Monday, April 26, 2010

Can you say Cheese?

Can You Say Cheese?
And, no I’m not talking about photography. I’m talking about actual cheese.
I’m not sure what gets into my head sometimes, but every now and then I get the bright idea that I want to do something and can do something and will do something no matter what. This kind of tenacity can be beneficial, especially if applied to things that will further your career. However, as my career is not that of a chef, one wonders just how beneficial a fixation on cheese making will be to my photography career.
But good sense be damned! I am cheese maker, hear me roar! It all started while fiddling around on the computer one day and stumbling over a recipe for mozzarella cheese. It was so simple – the only ingredients being rennet, citric acid and a gallon of milk. Like with most things I decide to dive into, this really comes down to money. Fresh Mozzarella is expensive. The fact that it only has a gallon of milk in it, doesn’t warrant the cost in my mind. You would think I would have learned by now that this thinking is always, ALWAYS highly ignorant. It was this line of thinking that led me to lay down my own tile in the house (all of which are now cracked. Yes, all of them) and it was also this line of thinking that I could do my own high end website, which resulted in a thousand dollars worth of software, another thousand dollars worth of wine and numerous weeks (not days, mind you, weeks) of clinging to my computer, bawling my eyes out (I did win that battle in the end, but I nearly lost every friend I had in the process). But having never been famous for learning from past experience, here we go again.
After procuring the Rennet and the milk, I attempted to get myself some citric acid. Good luck with that, by the way. The recipe suggests asking a pharmacist of all things, but apparently no one in the Pharmacy industry was informed that they would one day be required to have this information so all that happens is that you are sent to the vitamin C collection, which will not work. (Unless you deal with the guy at Rite Aid who will also berate you as a blithering idiot and redefine rude for you and THEN send you to the vitamin C aisle). So, having failed in the quest for Citric Acid I went to the web for substitutions. Lemon juice was suggested.
Ok, now take a gallon of milk and add lemon juice to it. Go ahead, I dare you. That would be the first gallon of milk that wound up glopping down my kitchen sink. OK – no problem, I can overcome this, lesson learned, blah blah blah… can’t substitute lemon juice, got it. Another week of searching for Citric Acid goes by when it occurs to me that they use it in wine making which led me to my wine maker buddy who provided me with a lifetime supply of the stuff. Surely we will have success this time! I get gallon two. That evening I go to attempt the cheese again only to discover that my son, who fancies himself a baby cow, has consumed a third of the milk. No problem, I substitute skim milk. And gallon two glops down the kitchen sink.
Gallon three spend a day in the fridge with a threatening note attached to it but still wound up in the sink. I guess I should explain the process. Again, like the ingredients, it is relatively simple in theory. You dump the stuff in the milk, heat it to 90 degrees, let it sit for an hour or two and at this point you are supposed to achieve what is called a “clean break”. This is where the thick stuff separates from the runny stuff. Or not as the case may be.
Gallon four was no different than gallon three, nor was gallon five. Obviously I needed help. So I called the guy who owns the local dairy (I figured as I am personally subsidizing their milk business now, a little free advice might be in order) He suggested that I may be losing temperature which is causing the rennet not to do its rennet thing. Made perfect sense to me.
Have you ever tried to maintain something at 90 degrees on your stove? You can’t. You also can’t pull it off in the oven even with the door open and the rack out. Bye bye gallons seven and eight.
When working with gallon nine, I realized that should I succeed, my fresh mozzarella cheese was going to have cost me approximately 30 bucks. And that is with free citric acid. What a great idea this was! When I failed, yet again, to achieve the ever-elusive clean break, I decided to employ the “ignore it and it will fix itself’ approach I usually reserve for automobile issues. So I proceeded to follow the rest of the steps which resulted in a pile of curds which wasn’t exactly cottage cheese and wasn’t exactly not cottage cheese. When asked to taste test, the Baby Cow simply pointed to the sink, but I wasn’t about to give up. A firm believer in the power of garlic and herbs to save anything, I roasted some and mashed, squished, stirred, microwaved the glop of whatever until I had developed what I now call the “Failed Mozzarella Cheese Spread” which we will be selling for $70 a tub.
Am I done? Almost. My next line of attack is to beg The grocery store to have a sale on fresh Mozzarella. Mind you, I no longer consider the regular price to be anything but reasonable, it’s just that I’m officially out of milk money.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Friday, August 8, 2008

Cesca- Photo




Just got back from a fashion shoot in LA - had a fantastic time! I'm now slammed with editing, so no chance for any catch stories to regale you with, so photos it will have to be - but these should provide some entertainment!
This is Fancesca Cavalli. (Cesca, Robert, Dyhandra - I will continue to post more as we get them done today).

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Well, I've been AWOL

I'm sorry, guys - its hard for me to keep up with work and all this - but here';s my latest column

Fast Black

When I travel for work, I am normally accompanied by my oldest son, who happens to be exceptionally tall and in extremely good shape. It’s sort of like having a personal bodyguard with you at all times. I’m used to this and it’s created a tendency in me to go anywhere that strikes my fancy and talk to anyone I feel like.
Its easy to feel free when you have Brawno the Brave standing next to you looking down on whomever I’ve become psychologically fascinated with at that particular moment. He’s used to my adventurous tendencies. His brother, however, is not.
This last trip to Texas, my youngest son, Brandon, came with me to assist. After we checked into the hotel, I decided to wander around and see the sites. Right behind the hotel, I found a river that had cool little pathways winding around it, bridges, all sorts of neat stuff and I was drawn like a moth to a flame. About two minutes after we sat down to drink our beer, I noticed a lot of other people sort of silhouetted under the bridge. One of them noticed that I was smoking and came to bum a cigarette. This is how we met Fast Black (I’m not kidding). When he found out we were from San Francisco (you can’t explain Middletown to people like Fast Black – SF is easier, trust me) he engaged Brandon in a rousing discussion on Rappers and demonstrated some of his own talents for us.
Pretty soon others began to gather around and I decided I wanted to photograph these guys. Brandon was not so sure that bringing my camera into this situation was the best of ideas, but I had a plan. I had Fast Black walk us to the liquor store. This was quite a journey in and of itself, stepping over people’s beds, avoiding the random needle, watching two people squabble over the dregs of a bottle, things like this. For me this was good material, for Brandon, who happens to be a bit more realistic about things than I am, this was alarming. On the way we picked up T-Bird who decided to help Fast Black navigate me through “the jungle”. This was probably a good thing as my cigarettes had been spotted and I was beginning to feel reminiscent of the Pied Piper with a trail of drug addicts falling behind me.
I bought a case of Bud and two packs of Marlboros and returned to the Jungle with it. The idea was to hand out the beer and smokes to anyone who would let me photograph them. It worked great at first. Needless to say, we were quite popular. Fast Black was very proud to be involved in this and was orchestrating my photo shoot like an old pro. Within seconds we had quite the crowd. And I must say, they turned out to be wonderful subjects and quite a group of hams, actually. Brandon was dolling out the beer and smokes, I was clicking away, and then we came down to the last beer. That was when the Switch Blade came out. Fast Black was in this guy’s face within a second and I was pretty sure this guy was all noise. I started to scold him in my best mommy fashion, but as I was doing this, a hand was on the back of my shirt, dragging me, backwards, up the steps to the Sheraton.
“Mom? Are you OUT of your mind? Seriously, are you? You could have gotten us killed!”
“Oh, we were fine. Besides, they were interesting to photograph.”
“I see. Here we are in a beautiful city, full of beautiful people, and you want to shoot the crack heads. Great. Please tell me that you wouldn’t have done that alone. Tell me, mother.” I assured him that I wouldn’t have, but nonetheless he wouldn’t let me out of his site after that, apparently convinced that if he turned his head, I was going to go racing back under the bridge to finish making my point to Mr. Switch Blade.
The next afternoon we were downtown having a beer in a Brandon Approved environment and my girlfriend called me to tell me she had booked my flight to Chicago.
“Cool! Hey, how far are we from Detroit? Sinead wants me to hop up there for a couple days to shoot.”
The fall out was immediate. Brandon spits out a mouthful of beer and chokes out the word “Detroit”. He’s gone white and his eyes are as big as silver dollars. “MOM! You are NOT going to Detroit! I absolutely forbid it! Fast Black is one thing, mom, but those guys in Detroit are not to be messed with! Those guys carry guns, mother. GUNS! Promise me you will not go to Detroit!” It was beyond funny. My girlfriend could hear him and was howling with laughter on the phone and no amount of anything could convince him that my purpose in going to Detroit was not to head down dark alleyways at midnight looking for gang members.
“Fast Black used to live in Detroit. Maybe he could hook me up with someone to show me around.”
I shouldn’t have said that. “What? Are you crazy? You are not going back under that bridge to talk to Fast Black, mom. I won’t have it.”
“I don’t have to go under the bridge. I have his address.”
“WHAT?! When did you get his address?”
“When he was showing me his gun shot wounds. I got it to send him the photos, of course.”
“Gun shot wounds?” He orders a shot of whiskey. “Gun shot wounds. Of course. Oh yes. The perfect person to tour you around Detroit. That’s wonderful, Mom. Good plan.”
He decided to tattle to his brother who did not help the situation at all. “He has a point, mom.”
“You aren’t seriously telling me that you think I would go looking for bad guys in Detroit, are you?”
“Mom, I don’t think you would go looking for them. But I’m pretty sure you would manage to find them without looking for them. You do this kind of thing everywhere we go, Mom. Remember all the homeless guys in Sacramento? How about Seattle, Mom, when you decided to take every street person’s photo holding your stuffed pink dragon? And what about Switzerland, mother? How you managed to find a crowd of low-lifes in a city like Zurich is still beyond me, but you did it. Brandon has a point, Mom. I’m not so sure Detroit on your own is such a good idea.”
It’s very difficult to win when they gang up against me. So I promised I would not go to Detroit alone. They were both pacified with that. What they missed was the word “alone”. Now I just have to figure out which one of them I’m taking with me.