Credit where it’s due

I probably can’t do enough justice for THREAD last week, but it was a blast and definitely worth going. The speakers were great (including our local NPR station’s Saturday afternoon lineup of Glynn Washington from Snap Judgement and Catherine Burns from The Moth), my workshop mentor and fellow group members were awesome, and I got to help eat the most ginormous crepe I’ve ever seen.

As if eating lunch with two prominent Middle Eastern journalists wasn't mind blowing enough.

As if eating lunch with two prominent Middle Eastern journalists wasn’t mind blowing enough.

Oh, and sleeping in was as nice as I was hoping… when my paper customers weren’t calling me at 5:30am to tell me that I (meaning my sub) didn’t deliver their papers on time/at all. As a journalism person, I totally respect and appreciate that people want to read their paper in the morning, but I’m pretty sure it’s not worth calling me at 5:30 in the morning when the slip of paper that had my phone number on it also said that I was at a conference from the 8th through the 10th. The one redeeming part about that debacle was that one of my customers who had called to say the paper wasn’t delivered correctly (she’s wheelchair-bound and needs to have it thrown right in front of the porch door) asked me about my conference the next time she called.

I also managed to get an interview on Friday, which is almost unheard of for me. Fortunately the editors were forgiving and didn’t make me drive 6 hours to do it in person, but technology didn’t want to cooperate, which forced us into a Skype/Google Hangouts/phone interview. I was also given a surprise writing test (my prompt was that one of the editors interviewing me died and I had to ask the two of them questions as various characters to get a quick story). Unfortunately I couldn’t touch it until about an hour before it was “due” because of my Friday sessions with Modern Notion (it was about 3pm and I still had two pieces to finish before 6), but somehow I managed 375 words. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but I’m a hellaciously slow writer. The application is still being considered, but I’m sure I’ll post about whatever happens since this is the farthest I’ve ever been in the journalism job hunt.

SUMMER OF FUNEMPLOYMENT APPLICATION COUNT: 4

Post-graduation funemployment

Somehow taking only 15 credits resulted in me having less time and fewer things to post about. Nevertheless, my final semester is over, graduation is done, I only had a meltdown on the day I left Ithaca, and now I’m home… which leads us to the “funemployment” thing.

Admittedly, I didn’t make up the word but rather borrowed it from a fellow journo classmate on Facebook who, like most of the rest of the department, now has a relevant job. I guess I also shouldn’t use the term in reference to my current situation because I am neither unemployed nor having fun. Forty-two journalism job applications later, I’m still working IT for the defense contractor at home, plus my internship editor wanted me to take on another day in addition to my Fridays, and then because I have no social life when I’m home, I decided it would be a great idea to pick up a paper route. For those of you counting at home, that’s 3 days doing IT, 2 days doing actual journalismy things, and 18 hours a week waking up at 3am and delivering 200+ newspapers for a grand total of 58 hours a week. So no, it’s not really “funemployment.”

However, because I like the word so much as well as sarcasm, it’ll be the theme for this summer while I send out more applications and try to get a job in my field. My goal from here on out is one application a week and trying to stay local, but by the end of the summer, I’m just going to pull out all the stops and apply anywhere and everywhere (which I’m starting to do now but on a smaller scale). I’ll add a counter at the bottom of each upcoming post to keep track of how many places I’ve applied to since graduating, since the 42 I submitted beforehand are probably duds.

In lighter news, I get to flex my journalistic muscles this coming week at Yale’s THREAD gathering, which is a cross between a conference, a workshop, and just hanging out with other narrative journalists and talking about storytelling. I’m pretty excited, not only because it means I get a 3-day reprieve from waking up at 3am but also because I really enjoyed my narrative journalism class last semester and want to get more involved with this kind of writing. I submitted the piece I wrote for that class (available here), and as much as workshopping makes me nervous, this will be a really valuable experience to get feedback and advice from industry professionals. Fingers crossed it goes well.

SUMMER OF FUNEMPLOYMENT APPLICATION COUNT: 3

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.