Friday, August 31, 2012

10 Things I Must Do Before I Die

So if you haven’t noticed already, I’m obsessed with Twitter. Follow me, do it. I think Twitter is the coolest thing since sliced bread. I’m still not sure why it took me so long to jump on the bandwagon.

One of the trending topics today is: 10 Things I Must Do Before I Die. This concept directly links back to a conversation I was having with some family members earlier this week about bucket lists and life goals. So I started thinking about it in depth and decided to extract 10 things from my very own bucket list.

In true Food to Culture fashion, these things will relate to food and travel. Here goes.

1.      Get Heston Blumenthal to throw my friends and me one of his famous themed feasts. The themes I’m leaning towards are: the future; Alice in Wonderland; or Vampires.

2.      Party on a plane. Literally, I want a DJ mixing it up, going mental on the decks on an airplane, whilst my friends and I dance the day/night/jet lag away. David Guetta did it. My choice of DJ would be Don Diablo. Bring it. Let’s get this party started.

3.      Have an under the sea adventure in a submarine. Like a Russian spy or even better, fancy like the Titanic. I want to cruise the depths of the ocean and wave to the sea creatures.

4.      Learn to fly a helicopter. Then I could take myself to wherever I want to go, whenever! Oh yeah, this would also assume I own a helicopter or at least have access to one (I hear leasing is the way to go).

5.      Take French patisserie lessons from a master, like Pierre Herme. Following this, I would throw a decadent afternoon tea for my girlfriends, fueled none other than by the fruits of my labour and quality (expensive) Champagne. Then I’d take my shoes off and dance around whilst drinking from a champas bottles.

6.      Take a dog sled through the snow. In one of those really cold places like Alaska or Canada. I would name the dogs after Santa’s reindeer.

7.      Follow the Inca Trail and climb Machu Picchu. I love mountains and nothing beats perching on top of one and taking in the awesomeness, peace, history and nature surrounding you.

8.      Go on an African Safari. Ever since I was young I was intrigued by African animals, my first school project was on the Cheetah.

9.      Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. This may seem simple to some, but I can’t swim. Seriously. Even the thought of deep water (where I can’t touch the bottom) suffocates and terrifies me. I nearly drowned (twice!) when I was young and since then, even after several adult swimming classes, I’m still not over my fear. So step one to this would be: learn to swim!

10.  Charity work abroad. One of the next holidays I take, I want to entirely dedicate to others. I want to help build an orphanage or school; hit the ground running for Doctors without Borders or Red Cross; or volunteer my time at the School of St Jude in Tanzania. Anything, just a block of time where I pull my head out of my own ass and give to others, just because I can and because I want to try and make the world a better place.

There seem to be more travel items than food on this list.That’s because my travel wishlist is ever growing, check it.

Maybe I inspired you to come up with your own things to do before you die or to update your current bucket list. 

What’s on your list?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Top 6 Epic TV Shows Relating to Food

I’ve always known food had a hold on my life. From the moment I wake up to the time I sleep I seem to be in a suspended state between meals. This would indicate meals are the most important part of my life and everything else, consequently, happens around them

Think about your life. We must eat to survive; it’s as simple as that. Luckily in the first world for the most part, this does not seem to be an issue. In fact we as a modern society seem to be struggling with the reverse - excess.

Then think about those poor people in the third world who don’t have the luxuries we have, or even those living in a lower socio-economic bracket to us, living on or just below the poverty line.

The point is if we’re not thinking about what we’re going to eat; then we’re left with the alternative which is to think about what we don’t have to eat. Either way we’re consumed by food, amongst other things. For us couch potatoes out there, there is even a multitude of television shows and channels exclusively dedicated to our obsession with food.

I’ll be the first to admit there have been many times, especially during this winter, where I should drop the fork, croissant or glass of wine, get off the couch and got for a walk instead. But before I do, I compiled a list of some my favourite television shows which, although perhaps not obvious at first glance, if you take notice, you will also see that these too are centered on our shared obsession of food. These shows not only have food and drink scenes in them; they also explicitly demonstrate the culture surrounding food and drink in our modern day society.

You may ask yourself “why (only) six”? Five is too limiting and six is not as cumbersome as ten. It’s a nice even, single-digit number.

Top 6 Epic TV Shows Relating to Food
  1. Seinfeld
  2. The Sopranos
  3. Friends
  4. Entourage
  5. True Blood
  6. Mad Men

Seinfeld demonstrates that for a show about nothing, food really is something important and at the centre of our lives. Monk's Cafe is the stage where the crew meet up to eat and spend a lot of their time. Outside of that think Soup Nazi; the mutton Jerry stuffed in the table napkins; George’s boss Mr Steinbrenner and his obsession with calzone; Elaine’s idea of selling muffin tops; the pez dispenser; the marble rye incident; Babu’s failing restaurant; the junior mint and the operation; Kramer getting banned from his local fruit market; the sexual power of mango; the big salad; the falsified non-fat frozen yogurt; the etiquette of dinner parties (wine vs Pepsi); Kramer’s wine appreciation; Jerry’s love of the black and white cookie; and the chocolate babka. 
The most mundane in life is elevated to something simultaneously significant, ludicrous and hilarious. “These pretzels are making me thirsty!”

Image sourced from ijk...s

The Sopranos
Tony Soprano loves his food and drink. All night benders; family dinners and functions; mob meetings at restaurants; Satriale’s pork sandwich; breaking bread at Artie Bucco’s Vesuvio; and reheating Carmella’s zini after he gets home from his mob activities. 

Image sourced from Changing Nature of the American Family, photographed by Annie Leibowitz.

Who can forget some of the memorable moments in the show that happen over a meal? Janice murders her fiancĂ© Richie when he sits down to dinner; Tony’s mistress throws a tantrum and a steak at him (8:30mins into video); and Ralph Cifaretto is strangled by Tony in the middle of breakfast preparation.

The final scene of the series even takes place in a diner, where Tony and his immediate family meet up for dinner and dig into a basket of onion rings.

There’s even a cookbook dedicated to the show compiled by the show’s chef character Artie: The Sopranos Family Cookbook: As Compiled by Artie Bucco.

Where to begin? Firstly, Monica is a chef. The series is predominantly set in two locations: Monica’s apartment and the coffee house Central Perk downstairs. Monica’s apartment has an open plan living area which centers on the kitchen and kitchen table, where the friends drop by pretty much any time of the day. The coffee shop has what seems to be a reserved couch area for the gang to congregate at. If Monica is not cooking and feeding everyone, then they’re at the coffee shop drinking coffee and eating muffins. Sporadically, on special occasions such as dates or the odd birthday you see the gang head out to a fancy restaurant.

Image sourced from The Telegraph

The list is endless, but here are some highlights:
  • There’s the long line of Thanksgiving Day feasts, two in particular which stand out.  There’s one where Joey commits to eating a whole turkey and another where Rachel makes a traditional Sheppard’s Pie/Trifle that tastes like feet.
  • Monica, in her constant campaign to be liked by others, decides to make candy for the neighbours. The popularity and demand grows so high, that people start lining out her door and even Joey buys into the mob mentality.
  • Ross finds out about Joey and Rachel getting together and invites them over to his house for fajitas. In his despair, Ross ends up drinking a whole jug of margaritas and passes out on the couch.
  • Monica and Joey go to a cooking class where she pretends it’s her first time cooking, so she can go straight to the top of the class.
  • There’s also the one where Monica tries to desperately replicate Phoebe’s grandmother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe.
  • Joey never shares food. In one occasion, his date takes fries off his plate. When she goes to the bathroom Joey polishes off her dessert. She comes back, chocolate staining his face and he claims “I’m not even sorry.”!
  • Last but not least, we can’t overlook Joey’s obsession with sandwiches. His sister even brings him a meatball sandwich as a buffer when she announces she’s pregnant.

If Ari is not taking Eric to Koi to verbally abuse him, the boys are having breakfast and scoping out the chicks at Urth CaffĂ©. Take your pick from Hollywood power lunches, dinner dates, hitting up the children’s BBQ area at a bat mitzvah, boozing it up in the VIP area of a club or a pool party. Most important of all they have Johnny Drama who’s role in the family is the cook. He’s obsessed with nutrition, fitness and providing his baby bro Vincent with the right foods to give him the energy and vitality he needs to be one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.

Image sourced from We Eat Films

True Blood
This show’s premise is that vampires walk the earth and are part of mainstream society. They survive by drinking Trueblood, the synthetic blood drink developed by the Japanese in order to feed the world’s vampire population. Of course there is always the alternative of people as food; human blood bags walking around just ripe for the picking.

There’s Merlotte’s Bar & Grill and Fangtasia (a vampire bar) where a lot of the action takes place.

Image sourced from US Weekly
One of the highlights is definitely Lafayette, Merlotte’s eccentric, gay, short order cook that injects some glitz and glamour into redneckville.

This week Amazon sent me a list of books I might like including True Blood: Eats, Drinks, andBites from Bon Temps. I’m putting that on my Christmas wish list.

Mad Men
You’re probably scratching your head. Don’t. This one is about drinking, beverages. You’re now probably thinking “but drink is not food”. Don’t split hairs. Food and drink are related; we orally consume and require both for survival (water anyway).

Image sourced from The Guardian

Don Draper and his cronies crack open the whisky and vodka bottles more often than people drink water. Difficult conversation? Pour a drink. Strategy planning session with the colleagues? Pour another one. Celebration? Go on a bender. Rough time at home the night before? Pour yourself a morning alcoholic pick-me-up. Any excuse or no excuse at all, these advertising suits are well accustomed to a stiff drink or nine. And make that a double, neat.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Magic Mike

*WARNING: contains spoilers.

It might seem I'm grasping at the obscure in order to tie in some relevance to this review of Magic Mike, but I do believe there is a deeper meaning to be consumed in this coming of age film.

Needless to say I've been a Chatum fan (a term I've coined myself, think Brangelina, Tomkat - although no more - and all the other Hollywood celeb acronyms), closely following his career for years since he sprung up and caught my attention with his hood gone good dance moves in Step Up.

Chatum really comes into his own in this film and shows his acting repertoire goes well beyond taking his top off, pulling off some sick dance moves and "just being quiet and looking pretty". His somewhat awkwardness showcased in previous films such as Dear John and G.I. Joe is totally stripped away...pun he digs deep and delivers a highly emotional and authentic performance. Not only does his character Mike come of age during this film, Chatum does in real life too. Viewers can sense his confidence on screen, owning it and making the character his own. Perhaps its due to the fact that he sunk his own cash into making and producing this film. Coupled with having worked as a stripper for some months in his early teens in a past life, meaning for the first time in a while, he can truly relate to the role .

Image courtesy of

The film although it might seem fun, light, entertaining on the surface and another excuse for Matthew McConaughey to appear on screen without a top, targeted to the lonely/horny/all of the above female (and man friendly male) souls out there looking for some eye candy, takes the viewer through two very personal and unique experiences. Almost like a before and after.

Mike is a thirty year old stripper working multiple day jobs to save enough money to open up a custom furniture design business, the tally currently at $13K. He's really good with his hands. His ideal, the thing he'd like to do every day that will make him happy is live by the beach and design one-off furniture pieces. He has some obstacles to overcome: a bad credit rating, cash money earned under the table which makes it hard to legitimise and prove to the bank he gets a regular stream of income to be able to service a loan for his business. If only big bad banks believed in the little guy with the big dream.

Insert the Kid, a nineteen year old college scholarship drop out looking for his life's purpose and to earn a quick buck doing minimal work (sound familiar Gen Y'ers?) and mooching off his sister, sleeping on her couch. Seriously this dude can't even slap a hundred bucks together to get a decent pair of shoes. It's tough out there. He collides with Mike who takes him under his wing and shows him the ropes of the male stripping industry. Maybe Mike sees a little of himself in the Kid, ten years ago.

Image courtesy of

The Kid is trying to find his way in life and to learn to stand on his own two feet. His lesson is that the world doesn't owe him shit and that he has to work and pay his dues, as well as deal with the consequences of his actions. He seems to take it in his stride yet the overarching theme is that he'll do whatever he feels like doing, no matter how much his older sister or Mike for that matter try to mother him. There's some lessons that you just have to learn on your own. Pain, disappointment and all, they can't be taught.

Mike on the other hand being the Kid's senior has learned many of those lessons already. He's on the cusp of becoming a real man. The stripping business is a dirty, gritty unsustainable gravy train that will last only until you're young and fit enough to pull it off. Then it's time for the thong to be hung up in retirement. Mike knows this, he's just sticking to the plan until the moment when - he has more money, things change, life hands him a bone. He wants more. He knows there's more to life than partying all night, drugs, drinking, sleeping the day away and an endless string of women with no name.

He's had the same plan surrounding his custom furniture business for six years and when it goes bust for various reasons, he has to take stock, regroup and readjust his strategy in order to build a semblance of some sort of a real life which could include a girlfriend and a "normal" day job. The film eludes to this but never really answers it, there's no need to. He throws in the stripping towel (thong actually) and runs to the Kid's sister who not only has been looking out for her little brother but also believes that Mike deserves something better as well. It's only really up to Mike now to also believe that he deserves that too.

Life will throw you a spanner in the works no matter how hard you work or how much you plan and try to manage risk. The point is what you do with that - do you start building again or watch the mutha f*cka burn?

The film ends with the promise of change, a better life, starting fresh. They decide to go for breakfast. Morning, the start of a brand new day and a brand new life.