Monday, June 30, 2014

Pondicheri: Breakfast

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If you have lived in Houston within the last year or so, then surely you have heard of Pondicheri; the Indian cafe and bake shop located off of Kirby. Also, if you have been following along with the blog, you may have read about Pondicheri's bake lab in a previous post.

Well the past week, I finally stepped inside Pondicheri for a real meal, and the best meal of all: breakfast. Kelley and I were joined by our dear friend Katy, who was in town from Dallas, and our trio enjoyed an early breakfast on Indian-inspired cuisine and a round of good conversation.

Kelley, a regular at Pondicheri, provided recommendations and hints regarding the menu. Katy, meanwhile, had visited Pondicheri, despite Dallas roots, had was eager to order her favorite menu items. As for myself, this would be my second foray into the world of Indian cuisine. I took Kelley's hints with outstanding weight and significance.

In the top photo, you can see Kelley's breakfast--Beet Uttapama: beet infused rice & lentil fermented savory pancake with coconut, ginger and topped with a fried egg / served with sautéed greens and a chutney of your choice.

Katy ordered some morning oats--steel cut oats cooked with jaggery, cinnamon, cardamom & coconut milk, topped with fruit & housemade granola--and a Double Chocolate Hazelnut Basil cookie. Because of course....cookies for breakfast! Why wouldn't you!

I played it safe and opted for a rice flour Vanilla Bean Crêpe with strawberries and honey. And while my dish was delicious and an excellent precursor to the day, I regretted my lack of adventure at 9 am. I should have gone for a more traditional and authentic dish. The table reached a mutual agreement: Kelley had ordered best.

Pondicheri's atmosphere and cuisine exceeded expectations. Comfortable booths line large open windows, and the patio seating outside was just as inviting. Glancing over from our table, you could see a glass case filled with desserts and sweets that beckoned you to return again. Seated at the tables around us, men and women worked at laptops, utilizing the free wi-fi and sipped on flavorful tea. All the while, rich smells floated from back in the kitchen. Check out Pondicheri this summer in Houston, and try to be a bit more adventurous in your eating.
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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Cardboard Testimonies: Conclusion

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I seek to address misconceptions regarding homelessness through photography and life stories, and exploring the historic correlation between documentary photography and social problems. I measure the success of my thesis on the interactions and comments of those around me. Friends and family were initially hesitant to ask questions regarding my thesis, but have now come to learn the name of several of the homeless men and women that I see each week.

One friend, originally fearful of the homeless near the university campus, told me that she stopped and spoke to a homeless woman on her way home from class. This is success. For friends, and family, and strangers to see photographs and hear the stories of homeless men and women, and then change their response toward homelessness is victory. For a photograph to elicit an emotional response or acknowledgement of a homeless man or woman previously invisible is enough.

Through this thesis, I gained a greater appreciation for photographers that came before me and established the practice of documentary photography. I learned more about the history of homelessness, its present-day causes that addressed my own my misconceptions. Cardboard Testimonies proved to be something more than tangible photographs and pieces of cardboard. Every conversation did not yield an interview or a photograph, but each interaction with a homeless man or woman addressed society’s tendency to make that person invisible.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ninja Mike & Cherry

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Cherry
My name is Cherry and the reason I got on the streets was...its very hard to explain.

Well I was living in Porter, Texas with my adoptive parents and once I turned 18, and my check got cut off, its like my adoptive dad was basically saying, “Get the hell out of my house. You ain’t getting no money no more. Get on. I don’t want you here.”

And when I was a kid, I bit him on the leg and called him a bastard. I was just...I was just four years old when I was...when I did that. And after that, I lived in Porter for not even a month. I went to Houston, stayed there for about 4 years, came to Austin, two...three years ago, was here for about 8 months. Left and came back just two years ago. And I’ve been here since then. And I’ve been trying to get into housing. I get food stamps, I get my disability. Working on trying to get into a house, and I’m working on getting classes for the baby stuff.

Ninja Mike
My story is actually pretty interesting, but sad at the same time. I was going to school through the art institute of Pittsburgh for game design, online division. And, my son’s mother decided to move my son to Houston without telling me. And because I couldn’t help take care of him, she decided to come after me for child support. And they started $200 out of my disability money. So I went from making $700 on disability to making $500. Lost my housing. I had a desktop computer with internet and everything. Lost all that and I lost my schooling, lost my housing. Ended up out here and I’ve been here for two years.

I was in the process of going to school when....I lost everything. But it’s alright. I got another one on the way. Seven months.

It’s a boy. Darwen Benjamin Joel Berry...

But I’ve got two signs that go back to back. One of them says, “Obama says change is coming. I’ve been looking. Can you spare some?” The one that goes after that says, “God bless people like you so you can bless people like me. The more jobs sent overseas, the more homeless you’ll see. So bless a bum today.”

Those signs are me though.
Ninja Mike

Friday, June 27, 2014

Spice, Spice, Baby

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The kitchen is most definitely Kelley's domain. She will be in there at the crack of dawn, kneading dough for homemade bread as early as six am, and still there, wiping the countertop and clearing away used pots and pans after a night of catering, as late as eleven pm.

If you asked Kelley, she could list all her favorite things about her kitchen. Maybe the huge center island or the skillet top and drawer of spices and oils. Really, I bet a chef's description of their kitchen would be akin someone's description of their significant other.

As the photographer-half of our little food blogging duo, I have my own little list of favorites in the Sullivan kitchen. The abundance of natural lighting, the windows...oh the windows, the cook books and copies of Bon Appétit Magazine, the white marble countertop, and the lack of fluorescent lighting.

I also love the little touches of personalization. Fresh mints and herbs sit alongside the stovetop, and the fridge is replenished by daily trips to the grocery store. Yes...daily trips. Like any European epicurean, Kelley purchases groceries daily and typically only groceries for that day. Sometimes Edible Selby lies about, more often I spy a copy of Kinfolk Table, but always, there is at least one laptop with a handful of recipes waiting in the tabs. The Sullivan kitchen amounts to good conversation, lots of mess, and delicious meals.

With that lengthy intro, I wish to discuss one of my favorite little details in the Sullivan kitchen: the homemade spice rack.

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Kelley bottled and packaged her own spices, created her own labels, and you should do it too! You can find little glass bottles at Hobby Lobby, Michael's, or the Container Store. You can choose from one type of lid/top you would prefer. I have also seen spices kept in beakers with a cork stopper.

The spices can be purchased in the bulk foods section of Whole Foods or Central Market. When you go in to purchase your spices, try to have a good idea of the size of your spice jar or container. Also, it might be a good idea to take a list of your favorite spices to use while cooking. Sometimes, the bulk section becomes overwhelming.

Once you have your spices back home, use a funnel or a spoon to transfer the spices into their respective jars. Make sure you also have your labels ready to go so you do not mistake the various spices. Finally, display your spices on a rack or simply begin cooking.

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Common Spices

basil
garlic
onion
chili powder
cinnamon
oregano
ginger
cloves
paprika
rosemary
thyme
mint
parsley
sage
cilantro
chipotle
cumin
cardamom
saffron

Healthy Spices

Many spices also pull double duty: they make your food taste great and they make you feel great. Ginger helps with nausea, mint provides headache relief, and several various spices help with general digestion. Cinnamon can lower your blood sugar and your cholesterol. Paprika's antioxidant properties can help prevent cancer. Cayenne pepper is known to cleanse/detox and neutralize acidity. So why not "spicen" things up and add a dash of this and that to your next meal.
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Too Tall

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Too Tall
Height: 6’5”
His friend Johnny said, “He goes to sleep on me a lot, but when he wakes up, he always says something funny.”



Additional note:

For the most part, I have posted strictly the photos and conversations and quotes that I used in my thesis. But there is more to be said for each of the men and women I met along the way. More to be said for Too Tall.

I love this photo. I still do not know where the misty eyes came from. Did he just wake up? Did he yawn? It was pretty early in the morning, and we were baring tacos and orange juice. But then, I also remember the gratitude expressed by Too Tall and his friends. We sat with them for well over an hour and received multiple thanks. But more importantly were the words not said. Or the unstated "thank yous."

Thank you for stopping.
Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for listening.
Thank you for talking.
Thank you for conversing.
Thank you for seeing us.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Jay

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Jay
About a month ago, Jay received a diagnosis from a doctor in Houston. He only has 6 months left to live.

He has been going through a considerable amount of pain and depression. He is trying to make amends with his family before he passes away.

Jay is a big helper. He offers up things to be given away

He once gave Barrett of Austin Taco Revival nine boxes of Girl Scout Cookies.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ricky Lee

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What do you fear the most?

Fear? Hatred. Hatred. The people...I’m almost sixty years old. I need help more than anybody, and everybody is getting help but me. I’m not racial, but there’s people out here that never worked a day in their life. THEY HAVEN’T WORKED A DAY IN THEIR LIFE AND THEY’RE GETTING SOCIAL SECURITY, MAN!

I CAN’T. I DON’T KNOW WHY. I ONLY GOT ONE EYE.
You know about my leg.

I just want to hurt dude. Real bad....I don’t know what to do.
If the people that run this thing can’t help me, where am I going to get help.

I LIVE UNDER A F***ING BRIDGE. WHAT DAMAGE CAN I DO? Nothing.
Ricky Lee
“VA is committed to ending Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. No one who has served our country should ever go without a safe, stable place to call home. The entire department has put its energy and resources into ending Veteran homelessness. VA's programs provide individualized, comprehensive care to Veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Still, VA cannot do it alone. Organizations and individuals in communities across the country are integral to providing services to Veterans and spreading the word about the resources VA provides to end and prevent homelessness among Veterans.”

- US Department of Veteran Affairs
http://www.va.gov/homeless/


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Monday, June 23, 2014

Robert

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Robert loved to talk.

He told me all about his inventions.

He spoke softly.

It was hard to make out what he was saying. They call him Chatty Robert.

Robert

Sweet's Cupcakes

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Summer can be full of sweet surprises and simple moments that you come to cherish and savor. This past weekend held several such moments. Friends came into town from Austin and from Dallas to celebrate a wedding here in Houston. The celebration allowed for several reunions, a chance to introduce friends to some local spots, and conversations full of catch-up.

I met with Austin several friends to check out City Centre's new Grub Burger Bar on Friday night. Oh burgers. A few years ago, I conducted a burger tour of Houston on my personal blog and visited favorite burger dives and hotspots. Grub Burger Bar easily scores among top burger spots in Houston. Stay tuned for a future post detailing Grub....complete with photos. I promise to stave off the hunger until I pull out the camera. A practice in self control, surely.

Following dinner, our gang enjoyed live music on the green and a cluster of wily children--dancing and running and chasing about. We, feeling like children ourselves, and tiring of future, corporate talk, decided on dessert. We hit up Sweet and found ourself faced with a multitude of choices: macaroon vs. cupcake? Chocolate vs. vanilla bean? S'more vs. Red Velvet?

While I am typically not big on luxury cupcakes (when homemade desserts clearly taste of love and vanilla and home), I was not at all disappointed by Sweet's selection. My red velvet cupcake met the expectations of red velvet cupcakes everywhere: rich, soft cake, and even richer, saccharine sweet cream cheese icing. Jenn opted for a classic vanilla bean cupcake with chocolate icing, and she claims she picked better than I. (Perhaps she is right...you cannot beat a classic.) Mere adventurously chose a s'mores cupcake, devoured the sweet treat and then licked her fingers. And sweet Alex cheerfully order a gluten-free chocolate cupcake with chocolate icing. Truly, it was sweet.

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mike

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They caught me over at Barton...smoking a joint.

They took away my weeeeed.

They didn’t charge me with that...not there anyways...I think they might. They didn’t listen to me when I said I have a disability. So that’s stupid. And then he tried to say, “oh you can’t smoke here. It’s tobacco.” Pot would have to be legal first before they could make a law that you couldn’t smoke here. They would have to. They would first have to make it legal before...

In other words, it’s for tobacco, not for weed or anything else. So I’m going to fight it and dismiss it. But it gives me an opportunity to take them to federal court. And so I’ll have federal protection after that. Which is to say I can smoke it or I can possess it. Cause I’m on a federal Medicaid since I’m disabled now. I’m on a federal program....and the federal program has marijuana.

And I also qualify for a pain management program. But all they give you is heroin and heroin derivatives. But I don’t want to do that. Those are the only two options right now. Except marijuana is illegal here in Texas. Medical use for the state, but you go around the state to the federal government and its legal for those. It’s bull.

Well I did have one favorite quote that I was going to make into a T-shirt. Cause its part of that marijuana movement for legalizing medical marijuana. This is my most famous one. When I was flying a sign...I don’t fly...I haven’t been flying since October, but I do want to make this into a...want to make this into a T-shirt.
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Friday, June 20, 2014

Homemade Jam

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IMG_1859What types of jam do you make?
I usually make jam with a strawberry or blackberry base, but I always love to add something extra to give it pizazz. Maybe a little fresh ginger, basil, vanilla bean, or cardamom. I also enjoy fig or cherry tomato jam. (Victoria… you wouldn’t dislike it I don’t think, because the texture is smooth).

Why do you enjoy making jam?
I love making bread and bread is not complete without a fresh jam. It’s the perfect complement. Not to mention its simply colorful sweetness, what’s not to like?
Jelly vs. Jam?
For starters, the word “jam” just sounds better. Maybe I do not like the word ‘jelly’, from childhood trauma as a rhyme with Kelley. I have clear memories of rhymes that would go something like this...‘Kelley Jelly fi phi fo Felly Belly!.’ Despite the lingering effects of childhood, let’s just say the word ‘jam’ is superior in my book. But if we have to be factual about it, its my understanding that jam preserves the seeds; whereas jelly is strained to be seedless and smooth.

Favorite type of fruit to make into jam?
Rhubarb, it gives a wonderful sour bite to the sweetness of jam and macerates to create the perfect texture. I combine it with strawberry or raspberry to create my personal favorite variety.
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Do you prefer to make your own jam or buy jam?
Although Sara Beth’s brand is amazing, I always try have homemade jam on hand. Jam is way too simple not to make in-house.

Its just… FRUIT (of choice) + ACIDITY (a little lemon) + SUGAR

Although I have converted everyone in my family to strictly using the term ‘jam’ over 'jelly’ as a general rule, my Dad has struggled to no end to make the jelly to jam transition. Dinner after dinner, he would ask me or one of my three sisters to pass the ‘jelly’ and we all looked at him as if we have no I clue as to what he is asking for. He will eventually catch on and ask for the ‘jam’ with emphasis, but it just doesn’t ever seem to catch on.

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Eli

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Eli, 24
E: I uh....was in uhh...drug rehabilitation and I left. And my parents said, “That’s it. You’re done. You’re on your own.” I’m from Missouri though. Missouri doesn’t really have a lot of treatment. I went to rehab here in Austin. I’ve been to a bunch of them though here in Texas.

V: What drugs?

E: What do you have? No....uh, a lot of methamphetamine and cocaine.
...I just kept f***ing up. It was going to be like a year and a half long, and I was just like, I can’t do that. I just got out of rehab for a year. I can’t do another one. So I left...I was taking a bed for someone who could have actually...wanted to be there.

V: So how long have you been out of rehab and homeless...on the streets?

E: I like traveler, it’s a little nicer...a little softer.

V: So are you traveling?

E: I don’t know, I’m thinking about it. I don’t have anything better to do.

V: So when did you get out of rehab?

E: I left on...last...last Friday. So a week today.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ray Ray & Joyce

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I met Ray Ray, Joyce, and their dog, Buddy, during the fall of 2013. A few weeks later, they announced their engagement and I took their “engagement photo.” During the spring I had the opportunity to photograph their wedding.
Ray Ray: Counting down brother. Three more weeks.

Barrett: Till the wedding?

Ray Ray: Yeah, three weeks from today. Yeah I got a lot of friends that’re gonna be there too. Its gonna be a lot bigger than we anticipated...

What we got left in the bank, we have to go buy our silver [crucifix] chains with. And I’m having a problem finding any of them in the pawn shops. Walmart don’t have ‘em

We don’t need nothing fancy. Just a pair of jeans and a nice shirt. Mama wants like a little sundress.

Barrett: We can cut all of this [beard] off and get a bowtie right there.

Ray Ray: Mama...mama...mama’s already talked me into trimming this up and cutting my hair. But I told her, I said, “you know that right after the wedding, shit’s growing right back out.”

Barrett: Will Buddy recognize you?

Ray Ray: Probably not. He’ll probably attack me. -makes dog barking noises-


To see more photos of their wedding, click here.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Kevin

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Kevin
“We the willing, led by the unknowing, are the impossible, for the ungrateful. We have done so much with so little, for so long, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.”


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Kenny

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Kenny


Kenny, 52
Barrett: How is Yo Yo doing?

K: She’s kind of...she’s stressing.

Barrett: Have you gotten word on any new camps?

K: I really didn’t want to relocate. I’m serious. I like that camp. I put a lot of work into that one. Me and and Yo Yo both did. It breaks her heart every time that we have to relocate. I mean it breaks a piece off. Now we just ain’t gonna get comfortable...no where...

I mean, the homeless are going to be homeless. But you know, it’s like...I’m damned if I do, and I’m damned if I don’t. That’s bottom line.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Pondicheri: Bake Lab

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Kelley recently introduced me to Pondicheri and its Bake Lab.

Um...how cool is the term "bake lab?"

The above photograph features the popular Chocolate Mint Coconut Almond cookie.

Seriously yum.

The Pondicheri Bake Lab works around seasonal ingredients and "musing moods" to create a wide variety of sweets and desserts. There are sweet and savory muffins, a chocolate brioche that resembles a chocolate mountain of goodness, and then pistachio cardamom, figlets, lemon squares, and ginger clouds.

Even among my Dallas and Austin friends, Pondicheri is a favorite. Thus, for a recent venture up to Dallas for a dear friend's wedding, I made Pondicheri my last stop before leaving the Houston city limits. Right around 11 AM, the cookies come out of the oven and fill the glass case. I mulled over my choices and finally hit the freeway, northbound for Dallas, with two bags of Pondicheri goodies.

I cannot wait to go back and try traditional Indian cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Stay tuned!

And in the meantime, swing by Pondicheri for your own Chocolate Oatmeal Chili cookie or a Pista scone.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Kasey

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Kasey, 21

K: My name is Kasey, but they like to call me Cherry. And down at the ARCH, they like to call me Amazon because of my haircut.
I got kicked out of my house....
On April 28th, I’m getting a ticket to go out to California.

V: How long ago were you kicked out?

K: Four weeks ago.
Kasey

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Roy

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Picking Berries

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Last week, Kelley and I ventured north of Houston to Matt's Family Orchard, located in Tomball, Texas. The family orchard features over forty acres planted with rows of berry plants, mysterious fruit bearing trees, and surprising branches that hint at coming passionfruit. We trekked out to the orchard early Wednesday morning to beat the heat and the crowd. We received two white pails, received minimal instruction--"Pick the berries, weigh them, then eat them"--and got to pickin'.

As we traipsed up and down each berry aisle, the rising sun beating down on our necks, Kelley and I asked dreamer-questions. What are dreamer-questions? Mmm...though I just made up the term, dreamer questions are usually open ended questions that provoke one to consider goals and wishes and dreams.

For example:
If you could start any sort of business,
what would it be?

I answered with an idea along the lines of National Geographic, but strictly storytelling. Kelley would open a restaurant that presented local cuisines and used only locally grown foods...kind of like non-profit combined with free-trade.

The search for the biggest blackberry also occupied our time. That Wednesday marked the first day of the berry-picking season, and many of the bushes were painted red...red with unripe berries. And yet, Kelley and I managed to fill up two pails with blackberries. More than enough for some homemade jam and some blackberry desserts and some extra berries added to Blue Bell Ice Cream.

I urge you to get out this summer, get out of your house, into your car, out of town and hit up a local berry patch or farm. The beauty of summer is the abundance of fresh fruits and the ability to relish in the cool sweetness of blackberries and strawberries and watermelon on these sweltering days.

If not a berry farm, try the local farmer's market, a snow cone stand, or just that friendly neighborhood child selling lemonade. Buy a watermelon come July 4th, brave the evening heat for an old'fashioned picnic, and make the best refreshments this summertime.
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