America, animals, cooking, florida, florida restaurants, Gerald, home cooking, MEAT, Parks, Reverse Culture Shock

A Round of Light Boxing

04.19.11 | 8 Comments

I’ve now been in Florida 6 months, and let’s not pretend it has been an easy transition, because it hasn’t. The job market here is about as dry as British humor and not nearly as entertaining (though in a coup, I recently had an interview, which is as far as it went). The unavoidable and cumbersome amounts of driving, with no mass-transit alternative, is made worse by the rising gas prices. The dining scene here is lamentable; I never even consider going out for Chinese food, the cuisine of the entire continent of Africa is nil, Middle Eastern food fares ill better, and anything Asian past sushi is limited.

Needless to say, six months of going nowhere geographically, gastronomically, and career-wise has made for a tough time. When I was living in Huzhou, I never thought I’d miss it so.

And now the biggest change of scenery and most exotic place I’ve gone has been: the zoo.

Zoos always make me sad because those poor animals are in such small cages; they can’t go out and run around like they’re meant too.

Zoos also make me get the Simon and Garfunkel song about how “it’s all happening at the zoo” stuck in my head for hours on end. If they can make a song out of it, I can make a post out of it.

Perhaps the most exciting things at the zoo were the uncaged peacocks roving about, and then retreating to the bushes when people tried to take their picture.

It took me quite a long time of standing still and making silly noises to just get them to look pretty and not run away into the foliage.

Models. Geez.

I’ve been trying to plug on without getting discouraged, but even simple things like writing blog posts turn into huge tasks that, let’s face it, seem pointless. *

However, I’ve heard from sources that I’m too negative, so I shall try to maintain a positive outlook no matter how silly optimism sounds to me. I will make things better.

Thankfully Gerald, who has his own site at zhangschmidt.com, stepped in at a low-point and gave me a tough-love butt-kicking. He suggested that I expand upon my cooking, all the weird (I prefer ‘creative’) things I concoct. So I did. This weekend I built myself a lightbox (using a step-by-step from here and here) so that I could photograph food better. I’m still in the experimenting process, but the first batch of pictures has come out acceptably.

I first sic-ed my light box on the beloved John and ellis tradition of pasta night. We really don’t deviate from this formula at all, except when we put in shrimp or ground turkey instead of ground beef. We’re both red sauce lovers, so that doesn’t change either. Ever.

I don’t remember how the cauliflower started—I think just because John loves cauliflower and we roasted some in conjunction with pasta—but roasted cauliflower has become a necessity. It adds extra bulk and a serving (or two or three) of vegetables to a meal that can quickly get a little heavy on the carbs.

We slice up a red onion and throw in some mushrooms, a more recent addition to the pasta night tradition. I always welcome fungi!

And of course, pasta.

I will admit that there was a long time when I lived in fear of pasta, and while that quirk has receded, my quirk is now that I will only eat whole wheat pasta, mostly because I feel vindicated by the fiber and whole grains. But I suppose if pasta is good enough for Sophia Loren, it’s good enough for me to eat once a week too.

So these are the first shots from the light box. Critiques and suggestions welcome as I perfect working with it.

*Dear readers: please leave me some comments about what you want to read about on Plate of Wander. I’ll admit I’ve been bitten by writer’s block, and then I get looped into an inferiority complex. So please let me know what makes you read Plate of Wander, and what you want to see more of.

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