Updated: Oct 8, 2020
When it comes to food, it's obviously one of the basic necessities needed for humans to live. However, we as humans have created a food culture where necessity and luxury intercept. We have so many choices for delicious food whether it's dining out or cooking at home. Agriculture's power and influence are echoed in many of our cultural systems and way of life. Our calendar, daylight savings time, and even the design of the school year are effected by our food culture. The obvious reason schools didn't have classes during summer was so school age children could work on farms and harvest agriculture. When people think about farming, they often conjure up images of rolling fields, bales of hay, corn. Though these things are an integral part of farming and our food, agriculture can also be so much more! My father was a waterman. He navigated the beautiful estuaries, tributaries, and bays around our home in Maryland to catch "Maryland Blue Crabs". I put that in quotes because anyone who knows good crabs knows there is a difference in "blue crabs" and "Maryland Blue Crabs". These crabs are sought after for their delicious flavor; which many, including myself, say has a slightly sweeter, lighter, buttery flavor profile, and a larger flake with a more delicate texture than the exact same species and genus of crab caught in neighboring states and around the world. Crabs hibernate in the winter in Maryland because the waters get too cold for them. One of the theories why Maryland crabs are so good has to do with Maryland's Chesapeake Bay. This bay, where the crabs hibernate, consists of brackish water which is comprised of salt water from the Atlantic Ocean mixing with fresh water which enters from many rivers and streams that originate in the mountains. This unique hibernation location for the crabs effects and increases the fat they produce and store over the winter, giving them their unique and highly sought after flavor profile. This also makes them quite expensive. One dozen crabs can easily run you over $100 dollars depending on size, making them a delicacy that many people don't get the chance to experience as much as they would like to because of their hefty price tag. Though the product is expensive, the waterman catching the crabs aren't the one's profiting the most off that hefty price tag. Distribution companies that buy the crabs from waterman at wholesale prices to then resell to consumers have a great deal of power over the price and livelihood of waterman. Needless to say it is not an easy, glamours, or simple job. Getting up before dawn, dealing with harsh elements at land and at sea, and the smell of seafood juice and marsh mud permeating your being at every moment of everyday all make crabbing a dirty and difficult job.
The irony that such an expensive high-end delicacy, prized by many as the "creme de' la creme" of seafood, comes from such humble origins was never lost on me. If I had a dollar for every time I was out at a restaurant and passed on an "authentic Maryland Blue Crab" dish because of it's hefty price tag, well, I would be able to afford "authentic Maryland Blue Crab" for the rest of my life. The realization of the real that food is cultural capital, holds power, is political, and isn't always accessible came early and naturally for me. In contrast to my father who made a living catching and selling a delicacy at a high price, my grandparents had a large farm where they farmed classic staples. They concentrated on raising and selling large quantities of everyday items like corn, watermelons, cantaloupes, tomatoes, lima beans, and chickens. And I'm not talking a couple chickens in the yard. I'm talking 1,000s of chickens for eggs and for meat. I also worked on my grandparents farm during the summers when my help wasn't needed for crabbing. I spent a lot of time on the water and in the field and I made a unique connections with the flora and fauna that surrounded me. I'm so grateful for this connection because it drives me and gives balance to my entire life.
My appreciation for delicious, fresh, natural and diverse foods began early and is rooted in quality. Once I graduated high school, I worked in the food and hospitality industry for a long time before I transitioned to being a photographer as a profession. I've done everything from fine dining to sandwich shops, server to chef, food preparation to menu creation, food service to event planning and design. I've created and experienced food all over the world, in small towns like my hometown, Marion, Maryland, big cities like New York City where I lived for almost fifteen years, and Southern California where I currently reside. Let me tell you, I've eaten some delicious food for sure! I've also seen a lot of food faux-pas from those trying so hard to be trendy that they forgot that flavor is the ultimate test when it comes to food. It doesn't matter what food looks like, or what trendy item you have on your menu if it doesn't taste good. In the same respect, if the food looks horrible, you certainly won't be inclined to eat it so it remains a delicate balance. No matter where I've been and what I've eaten, one thing remains the same. Good food is good. It makes us happy. It makes us feel better. It makes us come together. It's there for our victory celebrations. It's there for our worst defeats. You can dress it up or keep it simple, but make no mistake, you can't fake it and quality is paramount. So with all this in mind, I'll be embarking on a journey to explore all things food. My goal is to share in a place where the necessity and luxury of food can coexist to create a better and more beautiful life! Food In Focus will offer a photographers view of delicious food and how to bring that same focus to your own life.