Category Archives: Uncategorized

Our social contract

We and wolves grew up together. They learned that if they stay close to us they get fed. We developed a symbiotic relationship. We fed the craps to the wolves. They got closer, more domesticated. This relationship developed slowly and trust was built.

I don’t think we have this relationship with a lot of the animals we eat. It’s not that we aren’t compassionate and empathetic for them, but their purpose is for us to eat them. They pose no threat to us, except the wild boar. For the most part they are not particularly vicious.

We domesticated them for food, not mutual benefits. We fed the wolves, they didn’t kill us, and later they helped us hunt. We evolved together. That’s why they are often referred to as “man’s best friend”.

Trust. They started to trust us and we them. They sleep at our feet, and we pet them. At some point the friendship became more than just a symbiotic relationship. It is now a relationship of trust. We could go days without them “doing things for us” and the bond would be just as strong. At the end we have built a social contract with them.

Meet Your Meat

I was surprised to find how much trouble one simple question caused Sarah Agudo in her neighborhood of the Mission District in San Francisco. “Where does your meat come from?” In this era of Portlandia fanaticism of concern for ingredients and preparation, this little question caused panicked anxiousness.

I have worked in the industry for the last five years and it wasn’t until I moved to NYC and started working for Devon Gilroy that I asked that question of myself. Growing up in Dayton, OH meat came from supermarkets not butcher shops. These were things that existed on the coasts in big cities. Once I started asking the question I couldn’t stop. I educated myself on sourcing ingredients. I took Farm-to-Table 101, Michael Pollan’s book Omnivores Dilemma.

In this adventure of sourcing and understanding where my food comes from and how it affects the environment I became avidly aware of the impact of this question. Where does your meat come from? I jump at the chance to answer that question. It gives me a chance to share the story of our farmers, of our cows and pigs and lambs (oh my!). It’s not only important for me to use local animals, but local animals that are part of a biodynamic system of farms. Farms that understand that the grass fed cow isn’t the end result, but one part in a system of stewardship to the land. This is one of the ways that we can help secure our ability to keep producing food.

From a branding perspective farm-to-table has become the new “green” which is the new “black”. Right? Technically every restaurant is farm-to-table, the difference is the amount of steps removed from where the animal/vegetable was raised/grown until it hits the plate. I feel there are some restaurants that highlight a certain veg/animal from a farm, then supplement the rest of the menu with “normal” products. Consistency in a menu for a restaurant is an important goal for most restaurants. When patrons come in to certain places they want to know that what they ate yesterday is the same as what they are going to get today. This is at the crux of the farm-to-table restaurant. Nature doesn’t care, or even acknowledge, your preferences for what food you would like to eat today. Nature just is, and will produce certain food at certain times of the year, unless you live in an environment where your climate doesn’t vary too much. As for the rest of us, we are bound to the seasons. You want an avocado in February? You want an apple in March? Too bad! As as patrons we need to accept the seasons and not demand that our restaurants have everything we want all the time. In the winter enjoy pickled vegetables, and when the spring and summer comes those fresh vegetables will taste all the better!

Where does your meat come from? Is a question that opens a number ten can of worms. If all meat was sourced from local biodynamic sources the typical American would have to eat less of it. Yes, you would pay more. That price would be closer to the actual cost of producing that ounce of protein because the price would account for the unsubsidized cost of the energy used to raise the animal and the cost of environmental impact. Im not sure most americans are ready to give up a $1 hot dog, a $6 hamburger, or a $12 steak. Its a fundamental shift in our culture.

These are some of the reasons why “Where does your meat come from” is such a scary question. It could also be that they just don’t know, and it’s hard to admit that you don’t know something sometimes.

Recipes from the weekend of 22/02/2010 – Stuffed pepper and Strawberry Pots de Creme

Thanks to anyone who came and ate one of the specials I worked on last week, it was a busy weekend all around so my apologies that there aren’t any photographs to accompany the recipes. If you would like to send pictures of your plating of the dishes I would appreciate it very much. To send pictures just TwitPic them to me @chirn9980. Enough with the jibberjab here is the stuffed pepper recipe.

Stuffed Pepper

For this recipe I am just going to give instructions for a single stuffed pepper, to make it easy to scale up. (or down but I am not sure how you could make a 1/4 stuffed pepper)
Veggies and Stuff

  • 1 green pepper
  • 1/4 zucchini (med diced)
  • 1/4 eggplant (med diced)
  • 2 button mushrooms (or your choice of mushroom – I wish I had had morels, but thems the breaks)
  • 1 roma tomato (med diced)
  • 1 thinly sliced shallot (not necessary)
  • 1/4 yellow onion (diced)
  • 1 garlic clove (minced)
  • 1 cup rice (I used Basmati, but general long grain rice will do)
  • 1/2 tsp tomato paste
  • Seasonings (My note on my thoughts on seasoning)

  • thyme
  • cayenne
  • salt
  • pepper
  • oregano
  • Other

  • parmesean cheese
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • Directions

    The rice will take the longest to cook, so I start that first. Rinse the rice by placing it in a pot and running cold water over it until the water runs clear. Drain the rice. Place the rice back in the pot and fill with water, until the water is about a 1/4 to 5/16 of an inch about the rice. Place pot on the range on low heat and add about 3 Tbsp of butter and some salt and let cook until the rice is about 3/4’s soft (it should barely be crunchy). The rice should take about 20 to 25 min.

    After the rice is going, start chopping up all of the veggies. Get a medium to large sautee pan on the stove on about med-high heat and coat the bottom of the pan with the olive oil.

    Once the oil is heated add the onions and shallots and turn down to med heat. Let them brown a bit, not burn. When the onion starts to turn translucent add the garlic and cook for another minute.

    Add the mushroom and zucchini and tomato paste. Cook for 3 to 5 min or until zucchini starts to soften, then add the roma tomato and eggplant and cook until everything is soft (5 to 6 min).

    Once all the veggies are cooked mix them together with about a 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese in a bowl with the seasonings and cooked rice. Set aside.

    Take the green pepper and slice the top off, and scrape out the seeds. Fill the pepper with the stuffing and roast in the oven at 350º F for 35 to 40 min.

    Strawberry Pots de Creme

    This recipe makes about eight 8oz servings


  • 1 qt heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 8 cups strawberries (frozen of fresh, if frozen make sure they are completely thawed before working with them)
  • Start by placing the quart of heavy cream, 1/2c sugar, and vanilla in at least a 2 quart sauce pan ( just in case the cream boils up too much), and place it on med heat. Bring the heavy cream to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove cream from heat and set aside to cool down.

    Take the strawberries, and place them in the food processor until there are no chunks left. Strain the strawberries through a fine chinois, of through a fine mesh cheesecloth to remove any unwanted seeds. Set the liquid aside for now.

    Separate the egg yolks and place them in a mixing bowl. Beat the yolks just enough so that they come together, while still mixing slowly incorporate the other 1/2 cup of sugar. Continue mixing until the sugar and yolks turn a yellow custard color (Ummm, kinda the color of a lemon). After that fold in the strawberry liquid until incorporated.

    Here comes the tricky part, tempering the liquids. The goal is to slowly add the warm cream to raise the temperature of the eggs without cooking the eggs and “scrambling” the proteins. SLOWLY ladle the cream into the eggs while stirring the eggs. Continue to do this cream to eggs until you have added about a third of the cream. Add the egg/cream mixture back into the cream only mixture and fold until fully incorporated. Set aside and let the mixture cool to at least room temperature.

    To cook them, you will need some ceramic ramekins and a cooking tray that is about an inch higher than the ramekins. Soak a kitchen towel in cold water and place in the bottom of the tray. Place the ramekins on the towel in the tray. Fill the tray with water until the water reaches half way up the ramekins. ****SCIENCE NOTE We use the towel and the water because we want the custard to cook evenly at the edges and the center. The reason this works is that water has a pretty high heat capacity (Q=mc∆t anyone????), which means that the water will heat slowly and evenly allowing for and even rise in temperature. We also use the towel in to bottom because other wise the ceramics will be directly touching the metal pan which will allow for a very quick heat transfer. END SCIENCE NOTE*** If any water splashed into the ramekins make sure to wipe it out before pouring in the filling. Now fill each ramekin halfway with the custard mix, the custard should be at about the same level as the water in the tray. Place in the oven for about 30 to 35 min at 350ºF, or until the middle has just set (the middle barely moves when you giggle the pan).

    Take out of the oven and the water bath and place in the fridge to cool. It takes about and hour to completely set.

    So thats what I made last weekend. Funny enough the Strawberry Pots de Creme ended up tasting like strawberry Quick and reminded me of being a kid again. A very large thanks to everyone who ate a Kona last weekend to support Think Pink Weekend, we all appreciate it. There will be more to eat and experiment with this coming weekend.


    More sound Iterations

    Sound Creatures from christian mclean on Vimeo.


    Ok everybody, finally got the creature wrapped up in its own class, and spawning and dying. Needs a little adjustments, but the next step is to get it working on multiple screens across a space creating an environment for these guys to live. Hop you like. 🙂

    New Print from my drawing program

    built with processing

    built with processing

    I have been dealing with a visualization of sound for a while. This one here is an image of what an hour at Kofenya, my local coffee shop, looks like. I adapted the pillbug sketch to “record” the sounds of life around me. What is happening here is that about 50 “chains” (stings of drawn lines) are drawn and follow a vertor path affected by the noise in the room. The noise also affects the size of each link, resulting in the varying line weights giving a us this image. What’s fascinating is the incredible variation of the lines weight, allowing the viewer to compare to amount of quiet and noisy times. I will be posting the source code and the application online, when I can get everything cleaned up, and also add controls to allow the viewer to be the composer of the random acts of noise. Please leave a comment, and let me know what you think.

    Some stuff from the closet

    Cubes Float Record from christian mclean on Vimeo

    Ok, so I admit that this is kinda old but looking back it is an important piece for me, not only in a technical sense, because it allowed me to think about why and how I build art (digitally/ceramically).

    What this piece does is takes two recordings, one is a short but violent crash the other a long conversation, and condenses or expands them into the same time period. Using each block as a representation of a pitch in the separate recordings, I created two planes and then advanced them towards each other to create a dialogue between the recordings. How successful it is I am not sure, but it was fun and challenging. At this point I really started to look at my work as modular, and the connecting/interrupting of these modules as a way to develop content.

    Throughout this project I was able to get Processing and MySQL to talk to each other. I was also able to turn audio into data in a MySQL table.

    The Economic Value of Artists

    Take Out Again?? - Detail
    After reading a guest post on by  Amrita Chandra titled “What Artists Can Teach Everyone About Social Media”. I started thinking about how/why artists are important.

    I came to the conclusion that good artists will always be willing to try the “new” things, be it technology or a breaking topic that needs to be discussed in visual way. That is why in the way that urban renewal works is that usually in an economically depressed neighborhood the artists will start to move in. I think its because it’s cheap and artists don’t really mind the rough neighborhood because no one really messes with them.

    The next step is that artists start to add some different views on everything, start making things look different/interesting. A few little boutique shops move in, such as a coffee shop, a small clothing shop, some new bars, and some little diners. Things start happening and its catches the eye of a local lifestyle paper.

    All of a sudden the galleries start doing ok, and the gay community start frequenting the area and moving in. Well the gay community start living there and cleaning things up, all the while pumping money into community stimulating the micro-economy of the neighborhood.

    Things are going really well, and the the young executives catch wind of this new prospering neighborhood and since they have a “real” paycheck they come in and start buying real-estate and hanging out in the community. Well what that also does is it starts raising the price of living there, so what happens is that the artists can’t afford to live there any more and move to other places to start the cycle again.

    These are just some very general observations I have made thinking about my own situation as I have just graduated college with a degree in Fine Arts, and search for a place to live for a while. Currently this is happening in a part of Cincinnati called Over the Rhine. But if you look at New York, in New York you have Chelsea and Williamsburg. Then there is Portland, Or.

    A needed resource

    After reading this post I realized that
    the business I had thought of long ago is a good one.

    A few years back I came up with this idea of a business (ScapeGoat
    Inc.) where a boss could hire a person to come in to the office and
    they could vent to this person about any and everything without
    repercussions. Maybe then bosses would be less irritated and more able
    to command effectively. Because we all need to vent, but we all don’t
    have someone to vent to that understands that its just venting.

    Maybe I will get around to it someday.


    New Length Measurement standard

    I am writing a paper today, and I obsessively keep checking the word
    count and character count. I do this mostly because the paper has to
    be a certain length (1500 words if you care).

    As I was doing this I started to think of the idea of the length of a
    conversation and using SMS. Why don’t we measure conversations and
    papers in how many SMS messages it is, because SMS is becoming the new
    way to communicate. No one calls anyone any more, and if we start
    thinking of papers in SMS lengths we would be able to understand truly
    how long it is.

    I’m really not sure what I’m saying here, but it might be important in
    some cultural sense.