Sunday, January 9, 2011

2010 - A Year In and Out of Food

As a foodie, 2010 was one of the most productive, enjoyable years and one of the most challenging. With the launch of the “Planting Seed for the Future” program, 2010 brought me closer than ever before to the environmentally conscious, food growing, food loving person I have longed to be. Learn more about the “Planting Seeds” project at Each week I have had the opportunity to work with students developing their business knowledge, their gardening skills and their understanding of the complex interrelated world of food, food production and the environment. It has truly been a wonderful year watching students build their garden from the ground up – plant and harvest beautiful produce and grow as informed community members.

As a photographer2010 was perhaps the most productive year to date with what seemed like weekly shoots or post production sessions. With this work load and the intense focus on the Planting Seeds project, personal food related photo shoots became fewer, but all the more enjoyable and concentrated. “wine” was one of Kansas City’s most beautiful and inviting wine store/boutique – now sadly out of business. Set in the wonderful Brookside neighborhood, “wine” was sophisticated, yet unpretentious and was filled with the charm and character of an absolute foodie spot. Thank you to the owners who graciously allowed me to spend time shooting in their beautiful store.

Keith at McCoy’s Public House provided a great photographic experience along with amazing knowledge and enthusiasm – see May 17th post. But perhaps the most focused, intense and productive food shoot this year took place at the annual American Royal National Barbeque Competition. While sounding somewhat cliché the American Royal is something that must be personally experienced to fully appreciate. With over 500 competing Barbeque teams spread over 20 acres, the American Royal in one of the largest Barbeque competitions in the world. The smoke from the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of smokers and barbeque pits is visible for miles. And from the moment you step out of your car or one of the many shuttles, you are overwhelmed, surrounded and saturated with the most powerful and delicious smell of smoked meat. The American Royal is serious business yet there is an true sense of fun and enjoyment in the competitors and the visitor (if only each team offered free tastings).

What I found surprising and troubling is how little I turned my camera and focus to food we created and consumed at home as a family. As anyone who has followed my writing and art knows, food in the home is truly the center out of which so much of my life evolves. Yet, 2010 represented perhaps one of the most challenging and difficult years for me and my time in the kitchen. One of my great pleasures is actually shopping for wonderful food. I love beautiful markets and can spend far too much time and money in these foodie paradises. However, this year more than any other I was excruciatingly aware of the nearly impossible task of enjoying great, healthy, organic, artisan foods while facing the reality of money and the crappy economy. Rather than being transported in foodie Nirvana, each trip to the store only created frustration and depression – not great ingredients to inspire good food and fun in the kitchen. Add to this the choice of family members to go on extremely restricted diets. For one who revels in the glories of great breads, pastas and the occasional pastry a “no carb diet” presents challenges that frankly create melancholy rather than joy. Don’t get me wrong, as a runner and an admittedly vain person, I love healthy food as much as anyone – but PLEASE can we just go back to healthy food, small portion sizes and moderation rather than uninspiring restrictions?

The truth is 2010 was an amazing year - a year of growth, learning, travel, quality time with my family and friends, and some really wonderful food. A year that started off with the amazing food of my Mother-in-Law’s traditional Japanese New Year’s Day feast, and included great local foods while in Hawaii, wonderful food and hand-crafted beers while spending time in Utah, world-famous barbeque in Kansas City and the truly best meals of all each day with my wife and kids – 2010 was a stellar year.

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