Foodie Tuesday: I’m a Fool for April Fool’s Fools & Other Foolishness

The first day of April, while some may reserve it for pranks and tricks, is to me the perfect day for celebrating the arrival (best if it’s truly imminent) of springtime, and so rather than be a traditionalist about April Fool’s Day and pull stunts on anybody, I prefer to simply enjoy the Tuesday-ness of it this year and think happy food thoughts. My fetish for custards, mousses and creams of all sorts leads me to think that the ideal food for this occasion, since it is the first of April, would naturally be a Fool. You know, sweet fruity stuff folded into whipped cream. Actually, this is pretty much my idea of the ideal food for practically any occasion, and that’s no joke.

Given my predilection for eating too much of too many things, sweets perhaps foremost among them, this comes as no surprise to anyone living.

I know I am not alone in my obsession with dessert-like objects, either. Even my esteemed spouse is not immune to the charms of a classic like a frosty mug of root beer, with or without ice cream floating dreamily in it. One might, for example, find him taking me out to Mr. Frosty for such a treat on the first sunny day when we get a free half-hour, and our sipping in blissed-out ecstasy under the diner’s front canopy while birds flit overhead.photo

But no amount of root beer is quite enough to negate my need for a good Fool, so for this April Fool’s Day I bethought myself of just such a dish, and off to work I went.

Then, of course, the reality of the day intervened. While I thought I was heading to the kitchen to froth up some sweet heavy cream with vanilla and cardamom to layer with black raspberry jam and pieces of canned pears—a marvelous thought indeed—I opened the refrigerator and saw a container of odd ends of Gouda and Brie cheeses that I knew had been patiently waiting for my attention a little bit longer than they ought to have done, and off I went on a highly tangential path. That, of course, is life’s continuous April Fool’s prank on me: every time I think I am headed in one direction, I get sent off in quite another.

Who am I to resist the guidance of the random refrigerator finding?

I put into my trusty cheapo food processor a heap of dried potato flakes, “instant mashed potatoes” that, while I think them quite specious as a substitute for the substantive real thing of a good coarse potato mash, do make great toasty buttered crumbs for toppings, a very fine thickener for sauces and soups and gravies, and as here, good flour for cheesy flat- or short-bread. Along with the potato flakes and cheeses, I put a little butter, a good dose of whole yogurt labne, a little salt, and seasonings: smoked paprika, powdered mustard seed, white pepper and just a dash of mace. I processed it all into a shortbread-like dough, pressed it into a large flat ovenproof skillet, and baked it at about 300ºF/150ºC until it was very light golden brown (about 25 minutes), let it cool in place as the oven itself cooled, and finally turned out the ‘pancake’ to cut into manageable wedges. They’re simple and plain on their own, slightly chewy and very cheesy, but spread with a little additional labne and topped with a couple of cucumber slices and a sprinkle of za’atar, or perhaps just dipped into some good guacamole and/or salsa, they’ll be quite delightful.photo

For now, I’m just munching them plain and marveling at the vicissitudes of that perennial prankster, Life. Happy 1st of April, everyone!

The Lens of Revelation

Discovery and learning don’t always have to come at the expense of laborious study and practice. Sometimes they are handed to us by the magician-teachers who simply tell us exactly what they have done, lifting the curtain and letting us see what’s behind it and in the works from beginning to end. That, at least, is how the learning starts for many of us. Certainly for me. I have been gifted, over the many years of my life, in which I was, am and will be a student forever, with a number of such generous teachers.

I can only return the favor as far as my skills and wit allow, but I hope I’m at least skilled and sharp-witted enough to make it worth a few other people’s while. Of course, the plain facts don’t complete the education by a long shot–the study and practice parts have to follow to make it stick and create anything useable out of it. What you do with the information, as they say, is what completes the equation. But isn’t it fun to share our little secrets, to let each other peek at what’s behind the facade of polish and confidence and see what we can make of it?

Herewith, another little set of iterations digitally made to convert a black and white graphite drawing into a full-color digital illustration.

graphite drawing

Once again, I begin with a plain graphite drawing, scanned and very lightly cleaned to remove dust specks and make the scan match the original. I wish I had made the ‘lens’ look more curved or somehow indicated its thickness better so that there was a more logical reason for the eye behind it being moved that far from its expected location, but then I remember that this is, after all, an utterly nonsensical and *not* logical creature-person. Next drawing, perhaps. For now, I’ll play with the cards I dealt myself.

graphite drawing + color test

To begin the digital part of the process, I just did my usual small test of whether injecting color into a black and white original might bring out some useful or interesting aspects of the character (both the humanoid one and the character of the drawing).

graphite drawing + digital color painting

Why not. What if I isolate a larger area and keep the illustration black and white but with the lens area being in full color? Hmmm. That could work. I ‘paint’ in the color, layering it bit by bit and erasing bits to add highlights or even out the application of the colors.

graphite drawing + digital color painting

Strangely, I find that having only the lens area colored flattens out the image a little more than I expected. I think this might be in part because the color has reduced the contrast and visible texture of the graphite strokes. Maybe I’ll just add a bit more color over the other parts of the drawing. No, not quite enough, I’d say. So I add a Photoshop filter of ink lines to emphasize the drawn textures and contrast more deeply with the coloring.

digital illustration from a graphite drawing

Well, here I go again. I can’t resist adding color to the whole image. I think it balances the image better. But I’m married to the idea of letting the part seen through the lens be the only richly ‘full color’ part–the True Self, if you will, seen through this lens. So I decided to keep what wasn’t part of the lens itself or seen through it mainly monochromatic; a sepia tone for the face seemed in keeping with the sort of Steampunk creature’s vintage-yet-otherworldly quality. And then, of course, the face was flattened a bit by the color too, so I added the inky filter to that as well. And here we are. A day of tweaking and monkeying around with the drawing that took me a few days to draw, and here we are. On to the next project, my friends. Hope you find something compelling to do, too, even if as with mine, your projects only lead to more projects. Because that’s what happens when we share our ideas: they proliferate. Granted, some of them grow up to be really weird characters all on their own, but they do proliferate. Revealing, as they do, further parts of *our* character through *their* lens.