Thursday, April 29, 2010

Found

Found on my street on the way to the dumpster with my mum last week

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Message in a Bottle...

....is no longer just a crap U2 ditty or a Kevin Costner movie about him being all mysterious and leathery yet ruggedly handsome. My megabrain has a penpal/mail art project in the works, tentatively to be called "Message in a Bottle" or something to that effect. Several factors are feeding into this and they are as follows in random order:

Number One: I LOVE SENDING MAIL. I can't emphasize it enough, people. I love it. I have sent out a bazillion pieces of personal mail in my 27 years on this planet, and I ain't stopping now.

2. Almost as much as I adore sending mail, I'm thrilled to receive it.

3. For the first time ever, I have a P.O. box at my disposal. I'm not sure what the implications of this are yet, aside from the obvious that I am now able to give my address out randomly to creepazoids in dark alleyways and not have to worry that a mob of boogie men are going to show up at my doorstep demanding to use my pool. I am so done with being "the kid with the pool." Nor do I need any more male stalkers. Female, yes. Male, no.

4. While the Virgin Islands use the same postal service and rates as everyone else in the U.S., things come here differently i.e. on a big boat. As I've done elsewhere in the past, I'm eager to test the postal service here. By this I mean, what I am able to send out and receive, how long it will take, will stuff get lost more easily, will I open up boxes to find stowaways inside, etc.

5. For some time now, I have been planning on one day initiating a postal collaboration with friends and strangers and have many, many ideas for concepts. Now, you must understand I'm not one of those "genius artists" who throws a bunch of poop together on a whim and calls it a finished "piece." In fact, I make it a rule to use the word "piece" only when referring to pizza, drug paraphenalia, or what I'm rewarded with when I answer a question correctly during a game of Trivial Pursuit.
Ahem, as I was sayingas an artist, I'm a heavy planner, and I've never been able to whittle a mail project idea down to something I thought was presentable to others.  But have no fear, dear readers! I'm throwing that all out the window as of today. I'm going to explain my initial idea for "Message in a Bottle" and then I'd like to hear from you so we can form the project together.

Here goes. I first became interested in the idea of a message in bottles because of my new seaside locale. While researching historic uses for messages in bottles, I discovered some fun factoids.  For instance! Did you know that the first recorded use of a message in a bottle was by Greek philosopher Theophrastus around 310 BC to prove that the Mediterranean Sea was formed by the currents of the inflowing Atlantic Ocean? Yep, it's true because wikipedia says so. Also, in a Caribbean related story, during a storm at sea, Columbus supposedly scribbled a message in a bottle to ensure Queen Isabella would get the memo on his New World findings (it was lost at sea, though, sadly, he was not).
For the most part, it seems people use messages in bottles when they are in distress, in a physical or emotional sense. For example, finding oneself marooned on a desert island and having no other way to call for help. Or being totally depressed about one's lot in life, no friends to talk to and no money for a therapist, and having no other way to call for help.
Now, what does this mean as far as a mail art collaboration? Sending physical bottles through the mail? Through the ocean? What should they contain? If so, what will they contain? Also, St. Thomas does not recycle. I have been hoarding recyclable items to potentially use in an art project. perhaps, this could be that project. Or maybe it should be left to the idea of people in distress. Maybe we should test the currents like Theophartacus or whatever his made-up wikiname was. You tell me. I'm open to anything at all.

While looking up other peoples' mail projects, I came across this neat envelope maker today. It creates a printable envelope of your google satellite location plus a custom message. If you are interested in becoming my penpal, working with me on a mail art project, or not using me for my swimming pool, send me something in the mail in one of these envelopes. We live in a world of penpal phonies. Lotsa letterwriting talk, little letterwriting action. If you're serious, gimme proof. Afterall, this could be you:

Or better yet, this could be us....

Monday, April 26, 2010

Roti!!!!!!!

To be honest, I wish I had time to write about something other than another delicious recipe and another silly hairdo, but they keep coming so freaking quickly, that I must post this in order to keep up.
So here:

And here:
Curried Potato Roti & Bean Salad
Adapted from The Caribbean Cookbook
First, a word from our sponsor:
Mmmmmmm roti. Roti is like soooo Caribbean omigod. Well, at least since Indian indentured servants brought it here. And by Indian, I mean from actual India, the homeland of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. Basically, it's unleavened flatbread, of which there are many varieties. In the West Indies, it's usually made of wheat flour, baking soda, salt and H2O. It's also the name of a dish when meat or veggies are stewed or curried and then encased in a roti wrapper. For example, chicken roti, conch roti, beef roti, vegetable roti, shrimp roti, goat roti, and without further ado, Curried Potato Roti! Enough talking, let's cook, people!

The Wrapper:
2 cups all-purpose flour ( I used 1 cup Bob's Red Mill unbleached white & 1 cup whole wheat)
2 teaspoons baking soda (once again, I used Bob's)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for brushing)
Yogurt, to serve (Sadly, I did not have this on hand, but after eating this dish, I highly recommend making sure you do)
The Filling:
1 1/2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small spanish onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 pound taters (I used Yukon Gold), cut into small cubes
sea salt

For the filling, heat oil in a saucepan. Add onion and garlic, and cook gently for 7-10 minutes until soft.  Add curry powder and stir for a couple minutes. Add taters, sea salt, and 2/3 cup (5 ounces) water. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes until any moisture has evaporated. Set aside.
Meanwhile, sift flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Slowly stir in enough water to make a stiff dough and knead until smooth. Divide into 8 pieces and roll each into a 4 inch circle. Lightly brush with oil and roll 'em into balls again. Cover with a damp towel and let rest 20 minutes.

Roll da balls out into 6 inch circles. Place a hefty spoonful of filling in the center of each circle. Fold the edges of the dough over to enclose the filling. Pinch with your fingers to seal.



Brush once more with oil. Heat a heavy pan or skillet and cook roti for a few minutes on each side or until browned. Serve with the yogurt. And a bean salad!


1 cup red kidney beans, soaked overnight
sprig fresh thyme (I used dried)
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 small or medium red onion, finely chopped
Green leaves of your choosing (I used green leaf lettuce purchased at the local farmer's market)
Handful chopped fresh cilantro
Fresh squeezed lime juice
sea salt

Drain beans and put in a big saucepan with the thyme and lotsa cold water. Bring to a boil and let boil for 10 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer up to an hour until beans are tender. Drain and remove thyme.

Add celery, green pepper, onion, cilantro, lime juice and salt to warm beans. Arrange the greens in a pretty bowl and spoon bean mixture overtop. Eat!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I Love My Mom

Paradise makes my hair do weird things in the night. I decided it'd be fun to make a habit of taking a single photo of the nonsense I wake up with every morning. My first attempt to capture my tropical bedhead was a failure, though I did come out with a great picture for my mom, who left yesterday on business. She's a career woman, and I'm so proud of that fact.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Wonder Breadfruit

The theme of last night's supper was "Compound Words." Behold:

+














=

And

+
















=

I'd post an image equation for the pork tenderloin, but this blog must remain G-rated due to the number of followers under the age of 5.
Many of you may not be familiar with the wonders of Breadfruit (pictured directly above), and neither was I until this past weekend, when we purchased this cute lil' specimen from Gus, self-proclaimed local Produce Cart Loverman. Breadfruit is certainly a staple of contemporary Caribbean cuisine, though not a native species. Turns out that Breadfruit has a very interesting history. Bear with me, it's true, and I'll prove it in this 500 word essay.

The History of Breadfruit
by Lauren Marsella
So, in the late 1800's Captain James Cook, a famous English explorer guy with a big ol' schnoz and a real purdy signature, and bunch of other dudes went on a grand adventure around the world in what they called the "Endeavour Expedition." One of their noble "endeavours" was to find high-calorie foodstuffs for British slaves at bargain-basement prices. The Breadfruit, discovered by them first in Tahiti, was to be the answer to their cheapskate, slave-feeding prayers. So they sailed on back to England and told the higher-ups what they had found, who in turn, called for the immediate introduction of the Breadfruit tree to the Caribbean, where they were keeping a whole bunch of their slaves. In 1787, William Bligh, a pale, bald British naval guy, was put in charge of this mission and shipped out on the HMS Bounty. Of course, he agreed to this daunting task because he was promised a crapload of gold and cash, but only if he succeeded in moving the Breadfruit tree from the South Pacific to the West Indies. The Bounty made it safely to Tahiti, where it remained for five whole months during which over 1,000 plants were collected, potted and put aboard the ship. When the British dudes decided that over 1,000 plants was enough freaking plants already, they set sail for the Caribbean because the slaves were getting hungrier and hungrier. Everything was running smoothly for a few weeks, and then blammo! The crew mutinied. Donchya hate that? I mean, after all that back breaking gardening and plant-potting. So the mutineers dumped Captain Bligh and his small herd of lemmings in a long-boat, and returned to Tahiti, land of topless Gauguin portrait native women and the man who loved them *cough cough Marlon Brando cough.* Bligh and his cronies floated around the South Pacific for like a year and a half, surviving on shark fin soup and their own urine, which they purified with a contraption sold to them by Kevin Costner's character from Waterworld. In 1791, four years after the HMS Bounty initially set sail,  Bligh commanded a second expedition to Tahiti, with not one but two ships. This time around, the British dudes got to Tahiti okay, picked up the Breadfruit, made it all the way to the Caribbean with no hassles and no mutinies, and finally made the drop off in Jamaica and St. Vincent. Bligh was even rewarded with a Royal Society medal for his money-grubbing perseverence, without which the Breadfruit might never have made it to the West Indies to nourish all those lean-bodied Africans, thus enabling them to toil harder and longer and make their British masters richer faster.  Boy, the English really came out on top with this one. With one little exception. The Breadfruit? Well, the slaves refused to eat it.
The End

See? I told you it was interesting.

There are many ways to cook Breadfruit. You can boil it, bake it, steam it, roast it, so on and so forth. I followed Gus' instructions, which were to wrap it in foil and stick it on the grill for an hour, turning it ever so slightly every 5 or 10 minutes to assure even cooking. Then you take off the foil for the last 15 minutes to get the outer skin good and charred so nice, mmmmmm. When she's charred to perfection, take 'er off, open 'er up, take out the pit, and serve with a little butter, salt & pepper. Some think it tastes like fresh baked sweet bread. Hence, the name. I served mine with grilled, locally-grown eggplant (also a very pretty piece of produce), a side of pico de gallo, and a bottle of Brut.














Monday, April 19, 2010

Library Books: The First Five

I've been keeping a moleskin of simple drawings of my library books for several months now. Here are the first five I checked out in St. Thomas.








Sunday, April 18, 2010

Good Enough to Eat

The East Coast, the West Coast, the Midwest, Europe, and now the Caribbean. By making my home in a number of locales, I've inadvertently developed effective approaches to familiarizing myself with a new place, both in a cultural and a geographical sense. Specifically, I keep three acclimatization traditions:
1. Eating and cooking local cuisine
2. Visiting and joining the local library, and
3. Taking very long walks (locally).
Let us begin with the most edible of these methods: food! Glorious food!

When I visited my folks in St. Thomas last fall, I asked them if we could try some of the traditional cuisine of the island. They seemed a little unsure about what that meant having barely sampled it themselves, other than the pates my Dad would buy from a food truck on his lunch breaks. So pate it was, which was fine by me, especially once I learned that Caribbean pate is not to be confused with French pâté, a substance I've had a hard time stomaching ever since gorging myself on the fatty meat paste during a week-long stay in the foie gras capital of France (where I swear to God they eat that crap for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, afternoon and midnight snacks). Here, pate is something quite different (and more attractive): a pastry stuffed with ground beef, pork, chicken, fish or vegetables and then deep fried. In essence, a super awesome homemade hot pocket. Behold:


The truck my Dad usually buys his pate from had run out of them by the time we got there, so we resigned ourselves to the not-as-good-and-more-expensive pate joint to find some. And my Dad was right: I could tell these pate were not as good even without ever had pate before, simply because they could've been much better. I mean, how on Earth do you screw up a DEEP FRIED MEAT POCKET? Anything containing that much grease should be delicious every time guaranteed, no excuses. But alas, it was nothing to write home about, and my very first experience with Caribbean cuisine was a flop. 
Six months passed, I made the move down here, and I'm currently (and happily) already I'm up to my neck in traditional grub. This time around, I dove right into learning about the local chow. And what better place to begin a quest for knowledge than at my most favorite of all social institutions, the public library!


The Enid M. Baa Public Library, 20 Dronningens Gade, St. Thomas

Ah, yes, the llibrary, my home away from home. This is currently the only library on St. Thomas, though a new one is in the works. It's named for this super groovy lady, Enid M. Baa, who basically did tons of work to improve the libraries on all three Virgin Islands, beginning in the mid-Thirties all the way up to the Seventies. Upon viewing the condition of the books at this branch, I quickly concluded the other librarians kinda dropped the ball since her retirement. With great sadness and profound disappointment, I must report that the books there are old, out of date, falling apart, and in short supply. There is no trace of an AV section in any form. This library needs money and someone who gives a damn. It quickly became clear that our library patronage was vastly underappreciated when the grouchy librarian served us major McTude with fries when we applied for our cards.
Of the five books I checked out during that first visit (it would've been more but five is the limit, mind you), none were the Caribbean cookbooks I had gone there to find. Why not? Because they didn't have any. That's right, a library in the Caribbean can't even rustle up one stinking volume about Caribbean cuisine. Sure, they had used David Baldacci bestsellers out the ass but not a single local cookbook. I told you it was bad. But more on that later.
When we got home, my mother consoled me by offering the two Caribbean cookbooks from her collection, "The Book of Caribbean Cooking" and my personal favorite, "Morgan Freeman & Friends: Caribbean Cooking for a Cause" (a steal on Amazon for just 9 cents). The former of the two is very straight forward and also contains pretty good photographs, which any cookbook must have to make it even worth picking up. I quickly bookmarked a dozen recipes and jotted down my shopping list.
"Morgan Freeman & Friends" was not as easy to get into. First, I had to get past the initial embarrassment of reading a cookbook involving Morgan Freeman. When I finally was able to muster the courage to take a gander at it (and had made sure no one else was around to point and laugh at me), I nearly ended up slamming the book shut after 2 minutes. You see, the people presented as being Morgan Freeman's so-called "friends" are just a bunch of super rich a-hole celebrities who like to spend their bazillions of dollars at crazy fancy restaurants in the Caribbean where they dine on food that costs more than your life.
"Disgusting!" I thought to myself, as I furiously turned the pages. "Stupid Morgan Freeman and his stupid friends! I hate them! What, with them and all their moneybags and me with my none. It makes me sick!"
*Pages still furiously being turned*
"And to think I would put myself in the vulnerable position of possibly having someone see me looking at a Morgan Freeman bookHELLLLLL-OOOOOO there............................."



Orlando Bloom, Put me in a vulnerable position.

I had turned the page once more and there he was. Orlando Bloom, the hunkiest of all hunks, a god among men, pensively staring at his perfect feet on a beach in Dominica. By harnessing my powers of imagination and desire, the word "Dominica" vanished and the letters spelling out "St. Thomas" appeared.
And so, loyal readers, this is how I came to submit to learning about Caribbean Cuisine from Morgan Freeman. And his stupid celebrity friends.

Exhibit A: Ben Affleck
Who looks rather pissed about vacationing in Turks and Caicos. According to the text, Ben Affleck first became interested in Caribbean culture due to his love of Bob Marley, which he developed during his high school years. It goes on to quote him as saying "At one time, I truly wanted to develop a television series like Flipper so that I could spend months at a time there." Can you imagine? The fact that Ben Affleck's dolphin sitcom dreams never came to fruition is proof that there is a God, Orlando be Thy name.
The book had all the obligatory celebrity appearances:

Tim Robbins, who looks like hell I might add, complete with "Shawshank Redemption" references, having some phony conversation with Morgan Freeman and the chef of The Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. Since when did Randy Quaid become head chef at The Four Seasons, I want to know.


Tom Hanks, looking uber-creepy with that slicked back hairdo and his handicapped Dick Cheney smile

And, of course, the ultimate obligatory celebrity...

Kevin "I'm such a rock star that I'll stick my chair right in the middle of the surf and No! I don't give a damn if my jeans get soaked, in fact I want them to get soaked because I am that Rock-n-Roll" Bacon

Don't even get me started on the Raven Symone photos, which look so much like a Walmart Juniors department clothing ad it makes me ashamed that her sad career ever existed. Or the New Age crystal Terence Howard is pictured as wearing around his neck. Or, and I can barely type this without dry heaving, the Kenny Chesney Key Lime Pie Recipe. Okay, okay, I've made my point: rich people are stupid jerks because they're rich and stupid. Enough is enough.
Back to the recipes.
I must admit there are some good ones in there. Here is the first one I tackled, with some tweaking due to personal preferences or lack of exact ingredients.

Caribbean Red Snapper and Shrimp with Honey-Roasted Plantain & Pumpkin And Spicy Papaya Relish



2 Filets Freshly Caught Red Snapper (preferably purchased off the back of a pick-up truck)
A Dozen pre-cooked frozen shrimp, thawed
4 Tablespoons Garlic and Herb-Infused Olive Oil (Recipe Follows)
3 Tablespoons Caribbean Dry Spice Rub (Recipe Follows)
Sea Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Juice of 2 limes

Garlic and Herb-Infused Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
4 Cloves Garlic, chopped
1 Sprig Fresh Rosemary, chopped
1 Tablespoon Thyme leaves, chopped


Caribbean Dry Spice Rub
2 Tablespoons Ground Allspice
1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
1 Tablespoon Paprika (Smoked Spanish if you got it)
1 Tablespoon Chili Powder


Roasted Plantains & Pumpkin
1 Large Plantain, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
1 Large Pumpkin Wedge, chopped into 1" cubes
2 Tablespoons Honey thinned with 2 Tablespoons Fruit Juice of your choosing
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Sea salt


Spicy Papaya Relish
3 cups Papaya, peeled and diced
1/4 cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup Red Onion, chopped
3 Seasoning or Jalapeño Peppers, chopped
2 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Juice of 2 Limes
Sea Salt
Ground Black Pepper


To Make the Snapper:
Preheat a charcoal or gas grill until very hot for 15 minutes. Wash the filets and pat dry. Lightly brush both sides with the oil, then rub both sides with the spice rub. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Do the same with the shrimp. Place the filets on the grill rack (or in a fish-grilling basket as I did, to prevent sticking) and cover the grill. Cook for 7 minutes on both sides, adding the shrimp for the last few minutes of cook time. Remove from heat and serve on a bed of Roasted Plantains & Pumpkin and Spicy Papaya Relish, drizzling with the remaining lime juice and oil.

To Make the Olive Oil:
In a small saucepan, combine the oil, garlic, rosemary, and thyme, and heat on the lowest possible stovetop setting for 5 minutes, or until warm (do not boil). Remove from heat and set aside to cool until ready to use.
To Make the Rub:
In a small bowl, combine the allspice, cumin, paprika, chili powder, and mix well. Store any leftover rub in a tightly covered container for up to 2 months.
To Make the Plantains & Pumpkin:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a medium bowl, toss the plantains and pumpkin with the honey mixture and olive oil, and lightly season with the sea salt. Place in a shallow baking dish, cover with foil, and roast for 30-40 minutes or until very tender. Keep covered until ready to serve.
To Make the Papaya Relish: (my favorite part of the meal)
In a large bowl, combine the papaya, cilantro, onion, peppers, and lime juice and toss gently. Season to taste with the sea salt and black pepper, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Et voila!
Dig In.

And now for some gratuitious photographs of Orlando Bloom.

Yes...                                                                                                                                       YES....
YES...

NO!                                                                                                                                              NO!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Just Another Frenchman Who Painted Naked Ladies...

...is not exactly how I would describe world-famous impressionist, Camille Pissarro. First of all, the dude is not really French, in my opinion. I mean, just because a guy attends some hoity-toity schools in Paris and gallivants around the French countryside, hanging out with arty French people and oogling naked French ladies washing themselves in a French creek, that doesn't make him stinkin' French. Secondly, Pissarro is famous for painting stuff that is way more boring than naked ladies bathing...er, I mean jostling with each other.

Pissarro was actually born and raised in St. Thomas, to a Portuguese Jew and a lady from the Dominican Republic. My mother and I recently made a surprise visit to his birthplace, a house located at 14 Main Street in Charlotte Amalie. The building now houses a gallery appropriately named "The Camille Pissarro Gallery" which is run by an old lady who eyeballed the crap out of us as we browsed the prints and paintings there. Almost all of the work was created by local artists, not actually Pissarro himself. The only sign of him came in the form of some greeting cards sitting in a dusty rack by the entrance. To my astonishment, I found the artwork reproduced on those cards to be quite interesting. They were scenes from St. Thomas that he had drawn as a young man.


Two Women Chatting by the Sea, St. Thomas (1856)


A Creek In St. Thomas, Antilles (1856)

I was tempted to purchase the cards, but that would have costed money. There was one other small print, not by Pissarro, that really grabbed my attention, but I did not write the artist's name down, and I am now kicking myself for failing to do so. This is one of my bad habits-telling myself the lie that I will remember an artist's name, knowing full well that I absolutely never will, not writing it down and then unsuccessfully attempting to recall it later. I do remember that it was titled "Golden Shower" (awesome), and it was a drawing of the Golden Shower Tree and its admittedly phallic seed pod (also awesome and I'm not ordinarily into the whole phallic art thing). I cannot tell you of the gratuitous filth that I encountered while trying to google image search for this drawing. I'll just have to go back to the gallery and find the card again. I'm sure it'll be there. It looked as if nothing in that tiny room had been moved or touched in a looooooong time.
And now for a stunning photograph of me in the very spot Camille Pissarro's mom pushed Camille Pissarro out:


TADAA!

In closing, while I usually spend weeks, if not months, studying the various art and artists I happen upon in my daily life, I'm satisfied with the little knowledge I gained about Pissarro's life and work through the internet research inspired by our visit to his house. I've always thought he was a boring painter, and I still think he's a boring painter. Granted, he was the "Patriarch of Impressionism" and an important influence on Cézanne, Gauguin (who I've also been studying lately and actually do hold in high regard), Van Gogh, and Monet blahdy blah blah blah who cares. The man's paintings are dull. I do think it's pretty cool that he married his parents' maid though.

Happy Birthday to Me

I received this most excellent Birthday Card from my dear friend, Andrew Dyer. Big ups to Gramma C for sending me the other piece of B-day mail I got.


Today is my birthday. I'm finally the age of my lucky number. Tonight I feast on wild animals. It's good to be alive.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Happy Belated Easter

Mixed Media on Paper   
 16 x 20 inches 
2010

This is the first artwork I created since moving to Paradise, drawn over the course of Easter weekend in my all-new super awesome studio space aka the biggest corner of our living room.