Culture of Food

Skewered Delight: Musing on Food Photography and the Culture of Cuisine

It is hard to believe that 2018 is in the stretch run! As the year winds to a close, I wanted to share with you a few of my favorite photos from 2018 and what they mean to me. A visual musings retrospective. So each week from Thanksgiving until the New Year, I will offer one of my favorite photos of 2018.

Episode One: Skewered Delight

Have you ever witnessed a master chef at work? His or her meticulous movements, precision, and thoughtful attention to detail. From prestigious Michelin chefs to grandma agelessly tending the simmering pot, it is wonderful culinary art. In particular, I love watching the hands as they carefully craft, shape and (in this case) skewer. During my Indonesian sojourn, I was greeted with a pleasant smile by this Balinese cook as he prepared my spicy chicken satay. The duration of my gaze, however, turned the smile into a concerned look of “why is this foreigner staring at me for so long?!?” Nonetheless, the photo is evidence that, in the end, it was worth it. [For me, at least!] I came away with a tasty treat, fun photo and glimpse into the culinary art of satay. Now that is some successful snacking.

Musings commenced as a food and wine blog and, although it has evolved into photojournalism, culinary topics are never far out of sight. The reason is simple: food is fascinating, and I really like eating it.

For this reason, food is always a priority in my travels [and perhaps just life generally]. Few things excite me more than unexplored flavors, aromas and ingredients. Why, you ask? Apart from being delicious, food is an expression of individual and cultural identity: it evidences who we are and the road we have traveled. I absolutely love the story food tells.

And, in my opinion, stories are best when you can eat them after.

More than just the artful capture of food preparation, this photo for me represents a new culture and cuisine previously unexplored: Indonesia. From push cart peddlers offering tasty street treats (including spicy satay) to the hospitality and warmth of a Muslim family kitchen, the people and cuisine of Indonesia are, quite simply, extraordinary.

[You can read about some of my Indonesian food adventures here, here, and here].

Favorite new food from 2018? Easy choice. Beef Rendang, a Sumatran dry curry dish packed with ginger, chili, kaffir lime and more spices than you can count. Extraordinarily complex in flavor, this dish will blow your mind.


The Java Bean Catalyst: A Cat’s Tale of Kopi Luwak

The Java Bean Catalyst: A Cat’s Tale of Kopi Luwak

In my previous post, we set off on our caffeinated caravan by heading to Sumatra, where I enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of Long Coffee & Roastery and got an insider glimpse at the small farm enterprises that collectively make Indonesia a legendary coffee destination. 

In this post, we explore another coffee product that famously finds its home in the Indonesian archipelago: Kopi Luwak (or “luak”). No coffee has a more distinct methodology or cultish intrigue than Kopi Luwak. And with a price tag often surpassing hundreds of dollars per pound, it is often cited as the rarest and most expensive coffee in the world.

Why the fanatic fascination? Let’s find out … 

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The Java Bean Catalyst: A Caffeinated Caravan Through the Coffee Farms of Indonesia

The Java Bean Catalyst: A Caffeinated Caravan Through the Coffee Farms of Indonesia

Coffee is the kickstarter for many American mornings. But as any local Starbucks will confirm, sugar, soy, and syrups too often tragically trump origin or varietal in the coffee selection routine. The sweetener is mightier than the bean. [Insert Frowny Face]. 

Time to change that mocha mindset. Coffee is far more complex, fascinating, and tasty than our local cafés serving sugary swill may let on. It is a global enterprise with regional varietals, methods, and characteristics that offer deliciously unique experiences in every cup. The bean is mightier than the sweetener! [Insert Happy Face]. I see a coup brewing to take back our beloved joe. Viva la café revolución! 

The revolution can start right here in the Asia Pacific, which is home to some of the largest and most prestigious coffee-producing regions in the world. In a new and occasional series, coffee shall be our caffeinated caravan to cafés and farms across the Pacific Rim.  

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