Tuesday, June 14, 2011

More Than Just Another Salsa Recipe


My black bean salsa recipe contains several brand new things. It is the first time I have used my new photography equipment and the first time I have talked about my experience in stand up comedy. Both are essential to me in the weekly column.

NEW PHOTO EQUIPMENT
I have had fits getting the lighting and photo quality right since I moved the operation inside last fall. I shot all photos outside in the sunlight last summer, which gave me great lighting. Once I had to come inside, I started to get unnatural shadows and less sharp images. I turned to all different sorts of ways to light the food: flood lamps, flash and then 500-watt halogen lights bought at Wal-mart. The halogens worked best except they gave everything a yellow tint. (Not to mention the intense heat they generated.)

I finally admitted to myself a few weeks ago that it was time get professional help.

I went to Sunny Schick Camera Shop with a collection of my recipes in hand. They helped me get everything I needed to create top-notch photographs with the proper lighting and sharpness at an affordable price.

This recipe contains what I consider to be the first professional-quality photographs I have taken. I think this represents a new era in the creation of my column. The photo quality is that important. I want photographers and food stylists to look at my work and not find any technical fault. The new equipment has helped me achieve that.


Lighting units that replicate sunlight, tripod with extension arm camera-mount and a 14 megapixel camera has helped me significantly upgrade the quality of my photography.




STAND UP COMEDY

Stand up comedy was an essential step for me to write a column. Often I use humor in my column and there is a formula to "writing funny." I learned this through writing jokes for my stand up comedy act. I would more than likely not be doing this column had I not spent three solid years trying to make it as a stand up comic.

I eventually gave it up not because I wasn't funny, but because I didn't have enough hours to commit to being great at it, not with a career as a journalist at the same time. I am one of those people, it's all or nothing. I got into my first comedy club, getting regular spots and believed I had gone far enough, and am very proud that I can say that. It was a TON of work.

I mention the salsa bar at Maui Tacos in the column and the open mic that I attended there. I felt that I should talk more about the stand up because I never went to Maui Tacos for the tacos or salsa. I discovered the food because I went for the comedy. It wasn't until the third or fourth time that I even discovered the salsa bar! I was glad I found it, though, because after I did, I would look forward to scarfing a taco or two after a performance – which were often less than ideal (the performance, not the tacos).

The beginning of stand up comedy is often in downstairs and back-room lounges of bars and restaurants, like Maui Tacos. The first time I attended the open mic at Maui it was run by an old man who literally looked like the living version of the crypt keeper from the Tales from the Crypt TV series -- and fittingly his his jokes were also a horror story. At an open mic there is no club booker putting the best talent on stage. All you needed is five bucks and you get stage time. Often, you had people pretending to do comedy but who were really just doing a cheap therapy session in front of an audience of comedians. There were many comics on the open mic scene in New York who had no interest in a career making people laugh. They were there to relieve the weight of the world by spewing a depressed or often tragic rant about themselves, that quite frankly, wasn't funny at all.

Needless to say, the beginning stages of stand up are not as glamorous as a Comedy Central Presents. Maui Tacos open mic is the true beginning.

THE COLUMN
The recipe was very tasty and could probably as easily be called a relish rather than a salsa. But then I would have no tie to Maui Tacos - and it really is meant to be a salsa and eaten with tortilla chips.

The photography is crisp with great natural colors. I am in awe of what a little professional guidance has produced.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This column represents a lot to me technically and personally. There was a bigger story behind this one, and it has been fun to share.

Eat well, Cook often ...

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