Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Where Did You Say We Were Going Again?

This post (number 36) marks the 10% point in this project. OK, technically, this post marks the 9.863% point in this project, but whatever, I thought it would be a good place to stop and reflect a bit and think about where this project is going. The fact that Jhan is now teaching several nights a week and there is no food in the house to take photos of has nothing to do with my sudden desire to step back and reflect (and yes, this post counts as a food post).

I originally started this blog partly as a result of the movie Julie and Julia. It hadn't come out yet, but it was beginning to get some pre-release press and I had read a story somewhere about Julie Powell and her Julie/Julia project.

I'd never heard of Julie Powell before, but her story was seriously compelling: start a blog about food, do it for a year, sign fat book and movie contracts, have a wild affair, and make tons of dough. What was not to love about that?

I thought, "Geez, that sounds easy! That's what I should do." So I talked to my wife about it a bit (omitting any mention of wild affairs, of course), and she supported it, mostly because I think she figured I'd do it for about a week and then quit.

But I had other reasons for starting this project other than an interest in money and becoming a poor man's version of Mark Sanford. Due to the economy and the death of stock photography, my photography business was dying a not very slow but incredibly painful death, and I needed to do something to justify the $3000 I had just spent on my brand new Canon 5D Mark II.

And I just plain needed something to do to keep me engaged in photography. I've been a natural light outdoor photographer my entire life and this project seemed to be a great way to teach me about studio lighting and keep me taking photos.

And its done that. And it's rekindled our love for good food.

And all the way along Jhan and I have talked about what this project really is.

As we discovered after we started the project, there are a million food blogs out there and there are a million people taking food photos (way to do your research before starting a year long project!). What could possibly make this blog stand out?

Well, I heard once that "food, sex, and fear were the three most potent human motivators" (I heard it from a marketing person - go figure), so I tried to sell Jhan on turning the project into a food and sex blog to get the double-whammy effect. She didn't fall for it. Hey, it was just an idea.

From the food perspective, this is not a snob's food blog. Since we're shooting the food we're eating, and Jhan is trying to make regular meals despite holding down two plus jobs, a lot of what we're making is simple stuff. "Real people's" food; everyday meals that working people make. So it isn't all tongue twisty fancy French dishes (seriously, I don't know how Julie Powell actually pulled it off), and a lot of the ingredients come in jars or freezer bags, but it's almost always good food.

But where I might simply open a can of sauce and unceremoniously dump it on a pile of pasta, Jhan always does something to dress up a meal - adding some personal component that makes the food more than ordinary. It's actually quite annoying when you're really hungry.

So, that's one side of it.

Another side, that we discovered when we brought home that yummy Costco Chicken, is that you can make any food look pretty awesome without a whole lot of effort.

Making simple food look great - that's another side of it.

Rotisserie Chicken
$5.99 Costco Chicken, plus a lemon and some herbs

And of course the third side of it is the photography.

So we have a three sided blog about making ordinary food more than ordinary, by dressing it up and giving it a personal touch; by presenting it in a visually appealing way, and by recording that appeal effectively. And that's where the subtitle of the blog comes from: Ordinary Food Made Extraordinary

For us, it's an amazingly time consuming process - cooking, photographing, processing and writing, but by the time we're done - 329 posts from now - I have a feeling that we're going to know a heck of a lot about food styling, plating, and presentation, not to mention having gotten the chance to eat a lot of great food.

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