Progress

A lot has happened journalistically in the last few weeks, so much that sometimes I have to sit back and wonder whether it’s actually happening. I came into the semester on 3 internship rejections, so I was primed for another summer of having to work at home because I couldn’t get anything relevant to what I’m paying $200,000+ for.

And then breakthrough #1 happened. I had emailed Edible Finger Lakes a while back to inquire about internship positions and hadn’t heard back, but about three weeks ago, I got a form email from one of their editors asking for online content (recipes, short posts about local agrifoodie tourism, etc). I had a few recipes under my belt from my sporadic food posts for Buzzsaw, so I responded saying I could contribute some recipes, and now here I am being commissioned to write a chili recipe for them for pre-Chilifest activities. I have two recipes on the site and the chili one in the editorial process.

Breakthrough #2 was a little rockier, but after a few calendar mishaps, I am now the editorial intern for Modern Notion, which is a site that covers fun science and history stories. I initially applied for the summer, but they wanted me sooner, so my Fridays are now spent freelancing, which is awesome.

Between the internship and having to pick up extra hours with my on-campus job, I had to cut down on my bar hours, but hey, if it’s to do something relevant to what I’m going to school for, right on.

All my external posts can be found under my portfolio tab. I’ll probably reorganize it after graduation to make it a little more clear.

Eating Ithaca, home edition

I’ve been keeping a running list of the Ithaca eateries I’ve dined at since I got here freshman year (I’m up to 32), but my most recent assignment for The Ithacan is a new challenge: finding the Ithaca-made food products that are sold at Wegmans and doing a series of mini-profiles on those companies. Luckily I only needed to find three or four because even though Ithaca has a lot of food companies, most of their products are sold at smaller stores rather than the Disney World of grocery stores.

Part of this involves trying the products and I’m assuming reviewing them, but I’m leaving that portion here because it’s probably not going to be Ithacan-friendly. As much as I enjoy supporting local companies, Ithaca is super green and crunchy and subsequently all into the vegan gluten free thing (not to mention anti-GMO, but I’m not going to get into that argument again). Now, I fully support the production and consumption of these foods… if you’re allergic to the milk, meat, eggs, honey, or wheat in question. But eating it because it’s healthy is generally wrong because it’s not the milk/meat/eggs/honey/wheat/etc making normal products unhealthy, it’s the added sugars and stuff, and eating it because it’s cool is just stupid, not to mention totally not economically feasible for a college student; one of the meat substitute products I found was $5.49 for six ounces, which is more per pound than a local rib roast (and doesn’t taste nearly as good), and the cookies I got are $2.99 for 2 ounces, which is more per pound than a Wegmans filet mignon.

(alright, my comparisons probably aren’t the best because I’m comparing beef to vegan stuff, but you get my point)

I went to Wegmans last night after work preparing to sell my soul for various soy products and came out with 5 items: seitan, tortillas, tofu, a frozen dinner, and cookies.

20150110_094851

The tofu is in/on a bag because I accidentally ripped it and didn’t want marinade everywhere.

The cookies and to an extent the tortillas didn’t throw me off too much because I can eat those whenever, but I already had meals planned for today, plus I have no idea how to prepare non-meat protein pretending to be meat, which forced me to be creative.

Breakfast

Normally weekends are just breakfast and dinner because I get home from work around 3 and don’t get up til 10 or 11, but this weekend I woke up at 10 because I didn’t feel like getting out of bed. Eggs and either bacon or sausage are standard fare (I justify it because I don’t eat lunch), but I decided to incorporate my tortillas here for some breakfast burritos, and then I decided I might as well throw the seitan in, but I prepared them both the same way aside from the protein to ensure semi-scientific validity. Presenting: breakfast burritos, two ways.

20150110_100553

Finger Lakes Fresh tortillas, scrambled eggs with hot sauce and seasoning, mozzarella cheese, and protein of either bacon or Susie’s Seitan (portabella and garlic flavor).

The verdict? I actually had to take out the seitan in order to taste it. It’s very predominantly soy (it’s been marinating in soy sauce), but it’s not overpowering and apparently worked well enough with the cumin and other seasonings in the eggs. My quibbles were that it was a little overly chewy, and even though flavorwise it was good, it’s not $15/lb good. I’ll eat the rest (it seems to work well quickly pan-fried), but it won’t be a repeat purchase. As for the tortillas, they’re definitely the kind where you have to steam them first because their multigraininess makes them more like corn tortillas in consistency, and they did end up cracking on me mid-breakfast, but they were nice and hearty and would probably make great quesadillas.

Lunch Snack

I decided I wasn’t hungry enough for lunch, so I decided to utilize my tofu-kan (tofu marinated in soy sauce, so a soyapalooza) as a cracker topper. I then remembered that I ate all my Ritz crackers earlier in the week and didn’t want to waste my Red Hot Blues on tofu, but I found some pita chips and used those instead. I also wussed out a bit and topped my thinly sliced tofu with some shredded cucumber and sprouts that I had bought for salad. Presenting: my literally green and crunchy snack.

20150110_145222

Yes, there’s tofu in there. Somewhere.

The verdict: I ate a slice of straight tofu-kan before these, and just as one might expect from coagulated soy milk soaked in soy sauce, it is quite soy-y. Fortunately, tofu tends not to taste like much other than whatever you put it in, so this was like eating a chunk of soy sauce, which was better than I was expecting. The snack itself worked pretty well: the cucumber and sprouts cut some of the salt (read: hid most of the flavor. Oops.)

A few Facebook friends have given me suggestions for how to use it, including stir fry, noodles, and flat-out frying it, so I have ideas for using the rest of the brick, but like the seitan (though much cheaper), it probably won’t be a repeat thing.

Dinner

I was probably excited for dinner for the wrong reason (that it was “real” food). Grainful, which has offices directly across the street from campus, has a few different frozen entree options, all of which feature the steel-cut oats that the company focuses on. Presenting: Grainful’s porcini mushroom chicken.

20150110_164454

Alright, the meal itself doesn’t look all that pretty, but most risotto-type foods aren’t meant for presentation even without the frozen food attribute.

20150110_164510

And the box because it’s prettier than the food.

The verdict? Now, don’t take my poking-fun as a sign of distaste. This dish was pretty darn close to the stuffing that my mom uses for stuffed mushrooms, not only in texture but also in flavor. It was like eating a whole tray of it. Calling it “porcini mushroom chicken” might be a bit off since it was a little lacking in the chicken department, but the mushroom flavors were prominent with the steel-cut oats providing that risotto-like texture. It was neat to see a not-oatmeal use of oats.

(Bonus: the tray they used is from a company called On-Tray. Because it’s an entree. On a tray.)

I’m not a huge frozen dinner person unless I’m really hard up for time, and again it’s a bit pricy, but flavorwise I’d pick this up again.

Dessert

As bad as it was to be excited for “real” food for dinner, I think I was most excited about the cookies. I’ve seen Emmy’s sold at school but hadn’t picked them up because $3+ for three teeny cookies wasn’t really worth it for me, especially when I can make my own batch of chocolate chip cookies for probably the same price. There’s also my immature derision of foods that are vegan gluten free non GMO let me be as (arbitrarily?) picky as possible. Nevertheless, cookies are cookies, and I’ve wanted to try them for a while.

20150110_170421

They have a bunch of flavors, like coconut vanilla and chai spice. I picked chocolate orange.

The verdict? Nice blend of dark chocolate and sweet orange like biting into one of those chocolate oranges. You can smell the coconut and feel its soft crunch when you eat it, but you can’t really taste it, which I think works well with this flavor (chocolate orange coconut would’ve been too much). They were like little truffles, and I could definitely eat more. My quibble? THREE TEENY COOKIES FOR THREE BUCKS. I should’ve put my hand in the picture for scale, but they were like an inch in diameter, maybe a bit bigger, and yet they were a dollar each. I suppose that’s what happens when you source from hard-to-get crops like organic coconut/agave/oranges/cacao, but this seems a bit excessive. I could eat a basket of them, and I certainly want to because they were really good, but there’s no way to eat these regularly on a college budget unless they gave a packaging discount if I walked down to their office and ordered them straight off the “press.” Delicious to the stomach, not to the wallet.

Conclusion

And there you have it, friends. I successfully found and ate Ithaca-based food purchased at good old Wegmans.

My biggest takeaway from this excursion is that local food is CRAZY expensive, which I already knew from shopping at the farmers’ market and having my CSA, but good god I don’t see how people can buy these products on a regular basis and not be broke. On a lighter note, I was also made aware that the very foods I like to ridicule for their price and sometimes hippie/hipster (hippiester?) undertones don’t taste half bad. Not good enough to warrant buying them (I’ll stick to my steak), but much better than I had predicted from substitutes.

With the exception of dinner and obviously the cookies (in case you didn’t know, there’s not a lot in the package), I have more and will cook it up within the week, so stay tuned for some more recipes as I complete my local food product romp.

Year in review

I probably should have done this yesterday, but I was too busy sitting around not doing anything to think of it.

I’m not sure why so many people were convinced 2014 was the worst year ever. Granted, a lot of bad things happened, but overall I thought it went pretty well:

  • I had a perfect spring semester and got good enough grades this semester to bring my GPA up to 3.9.
    • Bonus: I survived multimedia. It was a lot of work, but I did better than I thought I would, and it was a valuable experience.
  • I got to spend two months doing all sorts of random things in South America, including eating a lot of new foods and meeting a lot of neat people.
  • and even though most people would consider it a cardinal sin, I got back together with the guy I dated sophomore year and couldn’t ask for a better boyfriend.

As for the upcoming year, my main goal is to get a job. I graduate in May, so it’s a bit of a do or die situation, and it gets really frustrating when adults ask me what I’m doing and get mad when I say I don’t know, but I’ll figure out something, even if it means working my IT job at home for the summer and then doing another abroad program (which really isn’t a bad backup plan). We’ll see what happens.

Interpreters provide a voice to the non-English-speaking community

by Steve Derderian and Amanda Hutchinson

This article is also published on Just Ithaca.

With more than 60 languages spoken in Syracuse alone, people who can bridge linguistic and cultural gaps are critical for the function of society. As communication facilitators, interpreters fill this role while providing a literal voice to many members of the community.

For non-English speakers, including the Deaf, services as common as church are often inaccessible. Theresa Slater, president and CEO of Empire Interpreting Service in Syracuse, said she entered the interpreting world when a Deaf pastor in her area offered a class for people to become church interpreters because there were none.

“When I started this whole journey, it was because my eyes were opened to the fact that something as simple as going to your place of worship was closed to so many people,” Slater said.

The need for communication goes beyond places of worship. Clients often request interpretation services in situations in which a clear understanding of information is required, such as courts, medical appointments, and educational settings.

“It’s critical that we’re there so that they can communicate with the world around them,” Slater said, “[when] they go to a doctor’s office, they can communicate what’s wrong with them and know how they’re being treated. If they get arrested and they’re in front of a judge, they have communication available to them.”

In addition to interpretation services, bilingual education is one of the biggest advocacy efforts by organizations such as La Liga in Syracuse, New York. Rita Paniagua, who has worked with the Spanish Action League for more than 10 years, said she has seen an improvement in accommodations for Spanish-speaking adults and children trying to learn English but still sees challenges for those people.

“It’s frustrating when they’re treated as slow,” Paniagua said. “Little by little more people are more sensitive to people that don’t know English because they have so many more around them. I would hope it would be a choice people would make.”

An emphasis on better training has especially impacted interpreters for the Deaf. Many Deaf people had bad experiences with interpreting services in the past due to the lack of quality, said Kip Opperman, an ASL professor at Ithaca College and interpreter in the upstate New York area.

“It’s gotten better over the years, and certainly now that interpreters are being trained and going through academic programs, they’re coming out with degrees that have given them the opportunity to develop their professionalism, their professional skills, and Deaf people are a lot more appreciative of and more accepting of interpreters,” Opperman said.

Cross-cultural communication presents many challenges for the clients and interpreters. Opperman said he has had to teach many of his business clients how to use an interpreter as well as about Deaf culture in order to properly facilitate communication between the two parties.

Despite the challenges, interpreters are needed to build and maintain a multicultural community as that community continues to grow. When interpretation services are provided, Slater said, linguistic minorities in the community not only have a voice but also have access to more information.

“When we listen to the radio, when we are on the web, when we’re watching television, that’s never going to be an equal playing field [for non-English speakers,]” Slater said, “but at least we can be there for those critical moments.”

Local livestock farmers seek respect for animals

by Tina Craven and Amanda Hutchinson

This article is also published on Just Ithaca.

While it’s common for livestock to be raised in a factory farm setting, where large numbers of animals are crowded into a small space, some farmers around Ithaca are raising their livestock differently.

Local farmers work to raise their livestock in a manner that the farmers say they believe allows the animals to live a happier lives. Heather Sandford, owner of The Piggery, a farm and butcher shop, said she really cares about raising her animals naturally and with dignity. The Piggery, which is one of only seven Food Justice Certified entities in the country, works to give their animals the opportunity to live a traditional life — to live instinctually in the woods and in the pasture.

“We’re very much into letting pigs be pigs,” she said. “It’s very important to us that our animals be raised with kind of respect and honor before they are harvested.”

Some farms allow their animals to graze because it is more natural for the animals to graze on grass than it is for them to be fed grain on a timed schedule, Maryrose Livingston, co-owner of the Northland Sheep Dairy, said.

“Well I think a lot of what we’re trying do is mimic, to the greatest extent we can, a natural system that the animals would live in if they weren’t in this contrived system of the farm,” she said.

The manner in which an animal lives its life will determine the quality of the meat it produces, Tim Haws, owner of Autumn’s Harvest Farm and farm partner of The Piggery, said.

“The happier the animal, the better the product is going to be,” Haws said. “The whole composite of the meat changes when the animal is in a stressful situation.”

Haws’ farm is Animal Welfare Approved. Farms can gain approval from an independent auditor that determines whether or not the livestock has enough space, that they have indoor and outdoor access and that they a fed a healthy diet without animal byproduct in their food, Haws said.

Walter Adam, owner of Shannon Brook Farm, said in addition to plenty of pasture time, his animals are fed an organic grain diet provided by a company that provides him with locally sourced grain.

“We don’t use preservatives, herbicides, pesticides or anything like that,” he said.

Utilizing readily available resources, such as pasture for feeding, allows these farms to be more sustainable than factory farming. According to the Sustainable Table, allowing animals to go out to pasture provides the livestock to graze on the grass and naturally fertilize the land. Adam said all of his livestock are let out to pasture, even the chickens and ducks that live in coops in the evening.

Some farms allow the public to visit the farm to see how the livestock is raised. Haws said he encourages the public to see how their food is cared for.

“We have an open door policy on the farm,” he said. “So that was another way for us to reassure people that we’re doing everything we can here to make sure these animals are living happy and healthy.”

Restaurants are also connecting with local farms because they are interested in knowing where their meat comes from. Instead of going for the cheapest meat, eateries such as Northstar, Wildflower Cafe in Watkins Glen, and Harlem Shambles in New York City have reached out to Autumn’s Harvest for quality products, Haws said.

“I would say that just about everybody we deal with has been up to the farm. I think that makes it a more real relationship than people just calling us and saying ‘Hey, I want 10 boxes of this or that.’ These people have an investment in the farm,” he said.

Even though family farming isn’t as lucrative as factory farming is, Donn Hewes, co-owner of Northland Sheep Dairy, said he thinks family farming is more enjoyable.

“We think it provides something in the way of building a better cultural community,” he said.

IC alums bring professional opera back to Ithaca

by Amanda Hutchinson and Lauren Mazzo

This article is also published on Ithaca Week and Ithaca Voice.

Fourteen years after the folding of Ithaca Opera Company, professional opera has returned to Ithaca, and Zachary James says it feels like home.

James, who graduated from Ithaca College’s musical theatre program in 2005, co-founded Opera Ithaca this spring after moving from his eight-year home of New York City. The last five years of his life had been dedicated to singing and producing opera with the New York City-based production company he founded, Metropolis Opera Project. However, Metropolis hadn’t had any collaborators, and a proposed move back to Ithaca sparked the idea of a professional opera company in the city.

“I was scared, coming back,” James said. “I thought, oh no, what if I miss New York City? What if this feels too small or like a step back in my career or something?”

At the same time, Lynn Craver, a 1996 graduate in music performance, had wanted to start another opera company to give current students the same experience she had with Ithaca Opera Company as an undergraduate student. This spring, Brian DeMaris, Director of Opera and Musical Theater at Ithaca College, contacted Craver and said, “‘Listen, I know that you’re thinking of doing this, I know another man, this wonderful man, Zachary James, who’s thinking of relocating to Ithaca, and he wants to do the same thing,’” Craver said. “So we connected on email and the rest is history, really.”

Opera Ithaca performed Bluebeard’s Castle, starring James and soprano Megan Nielson, at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse and the Community School for Music and Arts in Ithaca. James attended graduate school at the University of Tennessee with Nielson, and the two had collaborated on projects in New York City before deciding to pursue this two-person show.

“As [James] got involved with Opera Ithaca, it seemed like a good platform for us to perform it, and also it was a good platform for Opera Ithaca to have something that was easy to put up,” Nielson said. “It seemed like a good fit.”

Despite the glitches that Craver said come with any new project–including both James and Nielson being sick the week of the show–Opera Ithaca’s inaugural show was a success. Dr. Sara Haefeli, who teaches an opera history course at Ithaca College, said opera can be an expensive endeavor, especially in a city the size of Ithaca, but the company attracted over 150 people to their shows.

Craver said that while the production can be inaccessible to new opera-goers, the company received an email from a woman who was new to opera, but raved about the performance.

“That was the most fulfilling thing for me, to know that somebody who isn’t well-versed in the art can come and still be changed and moved by it,” Craver said.

The final performance of Bluebeard’s Castle was planned for this weekend at the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn. However, a last minute call from James’ manager sent him to Opera Roanoke in Virginia as a substitute in their production of Mozart’s Abduction on November 22. The church hopes to reschedule the performance for next year, J. David Williams, organist and director of music, said.

Opera Ithaca’s next production, Kristin Hevner Wyatt’s Il Sogno, will open on March 28.

Click on the image to access the Flash animation.

Click on the image to access the Flash animation.

Marching bands sustain injuries, require as much physical skill as traditional sports, experts say

by Amanda Hutchinson and Sally Young

“We run, we do stretches, push-ups, sit-ups; a lot of toning exercises.”

Mike Nave and his team train to take the field each week. When they get the call from the head coach of the football team, they gather their gear and walk out to applause from the crowd.

But instead of footballs, they play with instruments, and instead of football uniforms, they don marching band uniforms. For members of the Baldwinsville Marching Band, a group based near Syracuse, being athletic is a key to being successful, according to Nave, who helps run the band.

As marching band members cross the boundary between music and sports, they are prone to the health issues of both, such as the tendonitis common in musicians and the musculoskeletal issues of athletes. Studies have shown that hearing loss, dental problems and lower back problems are among the common injuries that result from being in a marching band.

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 2.46.34 PM

Click on the picture for the Flash animation.

Dr. Nicholas Quarrier, professor of physical therapy at Ithaca College, said different ensembles are subject to different types of injuries. For example, drum corps performances are more athletic and result in more sprains and pulls than a parade band. However, he says, members of both types of ensembles should be treated as athletes.

“It takes coordination, skill, endurance, cardiovascular and muscular strength, fine motor dexterity, and pretty much all the components of an athlete,” Quarrier said.

Both holding an instrument up for long periods of time and the marching movement itself place a physical strain on the students he coaches, according to Nave. He says that the students in the Baldwinsville Marching Band undergo similar physical training to that of traditional athletes.

Members of high school marching bands in Texas receive a one-half credit physical education waiver each semester for their participation in the band, according to the Texas Education Agency. Even more widespread recognition of marching ensembles as an athletic activity is one of the goals of Drum Corps International, which serves as the premiere league for these groups. Laura VanDoren, chairperson of the Drum Corps Medical Project, said that the lack of recognizing an injury often creates trouble when a marcher is injured at a competition.

Doctors with backgrounds in athletic training don’t always know how to treat marching injuries, she said, and they may not understand that having a patient rest a sprained ankle for four weeks may not be compatible with an ensemble’s program.

The project also works with the staff and administration of marching programs to ensure the safety of their members through research and seminars.

To alleviate the disconnect between marching bands and member safety, music schools across the country are required to have courses on music-related injuries, such as the one that Quarrier teaches at Ithaca College. Dr. Kris Chesky, who serves as the director of the Texas Center for Music and Medicine at the University of North Texas, said no one wants the participants of marching band nor athletics to get hurt. However, unlike in physical education teacher requirements, there is no health training for marching band directors, and the UNT program research is helping to fix that.

“We want to make sure our teachers are prepared just like they are when you’re going to engage kids in athletic activities,” Chesky said. “We want to make sure we’re making music in ways that are healthy.”