Thursday, July 29, 2010

What's on the calendar this weekend?

In my search for interesting food events happening this week, I found plenty of blueberry festivals and watermelon gatherings around the country, a potato festival in South Dakota complete with the standard mashed potato wrestling matches, a hot dog festival in Indiana and lots of wine festivals everywhere. Then I found the two I thought were most interesting and definitely at opposite ends of the food spectrum - a hearth-baked bread event and a hot sauce gathering!!

The air around Skowhegan, Maine must be smelling sooooo good this weekend. The Kneeding Conference gets things started on July 29th and 30th, aiming to revive the practice of locally crafted bread from seed to loaf. Farmers, novice and professional bakers and earth oven enthusiasts are gathering to explore the art and science of growing and milling grains and baking artisan breads.

Then, from 9-3 on Saturday, the public is invited to the Artisan Bread Fair to discover, taste and buy all kinds of artisan breads and related baked goods and foods. The 31st happens to be the Eve of Lamas Day which is quite significant to the event. Lamas Day is the ancient mystical feast day, halfway between the Summer Solstice and the Autumnal Equinox, when we celebrate the season's first grain harvest and revel in the miracle of real bread from Earth to hearth. (Okay, so I'm giving a wide berth to the term "we".) Anyway, sounds like a good excuse to east some fresh-baked, savory bread to me!

Enough of that old-fashioned homey feeling, let's jump into the fire!

Saturday and Sunday (7/31-8/1) present us with the Weekend of Fire 2010 in Fairfield, Ohio (just north of Cincinnati). Billed as the "Largest Fiery Foods Show in the Midwest," this event features 75 booths of hot sauces, bbq sauces, salsas, marinades, mustards, jerkys, peppers and more, as well as no less than 7 eating contests (complete with trophies) and a cooking class, to boot!So, you think you have an asbestos coated belly? Then check these challenges out:

Bugsicle Eating Contest - 10 minutes to get to the bug inside a Hot Lix Insect Sucker (No, you don't need to eat the bug!); Hot Horseradish Eating Contest - Contestants will be given an equal amount of horseradish spread on 10 slices of bratwurst - first one done, wins!; Peanut Butter and Jelly Eating Contest - Of course, this isn't the normal PB&J - it's HOT peanut butter and HOT jelly!! Hot Ice Cream Eating Contest (both days) - Can you get brain freeze before your belly bursts into flame from the flavoring? Hot Cracker Eating Contest featuring Texas Fire Crackers - Can you yell "fire extinguisher, please?" Hot Lix will sponsor yet another contest with the Hot Lolly Contest - definitely not for children! Finally, the famous Defcon "Death Match" Hot Wing Eating Contest - Need we say more?

Not into competition heat? Why not try the Jungle Jim's Cooking School class that will teach you to make your own hot sauce and 6 other dishes using various hot seasonings. Yes, you will get to eat such dishes as Spicy Grilled Shittakes, Soul Slaw, Shrimp & Tasso with Five Pepper Jelly and more. Beer will be served and the class fee includes admission to the show.

Whatever you choose to do this weekend, enjoy!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

You can write with my ketchup.

So, which flavor Cheetos do you like most? The light yellow ones, bright orange or the dark, rusty red ones?
I know. Those are colors, not flavors. Ah, but the flavor determines the color. Oh, one more question, do you sort your Cheetos by size and shape?

Jason Baalman does.

I bet you just eat yours, too. Don't you? Jason creates works of art - very elaborate works of art. Some are noteworthy enough to receive TV coverage!

Once he sorts them out, he rolls up his sleeves and gets creative. He "paints" with his Cheetos. He's also been known to use chocolate, lipstick, pennies, ketchup and even ribs, among other "mediums." He recently used 1500 little toy soldiers to create a piece to raise funds for the U.S.O. Up close, it looked like a battlefield but from a distance, one could see a very elaborate portrait of a soldier!

I first heard about Jason on Rachael Ray's show this morning. He presented her with a very detailed portrait of herself, done all in Cheetos! Maybe you've caught his work before. He also did a portrait of Conan O'Brien which has received considerable air time.I was really impressed so I Googled him. He's been a busy guy. He works mostly on commissioned work and sells almost solely on the Internet. Strange thing is, he doesn't show his work in galleries or at shows as a general rule. He has, in fact, only done two true showings. He is well represented online, though. I found his personal site on You Tube to be the most informative but a listing also came up simply labeled Jason Baalman Images. This one fascinated me. Take some time and check him out. You'll never look at snack food the same again!

Jason taught Rachael how to use pantry items to create "paintings." He explained that mixing things like, say ketchup, with a little mustard, can change the shade of the colors and showed how using such tools as knives, forks, chop sticks, etc. can give your work texture and patterns.

I decided to give it a shot. After all, I AM a painter.

I took a foam plate to use as my canvas and poured a little ketchup and a dab of spicy brown mustard for contrast. I just used paint brushes and a toothpick to "draw" my design.

Let's just say, it must take practice - lots of practice. Maybe I should invest in better, thicker ketchup, too.


Why not play with your ketchup?

Incidentally, for some really interesting stuff try checking out the Cheetos website.