Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sheepshead and Croakers

Some terms that you should be able to identify out of today's reading:
Calas, filé, Isleños, bycatch, diversion, MRGO

Here is a great article about fishing for Sheepshead. They are fearsome looking fish on the line! Here is an article about Atlantic Croaker.

The sheepshead (from WikiMedia)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Assignment 6: Farmer's Markets

We are now starting to shift our gaze in this class a little bit more toward the issues of food production and social justice as it relates to food.  This week you will be reading an excerpt from a recent book called Twain's Feast by Andrew Beahrs. The author of this book broke down a menu that Mark Twain assembled in the nineteenth century and tried to reconstruct it with foods that are available in modern day America. He found that it was a lot more difficult to replicate the foods that Twain knew 130 years ago than he first thought. The chapter that you will read comes from his investigation into some foods that Twain knew from New Orleans and Beahrs's efforts to locate them today. He makes a trip to the Crescent City Farmer's Market where he spoke to Clara Gerica about seafood. You can see a film made about Pete and Clara Gerica (as well as Ben Burkett) by one of my past freshman seminar classes below.

Your job will be to visit one of the city's numerous farmer's markets and to interview either a vendor or a customer to the market. You will combine your interview material with your own observations and compose a blog entry that engage the questions of why these markets are important and what role they play in sustaining traditional culture through food. Your blog entry must contain at least two quality photographs and directly quote at least one interview subject.

Some of the markets that you might visit include:
Crescent City Farmers' Market (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday)
Hollygrove Market and Farm (Saturday)
The Freret Market (more of a monthly festival than farmer's market) Saturday, March 3. 
Sankofa Farmer's Market (Saturdays)
Our School at Blair Grocery (Weekends in the Lower 9)
There are other markets in Gretna and way out in St. Charles Parish at the German Coast Farmer's Market

One of my groups also did a film about Our School at Blair Grocery - See below:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Assignment 5: The Food of Mardi Gras Photo Essay

This assignment will encourage you to think visually. You will produce a photo essay using from five to seven images that conveys a message about the role of food and drink in the celebration of Mardi Gras. I encourage you to take many pictures and to use a real camera if at all possible. Ideally, you will take at least a hundred pictures and pick the very best ones for this essay.

Be creative: Mardi Gras food and drink traditions often take place away from the parade route, so keep your camera with you and keep your eyes open.

Post all of your images before we meet on the Monday after Mardi Gras Break. Each image should have a caption.

If you are not here for Mardi Gras, do an alternate essay based on the role of food in your break week.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tips on Hot Links

One thing that a lot of you need to take a closer look at in your blogs is the power of hot linking. Think of the relationship between your blog and links as that between a tree's trunk and its branches. The purpose of hot links is to enrich and inform the reading experience by leveraging the power of the internet. Therefore, link the names of people, places, and things that you come across. If you are writing about corned beef or satsumas, then you should link them. If a food reminds you of a Guy on a Buffalo or Lady Gaga or John Besh, then link it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Weekend Assignment: Discovering Memories through Interviews

Your assignment this week will involve interviewing someone about some deeper relationship involving food and memory. What sort of topic might you consider interviewing someone about? Maybe you would consider interviewing a parent or grandparent about their memories of something that their grandmother used to make. Perhaps you might ask a fellow Loyola student to describe a special holiday tradition celebrated by their family that involves food. The topic does not need to be about New Orleans, but it must involve you asking an interview subject to tell you about a memory they keep that involves food.

Assignment specifics: Record using some sort of recording device (iPhone, digital recorder, etc.) a 10 to 15-minute interview. Transcribe the interview by typing up an exact copy of what your interview subject says. (It takes about an hour to transcribe a ten minute interview.) If you do not have a phone that is capable of recording audio, you can check out an audio recorder from Media Services.

Take a photograph of the person you interview, and post it to the top of your entry. 

Then, using this transcript, you will assemble a blog post using ONLY what your interview subject says to tell a story of this memory.

This is a challenging assignment!

Think about the sorts of questions that you ask so that you ask them in a manner that encourages your interview subject to supply detailed answers. 

Ask questions that invite detailed description. For instance: "describe the scene at the dinner table." If someone mentions a person, ask "Tell me about the time that you two became friends."

IN addition to your blog post, I want you to hand in a copy of your interview's transcript.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Learning to Ask Good Questions

Today in class we will begin to explore how to ask good questions. You will all at some point need to interview someone about food culture, and I will increasingly expect you to incorporate such technique into your blog posts.

Good questions are the ones that invite your subject to share important details about what matters to them. A few things to think about when asking questions:

Avoid "yes/no" questions that elicit a one word response. Consider the difference in the following:

"Tell me about the first time you ever made gumbo." instead of "When did you first make gumbo?"

As questions that encourage your subject to be a storyteller.

At the same time, be a good listener. Ask follow-up questions. Encourage your subject to enrich their tale with descriptions of the people, places, and times that they relate.

Consider the following documentary. How much do we hear the interviewer?

"Gus" by Joe York.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Instructions for Weekend Assignment 3

You will need to use your powers of analysis in this assignment!

Your task is to read the,,

Ideally, I would like for you to pick a restaurant in which you have eaten at some point in the past. Make sure that this restaurant has many online reviews - in a perfect world, reviews that are more than a brief sentence or two. What I want you to do is read through these online reviews to discern what it is about these places that people like and dislike. I am less interested in the actual comments about the food ("the sauce was greasy", etc.) than what you can discern as the deeper cultural meaning of this particular restaurant as described by reviewers.

What you are doing in this assignment is a form of what historians call "source criticism." In this case, the source is an online review of a restaurant. You will make what we call a "close reading" of the review to analyze it for its deeper meaning.

Consider a few different "institution" style restaurants:

Some restaurants do not offer you much opportunity for deep analysis. For instance, there are 236 reviews for the Parkway Bakery & Tavern on This normally constitutes a significant amount of available source material for your assignment. When you read through the reviews, you notice that there are a number of reviews like this one. In it, the reviewer comments on the friendly service at Parkway - something noted by many reviewers. Another thing that emerges is that Parkway is a known tourist magnet yet it also attracts a local clientele. Many people mention the crowds. Some the decor. After you read through dozens of these, a few will stick out that offer more than just some rhapsodizing about the roast beef. Consider this review which ends with "Photos on the wall show the water to the ceiling during Katrina." Or this one that observes "Parkway Bakery is in a sketch part of town but well worth the trip." And yet another quote, "One of the charming nuances of this place is that when it's a busy day (or really whenever the person behind the counter is in the mood), it is customary to leave a "fun fake name" so that when your order is ready, the entire place gets a chuckle." While these are giving you a fuller picture of Parkway, they comprise a fairly lighthearted sampling of diner expectations and conceptions of the restaurant's place in the city's culture.

Taking things a step further, you will see that features 178 reviews of Galatoire's, one of the fancier restaurants in town. With the stakes higher, you will find a greater diversity of stronger opinions about the place of Galatoire's and how it does or does not create community.  Here we find people who absolutely hated the place (and who clearly can't spell, either ...does that say anything?) Yet there are people who have very different expectations and wouldn't have it any other way. Consider this reviewer's statement: "I loved that the busboy in the white shirts say "excuse me ma'am" every time he reaches in front of you. Or the waitress who makes suggestions not based on prices but based on what actually tastes good." You should begin to quickly realize that there is a lot more fodder for analysis when dealing with an upper-end "institution" like Galatoire's.

Some places you might look into would be Jacques-Imo's, Dick and Jenny's, Patois, Vincent's, Mandina's ... but there are many. Just start keying in restaurants and see what sort of things people say about them. Don't just land on your first restaurant and complete the assignment.

After digging through these reviews, you should have some idea of the sorts of things the more observant reviewer will write. Now it is time for you to engage in true analysis! Read the reviews and evaluate them for how they speak to some of the core themes in this class. In particular, you should discuss the extent to which this establishment forms "community." What is community? There are many different kinds. Can a community be exclusionary? Yes. Can it be inclusive? Yes. Be aware that food can forge a cultural bond that does not, for whatever reason, include you. After reading the comments, can you paint a mental image of the typical person who belongs to this community, including the sorts of cultural elements that they value?

Write a 350 to 400-word blog post describing reviewers' reactions to the restaurant that you choose and what it says about the expectations of those diners. As Brett Anderson told us in class yesterday, we eat at restaurants because what they say about ourselves. But then what if that image does not live up to the expectation. Use this as an exercise in thinking analytically about why people embrace the cultural choices that they make.