Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bread Watermelon Summer.

My friends Aviv and Michal are the coolest. Aviv's passion in life is artisanal bread baking, so several years ago as a way to practise he began selling bread, delivering them on his bike each week and donating the money to a charity in Malawi. His girlfriend Michal is a self-taught filmmaker who has now funded and filmed 3 independent movies. In February they quit their day-jobs and went all the way to Nepal to pursue bread and film together. At the highest bakery in the world he baked and she filmed, then they moved onto Paris where Aviv apprenticed with Jean-Luc Poujauran and Michal ate croissants. Just kidding, she ate croissants AND filmed. Please read more about their adventures here, because I just think they are incredible.

Also, I'd like to share one of my favourite pictures from two summers ago. It popped into my head a few weeks ago in class when we were discussing food photography techniques, such as the close-up food-porn money shot that dominates all the magazines. Every once in awhile, however, food manages to sneak it's way quietly into a shot and hold it's own even without a close-up. Find the super-pink watermelon with a knife stuck in it and you'll see what I mean - I didn't even notice it for ages, but once I did it actually screamed SUMMMMMER to me!!

Speaking of summer, ours just officially started. My parents arrive on Sunday for a two week visit, then I'm off to Norway to hike some fjords, eat some whale meat, and hopefully for once be an anomaly as a brunette. EXCITED.

Monday, July 19, 2010

L'école de la Bière.

When I think beer, I think monks. Wait a minute, I don’t. Because that’s crazy, right? Beer production and Catholicism? A recent trip to Belgium taught me otherwise.

Several weeks ago, I set forth on the path to brewing enlightenment and now hold this golden beverage in much higher esteem than before. The path began with several in-class (morning!) beer tastings; our professor Mirco lectured us on beer’s history, it’s production methods, and the cultivation of hops. We then sampled beers from Germany, the Czech Republic, England, Scotland, the US, and Italy - even some of Mirco’s own home-brew! Which was su-perb.* We held back from Belgian beers, since the next week we’d be hopping** on a bus and driving all the way to Brussels, our home-base for the week.

During our trip we visited many different places and producers, but the things that stuck out for me were:

a) the abbeys we visited that make beer, and
b) the fact that no one seemed to want to emphasize the fact that the abbeys we visited make beer.

Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always had this vision of monks as strictly celibate, conservative, and pleasure-forbidding beings who’d frown upon the consumption of alcohol, let alone make it. I am apparently a terribly ignorant soul; trappist monks, such as those at the Monastery of Westvleteren where we visited, have been brewing beer since the middle ages. Originally this was done in order to ‘feed’ the monastery and local community (beer was often safer than water to drink and provided nutrients), but the practise is kept up today in order to fund the monasteries and provide money for charities. At each abbey we visited, our guides were quick to point out that monks are first and foremost devotees to God, not brewers; the beer is produced out of tradition and to provide monetary security.

Unfortunately, we never got to talk with any monks, but we were greeted by one when an outstandingly eccentric hops-grower (who’d forgotten we were coming and was very surprised to see our bus pull up to his house) attempted to get us in through the ‘back door’ for a look at the brewery. It didn’t work, and we had to settle for an ‘mock-cloisters’ tour and talk like everyone else. During this talk, however, we were told that members of the monastery still consume their own beer and have taken to using the internet, so now I am legitimately able to picture a monk drinking a pint and surfing the web.

That the monks aren’t after fame and profits is significant, because it seems that this is the key to producing an outstanding product. Trappist beers have been touted as some of the best in the world, so I purchased a hearty amount and backpacked them home to drink with my dad when he and my mom arrive next week for a visit. Holy beer, I am a good daughter.

*Mirco will shortly be emailed the link to this site. Let the extra credits start a-rolling in. But truly, his beer was delicious.
**Accidental pun. The best kind.


At the Brurie Chocolatiers

The hops grower!

A happy goat

Herve cheese

At Van Hoos restaurant in Halle, where our Belgian classmate Jules worked for 2 years

Mussels and Fries (Moules and Frites) at Van Hoos

Stairway leading up from the Veuve-Cliquot champagne cellars in Reim