Three hundred and sixty-four

My second guest post is from the man who started my adventures into more serious photography.  I’ve always been a picture taker, but it was Mr. Will O’Hare who made me a photographer.  He helped me pick out and buy the camera I have now – my Canon Rebel T2i that I love.  He taught me a lot of technical skills.  But most importantly he has inspired me by his AMAZING photography (you must check out his work – his websites and daily photo blog are included below).  

Without further ado, Mr. Will O’Hare:

The Decisive Moment

The creative act lasts but a brief moment, a lightning instant of give-and-take, just long enough for you to level the camera and to trap the fleeting prey in your little box.”
-Henri Cartier-Bresson

The Collector, NYC - Will O'Hare Photography

After living in Toronto for the past few years, I moved back to New York City about two months ago. The energy of New York is unlike any other place in the world, and it’s something you feel as you walk around the city, even late at night. Since I’ve been back, I’ve been trying to take my camera with me wherever I go so I can capture the vibrancy of this city and its streets. Of course, New York City offers so much to a photographer – the architecture, the streets, and of course, the people.  Street photography as a genre is something that I’ve been increasingly interested in exploring in my work for a little while now. Most of my work as a photographer consists of formal shots of people (portraits, headshots, and wedding photography), but I also love to shoot the regular, everyday life of people on a particular street or in a distinct neighborhood of a city. In Toronto, I loved to wander around Kensington Market and just discover all of the interesting people there. Inspired by the father of street photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson, who wrote about “the decisive moment” that makes for a great photograph, my goal is to catch the fleeting moments that almost go by unnoticed on any given day – to stop time and record the ordinary people that make up a city.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted “The Collector,” a photo I captured as I was walking through the Lower East Side. I came across a woman collecting cans to be recycled. Hoisting a large plastic bag over each shoulder, she was a striking subject – a person who is often overlooked in the city as people rush from destination to destination. I raised my camera and clicked three shots. As they began to click, she looked right at me, but she didn’t stop walking. She just briefly looked, and then carried on. When I looked at the shots later that day, I felt that the middle shot, the photo of her looking right at me was the “decisive moment” here.  I liked all three of them, but the one shot in the middle just spoke to me more than the other two. I’ve included the before and after shots as well for comparison. What do you think?

I feel like I’m just starting my exploration of the possibilities of street photography, and I’m certainly excited to be back in New York, with all that it has to offer.

Before - Will O'Hare Photography

After - Will O'Hare Photography

Three hundred and four

Secret and not-so secret good deeds to strangers

Last year I was in a store in the States buying something and the man in front of me needed around $10 to complete payment for his layaway (it was a child’s toy).  He couldn’t get money out of the ATM and the cashier was trying to be patient, but the line was getting longer and longer.  I offered to pay the $10 he needed.  He got really angry at me, told me that he would never accept it and stormed off to find his wife to see if she had the $10 he needed.  The clerk processed my payment while he was gone, and I left the $5 extra for the man with the cashier.  He obviously needed the money and it was for his child.  It was $10.  But I’m sure he probably got really mad when he found out what I did.  I’m not sure if I should have left it, as I knew his position, but I did anyways.  I know it is a pride issue, but no one else had to know.

A lot of people hate to ask for help and some won’t accept help (or a ‘hand-out’ as some people call it) even if they need it.  However, communities for hundreds of years have helped each other out and worked as a communal group to survive and thrive.  As I said in my “science of good deeds” post, communities evolve by helping each other.  Those with more should help out those with less.

Unfortunately we live in a world where the richer get richer and the poor get poorer in a lot of circumstances.  Also unfortunately, there are those that take advantage of the kindness of others, which often makes people cynical over doing good deeds themselves, or won’t accept the help for fear of being grouped in with these people.

Tonight and tomorrow my plan is to find good deeds I can do for strangers and see how they react.  Who can I buy a coffee for?  Can I give up my seat on the streetcar?  Open a door for mom and her stroller?  Hopefully the world and particularly the city of Toronto is not a corrupted as I’m letting my mind runaway with and think it is.  Hopefully there are more good, giving, gracious people out there than there are selfish, greedy ones.

Two hundred and sixty-nine

American Thanksgiving

"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914)

Turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes. Leftovers.  Gourds and fall leaves to decorate.  Family get-togethers.  Shopping (ok, not until the day after – or as some stores are doing this year, the night of).  These are the things that come to mind when I think of American Thanksgiving.  And if I know my American side of the family well, they will have an amazing spread of food and drinks to do it up right.

Thanksgiving in the United States is always celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, regardless of the date.  It became an annual tradition in 1863, during the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln declared a national day of thanksgiving, although there had been irregular Thanksgiving celebrations before that.  It was set as a federal holiday on the fourth Thursday of November by law in 1941.

“The First Thanksgiving” is often mentioned during this time.  In the early 1620s, thanksgiving ceremonies were held by the Pilgrims at Plymouth after successful harvests or the end of a drought.  “The First Thanksgiving” thanked God for a successful voyage to the New World and lasted for three days, feeding 13 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans.  “The feast consisted of fish (cod, eels, and bass) and shellfish (clams, lobster, and mussels), wild fowl (ducks, geese, swans, and turkey), venison,berries and fruit, vegetables (peas, pumpkin, beetroot and possibly, wild or cultivated onion), harvest grains (barley and wheat), and theThree Sisters: beans, dried Indian maize or corn, and squash.” (Wikipedia)

Modern traditions include: family time; big turkey dinners; often saying grace and thanking God (or whichever religion you believe) for the food on the table and the family companions; large parades; watching football (Thanksgiving Classic) or playing with family and friends in the yard (“Turkey Bowl”).  Government offices and the New York Stock Exchange are closed, as well as many other companies.

So Happy Turkey Day to my amazing family in the States!  I wish I could be there to celebrate with you.  I’m coming to visit next week, though, but I think that might be a little long to save the leftovers for…

Lindsay doing some hosting/modeling

A hint at what holiday I’ll be talking about tomorrow, check out my video on the Toronto Star website here.  If you happen to have a hard copy of the Toronto Star today, does the person on the front page of the “Canada’s Black Friday” section look familiar?

Two hundred and forty-eight

Happy American National Sandwich Day (and Culture Day in Japan)!

I know you’re probably thinking exactly what I was thinking when I heard that “National Sandwich Day” is a holiday: what sandwich company made that one up to sell more sandwiches?!  Apparently it is the 293rd anniversary of the birthday of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, and supposed inventor of the sandwich.  The legend has it that: “this Englishman was said to have been fond of gambling. As the story goes, in 1762, during a 24 hour gambling streak he instructed a cook to prepare his food in such a way that it would not interfere with his game. The cook presented him with sliced meat between two pieces of toast. Perfect! This meal required no utensils and could be eaten with one hand, leaving the other free to continue the game. Sadly, the name of real inventor of the sandwich (be it inventive cook or the creative consumer) was not recorded for posterity.” (foodtimeline.org)

Of course the actual National Sandwich Day in America didn’t start until much later.  The earliest printed reference Food Timeline can find comes from Chases’s Calendar of Annual Events, 1981 (p. 110), although there is no record of where or when it was originally created.  Of course companies like Subway and Ziploc have taken full advantage of the “holiday”, having National Sandwich Day contests and using it as promotion.

Either way, sandwiches are very popular in our world of convenience and eating on-the-go.  According to the National Restaurant Association, the sandwich is the second most popular lunch choice by full-time employees (fruit being number one), with hamburgers being the most popular type of sandwich (informationweek.com).  Whether a marketing tool or not, I love sandwiches, so I don’t have a problem celebrating them today.  So Happy National Sandwich Day!

It is also Japanese Culture Day, held every year on November 3rd to promote, culture, arts and academic endeavor – if you want to eat some sushi and watch a video of the Feudal Lord’s Procession that happens every year in Yumoto Onsen, Hakone.  “A procession of a total of 170 people dressed up as samurai warriors and princesses parades over a distance of some 6 km in the hot spring town.” (Japan National Tourism Organization)

Or you can combine both holidays and eat a Katsu-sando, a tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet – you can probably figure out why my vegan-adapted body didn’t try this one out) sandwich – recipe here.  Or try to figure out this bizarre Japanese Sandwich Maker game I found online: http://www.girlsgogames.com/game/japanese_sandwich_maker.html

All Souls Day Recap

Spending the entire day at the cemetery (like some do in Mexico) by myself seemed both insulting to the tradition and a little creepy.  I’m sure I’d be kicked out when I started trying to give skull candies to any youngsters passing by while draping colourful home-made garlands over gravestones.  Without a community to support me, I’d have a hard time explaining what I was doing.  And the thought of having a picnic on top of a buried coffin made me feel a little uncomfortable.  I’m also not Catholic and therefore spending the day at church seemed like a wrong choice as well.  I don’t know of anyone who recently passed away who needs praying for to help their journey from Purgatory into Heaven.

I do, however, appreciate the day to remember my family and friends who have passed away.  So, on my way to visit my parents, I stopped in on my grandfather’s grave.  A man I deeply respected, who spent countless hours driving me to and from swimming practice when I was a competitive swimmer as a teenager, was calm and kind and I still hold a special place in my heart for.  I put a chrysanthemum on his grave and spoke aloud to him to thank him for being an inspiration to me and to wish him well wherever he may be.  Sometimes we need to remember where we came from to have guidance of where we are headed to.

As I was going to bed I almost forgot to leave an offering for the spirits in Purgatory who returned to Earth for the night.  I searched my parents’ cupboards and found Ritz crackers and a tomato – not much of an offering, but it will have to do.

Day one hundred and ten

America

As my representation of cuisine from our southern neighbours, friends suggested everything from fried chicken to McDonald’s.  But I wanted to make one of my favourite dishes – jambalaya.  I have been looking forward to this day all month!  A casserole-type dish made with a variety of meats, seafood, vegetables and spicy seasoning, jambalaya originated in Louisiana and came from both Spanish and French influences.  It is thought that it was originally an attempt by Spanish immigrants to create paella with the local ingredients of New Orleans.  Any types of meat can be used and leftovers can be added, making it ideal for the Louisiana people with little resources.  There are two types of jambalaya – Creole and Cajun.  Creole – the original method – is often called “red jambalaya” for the inclusion of red tomatoes.  The Cajun version came from rural areas of Louisiana and is brown in colour (more information here).

Cooking the Jambalaya

I used one of the most famous American chef’s Jambalaya recipe – Emeril Lagasse:

Cajun Jambalaya from foodnetwork.com

Ingredients

  • 12 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
  • 4 ounces chicken, diced
  • 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning, recipe follows
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 3/4 cup rice
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 5 ounces Andouille sausage, sliced
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

In a bowl combine shrimp, chicken and Creole seasoning, and work in seasoning well. In a largesaucepan heat oil over high heat with onion, pepper and celery, 3 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves, Worcestershire and hot sauces. Stir in rice and slowly add broth. Reduce heat to medium and cook until rice absorbs liquid and becomes tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. When rice is just tender add shrimp and chicken mixture and sausage. Cook until meat is done, about 10 minutes more. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning.

Emeril’s ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Yield: 2/3 cup

The recipe was delicious, although could have used a bit more seasoning at the end.  I don’t know what it is about jambalaya, but I love the blend of flavours with the heartiness of all the meat, vegetables and rice.  It’s comfort food for me.

As a side note, I’d just like to point out that it’s very late, I’ve had a long day and I hope the above made sense.  Blogging in the wee hours of the morning before bed is a sacrifice I have to make in order to balance my writing with my work, friends, family and cooking.  Sometimes it’s hard to get the motivation when the thought of sleep is overpowering my senses.  When there’s no other time to write, though, I don’t have a choice.

Tonight

Greek salad (to go with my leftover jambalaya).