t pick up your phone when I call you? You’re an ass Matt and that’s that."

These are a few of the various comments via emails I received over my last post. No no no, most were actually very sweet and nice and I thank you but it seems the three-armed Mexican trick was just a bit too much for some.

Reminds me of a trip I once took to Tijuana….Oops nevermind.

My whole goal wasn’t to freak you out nor was it meant to employ any digital shenanigans. It was solely meant to illustrate that a) for some ungodly reason the shirt I was wearing actually matched the scene, unintentionally and b) even though I was crying and sobbing and cursing my solitude I could also be my own best company. I may have been alone but I didn’t need to feel alone. Got it?

Cloneaway_2

There really wasn’t any genetic trickery involved. It’s simply two separate shots that were composited in a matter of seconds. And please, if you feel a photo purist rant coming up from deep down in your soul, save it, would you? For the record I don’t dig the overuse of Photoshop either and have greatly learned to do things "in camera" as much as possible (save for the requisite color and contrast adjustments that are sometimes needed when shooting RAW files).

So there you have it.

I promise it won’t happen again.

So tell me folks, I’ve said this blog is about "food, drink, travel + photography" and yet I don’t really talk about the ins-and-outs of photography all that much. Would you wanna see more stuff behind the scenes? I’m always happy to pull the curtain back and reveal the inner workings. But it ain’t always pretty. Let me know!

I’m not only a member, I’m the President

Lobstergraphic

Me and my bright ideas. Who knew an open Saturday, a few pounds of
crawfish and a hankering for company would lead me down such a solitary
path? If you remember, my significant other is still away and I’ve
grown weary of my own company. The dogs aren’t much help, they
entertain themselves. And so with my antsy self I sent out a few emails
and dialed a few numbers but oddly enough they all came back with the
same thing.


To:  Dana <xxxxxxx@gmail.com>,
Date:  Thu, Mar 27, 2008 at 8:03 PM
Subject:  Dinner, My Place?
Mailed-by:  gmail.com
Hey,
Adam is still out of town and I was thinking of making something
festive, Saturday afternoon, non-vegetarian though. Are you
free?

To:  Matt <matt.armendariz@gmail.com>,

Date:  Thu, Mar 27, 2008 at 10:16 PM

Subject:  Dinner, My Place?

Mailed-by:  gmail.com

So sorry! I’ve got plans! But lets catch up soon, k? Hugs to Adam next time you talk to him. Xoxoxoxoxoxo"

and…

To:  KevinH <xxxxxxx@gmail.com>,

Date:  Fri, Mar 28, 2008 at 2:37 PM

Subject:  What’s happenin’ hotstuff?

Mailed-by:  gmail.com

Hey mister, do you have plans this weekend? Adam is still
gone, I wanted to cook and have peeps over. I’m sick of my own company.
U Free?"

To:  Matt <matt.armendariz@gmail.com>

Date:  Fri, Mar 28, 2008 at 3:03 PM

Subject:  What’s happenin’ hotstuff?

Mailed-by:  gmail.com

Hey sistergirl! We’re visiting family this weekend, otherwise we’d so be there. So sorry! Call if you’re bored."


Well
drats. No one was available. To be perfectly honest I was discouraged
and thisssssssclose to opening the window and screaming out to
strangers on the street just like Gilda Radner in that classic SNL skit
for Harvey’s Bristol Cream. And I would have totally been happy with a
bum a la Bill Murray. Heck, I couldn’t even get that.

Suddenly
I panicked. All that food. And then panic became sadness. And then the
sadness became a funk. And the funk made me want to shuck out those
little crustaceans in a dramatic huff that would have been straight out
of a Lifetime Meredith Baxter Birney movie. But I remembered a friend
back home who loved to do things alone. She’d make big meals and save
the leftovers, she’d take herself to the cinema all alone (secret candy
stash in purse), she even went hiking and camping by herself. This
woman was going places – ALONE! That’s it! If my friend Nature Girl can
be comfortable in her own skin, with herself and no one else, why was I
complaining about a meal that I couldn’t share? It’s not like I didn’t
have friends, it’s just that they were all busy.

I mean, I do have friends, right? You guys were really busy this past weekend, right?

Matthasaparty2

Eating
alone is different than with a group. And for me eating alone is
usually something that wouldn’t be best suited for a crowd. There’s a
definitely absence of starters, main dishes, and desserts, and it’s
usually something so basic and simple it simply wouldn’t do for a
crowd. But an old-fashioned crawfish boil? Now that’s a party. You
don’t do that for yourself. It’s the same reason I wouldn’t cook a
whole turkey with sides for myself–it’s group food, pure and simple.
And when you throw those boiled crawdads (I’m from Texas, remember)
down on the table with corn and potatoes and crack open a beer or
twelve then you’re really engaging in a festive, familial act. It’d be
like making fondue for one. Wait, that sounds good. Make a note of that.

As I was seasoning my water and getting my mix of spices just right I
began to wonder if I was seriously the only one who’s had a crawfish
boil for and by themselves. And then I hit my stride. Who says certain
things can’t be enjoyed solo? I felt silly at first but realized it was
no big deal because heck, I gotta eat and it might as well be something
fun and tasty. Then I started thinking how I could probably form a
zydeco band all by myself, accordion strapped on my chest and knee
symbols clanking away.

Ingredients

For my spice mix I decided to go the homemade route with whatever I had
on hand. For large quantities of people the seafood spice mixes aren’t
bad but I wanted to give it a go doing it myself. I added coriander
seeds, whole cloves, red pepper flakes, allspice, black peppercorns,
bay leaves, cayenne, salt and celery and mustard seeds and added my
corn and potatoes. My crawfish were already purged and ready to go so I
added them to the boil a little bit later. I wanted to be sure my
potatoes were cooked throughly because I happen to think an undercooked
potato is worse than being a dork and having a crawfish boil all by
yourself.

After I made sure I completely documented my efforts through the
miracle of photography (did you notice that trick? It’s me times 2!) I sat down to a large tray adorned with butcher
paper and stacked with hot corn, steaming potatoes and a few bright
orange fellas. My fingers and chin were wet with spicy, briny liquid
and then my mind began to fill with memories of being back home in
Texas and and eating crawfish and also of every shrimp fry I ever went
to. If you thought eating alone was depressing enough try doing it with
a meal that was never meant to be created in solitude. And then I was
snapped back into reality when out of nowhere my cat Birdie appeared
and began to beg. She is naturally crazy for anything fishy, the
spicier the better.  I cracked a claw in my mouth and removed a nice
nugget of meat and gave her a taste and before long we were both
enjoying the wacky fruits of my labor.

Maybe I wasn’t alone after all.

    

The Life and Times Of Grizzly Adams, or just me in my backyard.

Treeandfennel

Grizzlyadams1974
Does anyone remember Grizzly Adams, the movie and tv show from the 1970s about that woodsman who was wrongfully accused of a crime and set off to live the life of a trapper somewhere in the mountains? Of course you do. All God’s creatures loved him and he ended up with that cute little bear companion named Ben.  I remember it too, and boy did I love it (this may explain a certainly affinity I have towards bears but this is so not the place to address this and besides, I’m married and all that happy stuff.)  I remember thinking how thrilling it must have been for Mr. Adams (played by Dan Haggerty) to do what he wanted to without being bothered by anyone. I also remember how hard it must have been for him to do without ZOOM (or any other TV show for that matter), Tang, Atari and Toughskin Jeans from Sears. But my biggest concern for Mr. Adams was food. What did he do? Did he have to learn to kill his own food? And what about foraging for nuts and berries? And how did he know what was safe and what was off limits? Did he have the internet? There wasn’t even an internet in the 70s so, what, did he have access to all those encyclopedias from the grocery store that you’d buy each time you went for milk and eggs? And whose bright idea was that, anyway? You don’t go to the Library for chuck steak, why would you buy books other than Mad Magazine at the grocery store? Huh, Mom? Someone answer me please I have been alone for 6 days and my dogs are starting to ignore me please anyone Grizzly Mr. Haggerty anyone please!!!!!!!!!!!

Now where was I? Oh yes, dinner.

As organized as I am, today I actually forgot to get dinner. And because you-know-who is gone I had to rely on myself. But the thought of heading to the store when I was already home didn’t sound appealing and neither did plucking pantry items to create some mix-matched meal. And while I was standing outside with my dogs in my backyard I remembered Grizzly Adams. Don’t ask me why but the mind is a powerful thing. All of a sudden I remembered I had leftover roasted beets in my fridge, a tree full of small colorful oranges, and one lone fennel plant sticking out of the ground that came out of nowhere. A salad! I’ll make a salad. And with that thought fresh in my mind, I loaded up the dogs in my sled, threw on a few pelts, grabbed my shotgun, scratched my beard and headed to the Lone Star*.

Salad1

Beet, Orange and Fennel Salad

Please don’t hate me. I based this off a recipe from Epicurious and there really are no measurements. I doubt Grizzly Adams had measuring spoons. And while my beets were local and the fennel and oranges walked exactly 29.2 paces from yard-to-kitchen, my vinegar traveled 542 miles and my mustard was from France. Don’t worry, I bought offsets. Obsessive locavores, I’m only thinking of you…

Salad
A few roasted beets, sliced
A few orange segments
A few fennel slices, make it thin!
handful of hazelnuts

Dressing
a touch of olive oil, extra virgin
a splash of champagne vinegar
some dijon mustard, not much, about a tablespoon or so
fennel seeds, crushed

Arrange the slices in a bowl. For the dressing combine all ingredients and drizzle over the salad. Top with a few hazelnuts and get ready to crunch.

*Grande points for you if you get this reference.

Blurb presents International Photography.Book.Now

Pbn_logo_3

The folks at Blurb sent over an email and I wanted to share it with you if you haven’t seen it. Blurb, the creative publishing service, is sponsoring a self-published photography book competition called International Photography.Book.Now along with an international salon and symposium. There’s a nifty grand price of $25,000 and some amazing sponsors like American Photo, PDN, and liveBooks, the company that hosts my professional photo site.

(And words cannot convey how much I love liveBooks and their amazing service as well as my contact Jon. It’s been worth every single penny!)

You should probably know I’m not too big on competitions. I’ve based my belief on Bruce Mau’s 1998 Incomplete Manifesto which I have carried with me for 10 years. And if you haven’t read it, it’s brilliant and has served me well as a graphic designer and also as a photographer. I’m always turning to it for inspiration (I’m really big on #41 in case you haven’t noticed!) Having said that, this Blurb thing looks pretty nifty, has great sponsors, and seems to have the potential to offer a great amount of exposure for photographers as well as events that will bring people together. I definitely can support that.

1_3

Even though I’ve worked in print for almost 20 years now, the thought of having such self-control over one’s very own book is truly exhilarating. Have any of you ordered books through Blurb? How’d they turn out? Thoughts?

images courtesy blurb.com

A Simple Emoticon Would Have Been Sufficient.

Woe is me.

My better half is at some undisclosed location across the country working with this fine gentleman and this photographic genius. And nope, I’m not being purposely vague about it and I’d tell you if I knew. Something about that stack of non-disclosure forms on our fax machine the other day prevents even me from knowing what’s happening.

But I know it’s somewhere in the middle of the country.

And I know it’s for several weeks and weeks and weeks.

And I know I shall be a bit lonely and sad and forced to cook for one.

And even though it’s only been one day I have adjusted to a big empty house. I have three mutts to keep me company after all. And just when I made peace with this reality I hear that familiar ping of a text message arriving on my phone.

And this is what I see (embellished by yours truly, natch)

Cheesecurdgraphic

Sometimes he can be so cruel.

Allow Me To Distract You

When you’re too busy to blog and you’ve been working every single day you just post pictures from a recent photo shoot in hopes that people will stand by. So that’s what I’m doing. Enjoy the pretty faces while I try to figure out what day it is.

And yes, I did actually spray paint my grass green.

Party