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At the Stove while Abroad

If you’ve ever been in the situation of volunteering to cook a meal while traveling or abroad, then this little piece may resonate with you.

This past week while visiting my wife’s family in Brazil, I was asked to make one of my favorite “American” dishes. Being a big proponent of home cooking and a fairly stalwortly trail chef, I accepted the proposal and immediately went to work leafing through my travel notes and internet bookmarks for an accurately representational American dish.

The following morning I rose early and jumped to it. In a large bowl I measured out to my best approximation a cup and a half of farinha, added a few approximated teaspoons of fermento, the same of sal and açúcar, and then blended in an ovo, a roughed out count of 3 melted tablespoons of manteiga, and another estimated cup of leite… gave the whole thing several good turns with a fork and then spooned out semi-equal puddles of it onto a sizzling fry-pan. Sound familiar?

My wife’s family are like most people I stay with on my travels, they want to experience a little bit of what those of us in the States consider every-day cuisine.  One of my first suggestions to them and one that is often jumped upon is the old American classic – a pancake breakfast.

Pancakes in the US are an overly simplified meal. And even though they are often only cooked on weekends or those extra lax days off, they in many ways embody the efficiency quota of today’s American standards. If you go to the supermarket it is easy to find the area of pancake and waffle mixes, the ready to pour toppings, the easy spread butter, the pre-cooked bacon… the list goes on. But even if you forgo the now conventional methods of making pancakes, and decide to bake them from scratch, you’ll find that the recipe is in itself extremely simplistic, the baking of them needing little more then the beginners touch. And even if the first two or three come out a little too soft or a bit on the crispy side you have the entire rest of the batter to practice with. In all, they are a fairly difficult meal to completely botch. And this is precisely why it tops my list as one of the first suggestions I offer to my hosts when abroad.

If your an avid traveler or living abroad, you may have shared the challenging experience of cooking a simple recipe in a not so familiar environment. Unites of measure differ, measuring containers differ, the availability of cooking utensils and ingredients vary, cooking temperatures and apparatus do not equate, effects of foreign weather and climate come into play, not to even mention the consequences of translating from a different language.

In my own experience, I have found that there are so many unexpected complications to cooking a simple meal in a foreign country, that it is only through a frustrating process of testing and re-testing the recipe throughout, that it ends up resembling anything even similar to its intended result. But the experience itself is always rewarding. The hosts or receivers of the prepared meal always delight at the chance to try something so iconic from afar. In turn I am reminded of all that is taken for granted in our pre-packaged society, as well as the epiphany and triumph of working through such and out-of-the-box problem.

Here are a few helpful hints of ways I have found to short cut some of the issues while cooking abroad:

  • If you know you may be cooking while out of country go to your local outdoor supply store first, many of them have camping style cups with measurement marks up the side – it’s a great feeling to know that your actually putting a real cup’s worth in
  • Take a look at any water bottles you have at home, many of them have liquid measurement marks on them, even disposable ones usually note the total volume of liquid they can contain
  • Use your cell phone/computer – in addition to comparing recipes that you are familiar with to those online, it will allow you access to conversion tables or in the very least a calculator
  • Be cautious of little differences, the difference of the heating temperature on an electric stove top compared to a gas one may not seem that big, until you try to toast something on it
  • Don’t give up on a recipe if at first it doesn’t work, re-test it, try substituting in one ingredient for another, talk to your hosts to see if they have any recommendations, and try adding something new if you can’t find what you normally use – such as mango with you pancakes


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The Probem With Android


The five-piece set “the problem with android” featured with the original type-written allegory as ‘ears’.

The Problem With Android originates from a single banner-style sketch – divided in to 5 smaller individual pieces with the design that each piece be purchased independently. The drawing style and subject matter of this work pull from the Linear Refractions Series but have the additional relation to the allegory from which they draw their name. The allegorical piece “the problem with android” was written during the time I began my original work on the first 3 Linear Refractions – though it held no direct reference to any piece at that time, the play on reality, delusion, and the fixation with electronics has long been an influence with all of these works.  Here the ‘story’ finally finds a home with the divided set featured above. The photo depicts the sketches in their original order, numbered from right to left – each work hides on the back of its top right corner one of the sequential initials B1 through B5. 1

Below you can find and image of the work as it appeared before it was divided, as well as a link to the G-drive page with the coinciding “the problem with android” allegory. If you are lucky enough to have come across one of the ‘problems’ featured above, have you been able to determine its position? Perhaps more importantly, have you determine who else has hold of the other problems with android?SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES



  1. (B1 beginning with the back of the head and finishing with B5 the dematerializing cell phone) 

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Art on Sunday

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES Spent the afternoon at the Canaan Congregational Church for the opening of their art show. A brightly lit, airy building that will feature the work of several of the areas local artists. Work ranges from fabric and sculpture, to paint and photography.

Sitting inside, sipping fizzy water and admiring the wide range of local styles and topics – I was also pleased to talk and ideate over the brilliant melding of art and religious space. Traveling has brought to face many new perspectives for me. Today I was enthralled once more to witness the merge and mingle of different disciplines – art, religion, history, anthropology – to observe how the fundamentals of each is uniquely interrelated. Perhaps it is not so much in the direct relationship regarding ‘product’ or even ‘theory’, but rather within the ‘practice’ that develops each of them.

Other concepts for art, the community and the mixing/merging of disciplines continue to accumulate within us. Jana and I are working hard to make some of them visible later this year. Until then, the work at the Canaan show will remain featured inside the church over the next several weeks – adding, what I can only assume, to be a rather intriguing interior atmosphere to the services held.

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Mountains, the Coast, and Madness

The last few months on the road here in Mexico has been a bit up and down. The end of April we had a visit from the old mountain man himself (my father), at which point we went straight to work building up our acclimatization and feeding our mountain-won-appetites on some of the best typical Mexican cuisine. By the end of the first week we made the rigorous 2 day trek up Iztaccihuatl, the third highest peek in Mexico (17,000 ft). The end of the second week brought my father and I within 100 meters of the summit of Pico de Orizaba. Orizaba stands at 18,490 ft making it the highest peak in Mexico and the third highest in north america. Despite a 3 AM start however, white-out conditions near the summit turned us back, determining it was better to play it safe and leave the summit for another attempt.

Near-dawn as we reach the glacier and make-ready for the summit on Orizaba

Near-dawn as we reach the glacier and make-ready for the summit on Orizaba

After seeing my dad back off on his flight, Jana and I re-ordered our plans in Mexico City and then headed south. We passed a few days in Oaxaca, and then a long rough van ride brought us out to the southern coast. Here amid the heat and stifling humidity we did our best to re-build the framework of our project, and enjoy the bright waters and picturesque sunsets.

the darker beauty of the coast - (removal pending 1 week)

the darker beauty of the coast – (removal pending 1 week)

But perhaps because of our long history on the road, the over-saturated tourism and lurking disregard for environmental habits (and most likely the corruption relating to both) – whittled down our resolve. By the end of the two weeks, we had become overwhelmed by such a sense of depravity and repulsion that with a heavily-hung mood we quit the coast and returned to Oaxaca – having accomplished much less than we had hoped.

A series of amazing hosts in both Oaxaca and then in Mexico City has again raised our expectations for our plans here in Mexico. Now looking to alter our plans once again we await information that will set us out on the road once more – either to re-explore the southern states of Mexico, or to venture north, working our way back to the states.

As we struggle to rework the applications and inter-relations of Art and Anthropology, the larger premise of “Art from the Pack” toils on. Finding time to build up enough sketch and research work, managing our minimal funds, the raising and falling that accompanies each new set of anticipations and disappointments – these occupy the mind and capacity of the rucksack-er always, forming the criteria and direction of each new project and venture.

Making the best of things

Making the best of things


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