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B-Sides of the Pacific Northwest

Hey Portland, Oregon, Hey Long Beach, Washington:

I write you this love letter from an old tea plantation in Sri Lanka. It’s September and you may just be coming out of your Feast hangover. Don’t worry, Wild About Game is just around the corner and if you let the party happen- it will.

I’m sorry it took me a while to share some of my favorite moments of you. My job sometimes sucks— I have to hustle every moment to find a way to tell what i see as the most amazing things about food in our world- while trying to keep the lights on. Maybe it’s time I just use the hammer and nail to fashion a mobile shack that i can carry around like a turtle?

Anyways, I’ve been drinking for the last 6 hours and likely have another 6 to go. (Not to mention 3 days of traveling to get from the highlands in Sri Lanka to Darjeeling in India). The sun is setting over Lover’s Leap in the Nuwara Eliya tea making region, painting traces of pink and grey and a smokey blue, which just reminds me; I need to roll a cigarette.

The story of this tragic high peak has been sold to me a few ways but sums up as such: Forced marriages that tore true lovers apart climbed this mighty peak to leap to their deaths in protest.

My life on the road can sometimes feel like an arranged marriage. Don’t get me wrong; I live it and I love it. But it's starting to make a gal feel a bit as though she leaps away from her love every time she leaves as though in protest.

Those traces of evergreen, grey, and smokey blue- you, Pacific Northwest- I sure as hell do miss you when I go.

Fuck it, I’m having a smoke. Just watch the episode.

 

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Farm to Table: California

When I originally set out to do this episode I really wanted to theme it around 'Labels'. Keeping up with the pertinent information on a label is a battle I constantly come up against; whether I'm shopping at my neighborhood market, speaking to friends of the show, or in the field filming. The misinformation on our food labels today is atrocious. It's uncouth. It's trickery. It's frustrating as all hell and I'm frankly quite tired of it.

Look no further than the world of olive oil for this misinforming mayhem-- the deceit in the industry has spawned best selling books, lawsuits, and even involved organized crime. But in my research for the episode I was thrilled to learn that the Olive Oil Commission of California keeps tightening our labeling laws here in America to maintain some sense of integrity in the region's growing industry.

So as I got into the actual filming of the episode, the story began to take broader shape and my sights set on a new target: Farm to Table.

This obnoxious buzz word has been plaguing my food obsessions for the last handful of years and seems to be growing in strength, yet the substance dwindles. Just look at what this Florida journalist uncovered once she looked beyond the flowery language on her Tampa restaurant menus. And once I grow a proper sized pair of lady balls, Portland Oregon is going to get a nice kick in the ass with all the bull shit they've been getting away with. (Sorry guys, but it's my job.)

What happens when chefs or restaurant owners or farmers or food kingpins declare something as authentically "farm to table" that is not- the actually authentic suffer. Slow Foods Ark of Taste list gets larger. Farmers go out of business-- or likely get sold to larger companies. And eaters like myself keep perpetuating this vicious cycle while blindly throwing our money at items we think are doing good things in this world.

In this episode I visit two *real* extra virgin olive oil producers in Sonoma County, explore oyster farming with a very charming guy in Humboldt County, and spend a sweaty afternoon harvesting an Ark of Taste ingredient: Sonora Wheat on Kingbird Farms.

Farmer Adam's drought-tolerant Sonora Wheat became somewhat the canary in the coalmine on this whole farm to table thing in my eyes. My reasons? 1) California is going through a very public, very controversial drought and agriculture is at the center of who to blame (just google 'California farmers water war' and get to reading. You kinda end up where you started), 2) Wheat is already such an argued around ingredient given the onslaught of gluten allergies these days, and 3) Grains are rarely what gets celebrated as 'farm to table' on hip restaurants chic menus. Plus, in my days of doing this show I've learned we lose an incredible bulk of the nutrients with mass-harvested grains and wheat is hugely subsidized taking over patch works of American land (and many folks in the know believe mono-cropping is ultimately not good for our internal or external health).

Could grains serve as a new opportunity for farm to table to hold some weight again?

You'll see in the episode that harvesting, thrushing, and milling grain on a small-scale is a real pain in the ass. It's time consuming for the volume and quick to see why it became a scaleable production the way it has. Like anything worth doing, creating a better grain production system is not going to be easy. But it is happening. I've seen it in Northern Italy and North Carolina at former baker Jennifer's new mills: Carolina Ground. The idea of co-operative grain production, Adam speaks of in the episode, is not only doable, it's happening.

When chefs or food producers engage with farmers like Adam to bring things like his wheat to the table, it enhances and lifts a whole food system efficiently with massive potential. And given the amount we consume olive oil and wheat on a regular basis-- the story becomes much bigger than our labeling system. It's Farm to Table done right.

 

CREATE YOUR OWN CULINARY ADVENTURE IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA:

  • The Delta region in Sacramento County is a step back in time with tiny, quiet towns dotting the Sacramento River. The Walnut Grove area makes a perfect base camp to explore dive bars, farm stands, roll on the river, and maybe catch a few crawdads. Spend a few nights soaking and snoozing in the restored Japanese bath houses: Miyazaki Bath House.
  • Checking out Apollo Olive Oil and Trattore Farms in Sonoma will give you a perfect contrast of production size but each with an emphasis on quality.
  • If you prefer the city life, I had a great time hanging out with Chef Oliver at Grange Restaurant. He's not just a spot-on chef, but a pretty swell guy. Plus, it's in the Citizen Hotel, which is the best place to stay in Sacramento.
  • Wow was I blown away by Humboldt Bay! Jon has created an amazing visitors center (that's the bar with the oysters and cool looking beer glasses you see in act 3) and a slew of tours you can take. Oysters and Weed would make a pretty fun two-day weekend! Plus, Jon rents out really cool vacation homes right on the beach. Cue the campfires and morning walks.

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Be Careful What You Wish For

These few simple words are burned all over my insides. How that came to be or where I heard it first? Time washed away that memory long ago. But as I sit at a bar, alone, in Bangkok, facing an upcoming Thanksgiving on a plane, alone, the words creep closer and spank me gently.

An apt assessment of any new place / time zone your first night. In this case: Bangkok.

An apt assessment of any new place / time zone your first night. In this case: Bangkok.

Last year I directed my first feature film, Big Dream: a story about overachieving young women around the world, I’m sure I’ve mentioned it here before. It was accepted into the American Film Showcase and while I haven’t yet sold it to desired outlets like Netflix or Amazon, embassies around the country are surprisingly chomping at the bit to bring the film, and myself, to share with their communities.

A school in Thailand made this-- all my amazing stars and my 2010 baby face.

A school in Thailand made this-- all my amazing stars and my 2010 baby face.

Thailand is the first stop on my tour; Zambia, Algeria, and Singapore are already lined up with more to be announced through 2016.

To know I am here, on behalf of diplomats and people who wear suits and ties and have big expensive educations is…shocking? Surprising? Interesting? I’m not sure how to file that away yet. I’ll be rolling that through my mind grapes and down in and out of my heart the next 18 days while they escort me around the country.

It's legit!

It's legit!

Regardless, here I am at a bar the color of dark chocolate, a nautilus of whiskeys, bourbons, and scotches twirling towards the sky. Jet lag engulfing my senses. And the panic attack of missing my family over the Thanksgiving holiday being held at bay only by the liquid spread before me.

When I set out to make this film I never really thought too deeply on it’s outcome. It took almost 2 years, and nearly giving up, just to get the funding in place to make the damn thing. So maybe, the real words to tattoo on my insides are: “Be Careful What You Work For.” Because you never know where your actions will lead you.

When you really try for something it’s nearly impossible to forecast the outcomes. Seems a bit ominous, no? Maybe “careful” isn’t precise enough. Careful and cautionary are terms I try to keep myself fairly unfamiliar with.

Setting out on the journey of Original Fare- as much as I put myself in the way of story- never could I have mapped out where this path would take me.

Little brother & I embarking on the first iterations of Original Fare as we moved across country from NYC to CA. Back in good ol' 2012! Or 2011? Or 2013? Shit, I can't remember...

Little brother & I embarking on the first iterations of Original Fare as we moved across country from NYC to CA. Back in good ol' 2012! Or 2011? Or 2013? Shit, I can't remember...

Chuck says in this Thanksgiving holiday special about building his company Pacific, they wrote a 5-year plan in the beginning and then went back to see that while their numbers may have matched where they were as a company was completely different then where they had planned.

Now in 2015, and 2 whole seasons later: Behind the scenes moment from our Pacific Foods- Thanksgiving Shoot. Which we shot in June. The grand magic of film...

Now in 2015, and 2 whole seasons later: Behind the scenes moment from our Pacific Foods- Thanksgiving Shoot. Which we shot in June. The grand magic of film...

I could never have predicted where my work has taken me this year. Bringing these stories together is not just work done on my own, but through the ideas and aid of dozens of incredible individuals who share a similar hunger; the brave who lead me into uncharted corners; the brazen who concoct crazy ideas to cover; the bold who dare drink beside me wee into the hours of the night.

There's not enough room here to pay proper homage to all of you. I'm saving it all for my in-depth tell all. So here's a photo of my broke-ass boots because I can't stop/wont stop.

There's not enough room here to pay proper homage to all of you. I'm saving it all for my in-depth tell all. So here's a photo of my broke-ass boots because I can't stop/wont stop.

And even more my friends and family who have known me always and yet love me still.

My best friends forever. No holiday is ever truly complete without each of you. I also love it's also the only family photo we have.

My best friends forever. No holiday is ever truly complete without each of you. I also love it's also the only family photo we have.

Next week for Thanksgiving so many of you will be sitting around the smell of turkey, the promise of stretched waist lines, and the comfort of those you love and love you; sharing or maybe quietly reflecting on the important moments of your year, things newly cherished, or the eternal blessings you hold dear; know I am thinking of you.

I’m so thankful my life and work brings me closer to all of you. Your stories, your passion, your support is what makes this all possible. I will never be careful and I will always work harder (see: boot photo). But what I never say enough is: thank you.

So while I’m trying to order another one or ask the cook where their chicken comes from in horribly fragmented Thai: Have the best Thanksgiving ever.

See you soon,

Kelly

 


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"I Aint Nuthin But A No Good Small Town Girl"

I Ain’t Nuthin' But a No Good Small Town Girl”— Aida Victoria

It’s time we go back. I began this show to understand where our food comes from. This season we’ve seen the inspiration the Philippines played for Chef Carlo, we dove through jungle and ocean with Kaino on his home island of Maui, we ventured to Puerto Rico to find the spicy roots of Chef Cristina. What we discovered is the story of place is a key ingredient to the passion of a person.  

So here we are. Now forced through the flowing vein of story to go back to my own beginnings. The tiny town of 200 in Napoleon, Missouri. With farmers made villainous by a movement of organics, gmo-free, and environmentalists; this is the heartland of food production where corn, soy, and wheat are king. These are folk who have worked the same land for centuries yet so rarely are their stories told.

A place I haven’t been a part of in almost 20 years. It’s the origin story of how we “Kelly”-  or get run outta town fast.

Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town.”— The Coug

The town of Napoleon is a dot on a bluff overlooking the muddy Missouri River. It’s an hour and change east of Kansas City. A paved road winds through hillsides of corn, wheat, and soy shuttling you gently away from society. Further away from lights. And deeper into the thick of country. There are no stoplights. No gas stations. We have instead a United Church of Christ, a Methodist church, a bank, a post office, and once upon a time a general store that has since shuttered and given way to antiques.

The very bones of this community are built around farming.

Growing up, I spent almost every day on Jennifer’s farm. Jennifer was my closest friend. She was the chestnut brunette to my white, wispy blonde. I can’t even recall how we met as we were friends as far back memory takes me. Our homes were separated by maybe a mile and each summer was spent on bikes going back and forth to each others houses. I can see her face in my mind as a shy kindergartner, wearing a striped purple sweatshirt, her thin chestnut bangs framing her tanned skin. I can see her face nearing our teens- hair no longer down by her shoulders but up tightly in a scrunchie. I can recall the smells of her home as easily as my own.

Jennifer and I at one of our many dance recitals. Motownphilly!

Jennifer and I at one of our many dance recitals. Motownphilly!

Her family had been working their land for over a century. Her property looked much like the idyllic pictures you now see on bacon packaging: Big burnt red barns weathered and splintered around the edges. Cows in grass, small lot of pigs, a few chickens here and there. It was our playground as children. I rescued a kitten from her uncle’s pigs who my father named Lucky when I brought him home unexpectedly that afternoon. I’d help Jennifer mix the powdered milk substance for the baby calfs. The smell like baby’s breath and hay filling her basement. We’d play with rabbits she raised for Future Farmers of America. Jennifer’s father, David, was also our Ag-Business teacher. (And sometimes bus driver or volunteer firefighter/EMT with my father. Such is the way of a small town.)

An early birthday party with my friends. And a cameo by little brother.

An early birthday party with my friends. And a cameo by little brother.

When I finally made the decision to go back to Napoleon to film this story I knew I had to start with Jennifer & her father. David is a farmer not by trade but by skill. And working with the land, knowing the land you work with, wasn’t something that just worked itself out of you after time. Plus, Jennifer and her siblings had all gone into agri-business in some way. She into commodities, her brother into corn syrup production, and her sister in conservation with USDA. It also meant I would get to see Jennifer.

I hadn’t been in touch with any of them since I left town at 15- I’m 33 now. And I can’t say I left by choice. I left because I had no choice but to go.

While Jennifer and other friends went to the state fair to show pigs with her father I was pursuing any other extra-curricular activities I could get my hands on. Student council? I’m running. Volleyball? Cheerleading? Basketball? Sign me up. I’d bring home my textbooks at the start of every school year and ask my parents to give me assignments. I even put myself through bible school at the United Church of Christ at 13 because I loved to have binders I could organize with topics I could study. (Organized religion, on the other hand, I discovered didn’t quite fit.) School- the community- was my life.

Ha! This is what I call church Kelly. She didn't last long.

Ha! This is what I call church Kelly. She didn't last long.

I was an overachiever but farming had little to do with my future plans. Neither of my parents were farmers. When my parents decided our opportunities were short-lived in the farming community we moved to the suburbs. I was 15. I was excited about the idea of a big school: I could learn French! I could study writing at Berkley! I could travel the world! But once the final box was unpacked in our new two-story home the only thing I could think about was going home. Back to the country. Where our yards weren’t sectioned off with fences. Where the night always blanketed the land in stars. Where I knew everyone and everyone knew me.

So Here We Are Face to Face”— Firehouse

Of course, there was also a boy. (There’s always a boy, amiright?)

He was the boy no one liked. I didn’t see that of course. All I saw was a boy driving a baby blue thunderbird who made me weak in the stomach.

I first came back to visit the little town to see Jennifer and my other friends. Then it was to hang out with this boy. I became distracted by his social circle. I neglected mine. His had a reputation for drugs and beer and parties. Mine was at football games, class meetings, and church.

But the over achiever in me always has a plan. Even as marijuana, Southern Comfort and cigarettes crept into my barely 4-feet tall, 15-year old body, I had a plan. I was going to lose my virginity to this boy. I’d made up my mind he was the one and even more than that, I knew I had to leave. This was my way of keeping myself there, in some way, beyond my departure.

Plans finally shifted to my focus and it became my night to make my move. It meant losing it on our friend’s basement floor but it wasn't going to hold me back. I was too fixated on getting the story right. There was a movie playing on their big screen in the background. I can’t remember which. The basement was empty but for us and 3 couches. Yet we were on the floor. He pulled down his pants. I pulled mine down, crowding the denim sloppily around my ankles. He pumped once, twice, three times. It was over. He rolled off and went to the bathroom. I wasn’t his first. But he was mine.

After my night on the basement floor, the phone calls from my friends became less and less. The boy in the baby blue thunderbird never spoke to me again. As I tried to engage more in my new school- now a graduating class of 400 vs the 18 I grew up with- I only felt more and more isolated and alone. I withdrew deeper. My hands reached for other activities, like cocaine, acid, pills— not the textbooks they once clung to excitedly. I was always sure he wouldn’t call. But to have no one.

Eventually two classmates I’d gone through bible school with came to visit me. I asked where everyone had gone. They divulged that the boy in the blue thunderbird told everyone he and his friends gang-banged me. The number involved was around 5. I knew each of their names, who they were, their girlfriends, their sisters and their mothers. If they said it, too, I’ll never know. It could have just been the embarrassing story of losing virginity. The shape of my boobs, my lack of knowledge, the awkward motions two unaccustomed bodies take shape. It’s a classic tale that never really leaves you and is always good for a laugh. Instead, it became a harsh cycle of gossip that destroyed 15 years of over-achieving. One story had replaced my identity overnight. He took my community. He took my life.

It Wouldn’t Have Worked Out Anyway”— Ben Harper

And now I return. I couldn’t sleep the night before seeing Jennifer. Coming back after all these years, the bitterness and anger had subsided to sadness, and it hits me harshly. As I drive there, trying to roll camera on story, I cry. It was as though I’d been robbed from decades of growing with my friends. Of being able to come back and dig my hands into the soil of my home.

Driving up to their home, I am greeted with the welcoming hugs I remember as a child. No harsh exchange or look of disdain. Just another summer day visiting my oldest friends. Jennifer and her father take me on a tour of the agricultural landscape. From then to now, farming’s identity had changed. David was raised farming a different way. When the land was multi-purpose. He knows exactly what will be planted on this plot next year because now it just toggles back and forth between corn & soy. Since I’d been there the market had shifted. The industry, the consumer had reacted to the convenience of food production and farmers had to re-direct their course on life. They came together to feed the ethanol production in order to keep their land to work on. They had to fight for what they know.

David and Jennifer explaining the usage of corn silage: feed, yes, but also lots of plastic

David and Jennifer explaining the usage of corn silage: feed, yes, but also lots of plastic

After my time with David & Jennifer, I visit another childhood friend, Bret. Bret took over his family farm to pursue “specialty crops.” Which really means he grows vegetables. Bret is the next generation of farming. On his land you’ll find pumpkin mazes, jump pads, u-pick berries, and two little pigs named “Hottie” and “Pickle.” For any one whose visited the east coast this form of agri-tourism is nothing new. But to the heartland it’s a renaissance.

Me and my ol buddy Bret talking the changing seasons of farming.

Me and my ol buddy Bret talking the changing seasons of farming.

What rings through each of our stories is the importance of identity. It’s a constant struggle to reaffirm who you really are against a tidal wave of forces working against you. For David’s generation it was to keep their land in business as best they could. For Bret, he is the salmon swimming up river to try and get the consumer back to where it started. Simply purchasing food from a farmer. For me, it is a constant struggle to be a part of place when so thoroughly displaced early on. The fight is afoot for each of us, yet to see David, Jennifer & Bret so fully immersed in the community they were raised in, makes my retreat look weak and cowardly. I could get angry at the forces surrounding me, or I could have raised fist with my comrades and fought for everything I am and everything I believe.

As I write this, I want to say thank you to the boy in the blue thunderbird. I may not have stayed to rage against the gossip chains and defend my honor. Instead, a fire was lit. A fire to balk tradition and seek life on my own terms. I would have clung to that small town like a fever but I wasn’t ready. I had to dive into a rabbit hole of drugs & exploration so deeply I got kicked out of high school at 17, because I knew I never really belonged in the suburbs. By 18 I was living and working in New York City- building a life designed by me. And now here I am, many years later, with the experience to come back, sit among my community once again, and share their story with the world. It may not have been Berkley and straight-A’s, but it’s my journey as written by me.

By the way, the other guy with Bret, Jennifer & I here is Kyle. He's the one who told me all about the gossip chain back in the day. He's a great man and I was proud to see him with everyone.

By the way, the other guy with Bret, Jennifer & I here is Kyle. He's the one who told me all about the gossip chain back in the day. He's a great man and I was proud to see him with everyone.

Having faith in our story, our purpose and our identity is paramount to survival. It is what makes each of us thoroughly unique yet thoroughly connected. As Bret says in the episode, “I don’t care if you’re organic, conventional, whatever. It’s time farmers come together.” Because identity is powerful.

Of course, though, dear blonde, blue-eyed boy in the thunderbird, if I ever cross your path after my usual allotment of whiskey, “Watch yo back.” Cuz these fists been farming. And they’re at the ready for a good fight.

 



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The Adventure We Didn't Film

"Are we having fun yet?" Pat, a spritely 70-something pats me on my shoulder as she shows me around her temporary housing- a shipping container with a door on it. We'd just picked up her hitchhiking thumb ten minutes before. I smiled in response as I tried to figure out how to answer that question.

I came to Molokai to do a story on wild venison. Sadly, this story was postponed again and again until I finally gave up and moved in the direction of reef foraging. I had wanted to centralize the story on the elusive island of Molokai because venison has been such an important source of food for the locals. Once the venison story imploded, I ended up having a day on Molokai with nothing to film.

In all of our years traveling & filming I can't recall ever having a day with nothing to do, so once we boarded the island hopper and flew over lusciously emerald Jurassic Park peaks, the mysterious Leper Colony Kalaupapa, and landed on a band-aid air strip, I made a hasty plan of shooting additional footage and finding *the* expert fisherman.

The airport is an open ended hallway with one or two ticketing stands for the little planes that fly in and out, and an Alamo stand for rental cars. It takes about 2.5 seconds to walk through and even less to get out of the airport area. In about ten minutes of driving you realize how far you have come to get somewhere hidden, somewhere quiet, and slightly desolate. Molokai is earthy crimson. Compared to the blue and green hues of the coast it's interior ruggedness is striking. It feels like the American southwest but the air is thicker, and more fragrant from the kiawe. The island is empty- especially comparing to the highly trafficked areas of Waikiki in Oahu or Kihei in Maui.

The rugged red dirt of Molokai

The rugged red dirt of Molokai

My mind struggles to hum inside the ideas of story. The scenery changes from dried, golden reeds to the little village, a postage stamp, and just as Lucas & I make plans to go back to fill our empty bellies I see an older woman, visored and sunglassed, canvas bags a plenty, with her thumb out. "We should pick her up, right?"  Lucas asked, looking at me for confirmation. "It's the Aloha spirit," I said. As he pulled the car slowly over I could see the woman shirk in a Gob Bluth style "Come on" from my rear view mirror. Once she realized we were stopping she picked up her bags and began a lively jog over. It was my first time picking up a hitchhiker.

"Hey, how ya doin'?" She said in a bright voice. Her tone was immediately upbeat, spunky. She was clearly a bit overheated and sweaty from standing in the sun. "Where you folks headed?" We told her we'd just arrived and were heading to our hotel with not much to do. "Oh, well we'll pass your hotel but if you don't mind taking me to the 5 mile road marker, it's only about two miles past." She explained she used to be a tour guide on the island and could tell us anything we wanted to know. We started talking about what we're doing here- food adventure show and trying to find story around reef fish- and she told us about her decades spent as a diver. We introduced ourselves by name and met Pat- technically Pohakamalamalama Pat.

Pat's business card.

Pat's business card.

The conversation somehow shifted to her telling us she's homeless right now. Sad to say, my first reaction was like "Oh shit, did we just get a crazy?" but my mouth moved words with compassion and asked what had happened. She pulled out some newspaper clippings to show a piece in Letters & Announcements that told her story.

The article Pat published in the local paper.

Pat had been rescuing and housing forgotten animals since she moved to the island in the 70's, but recently her landlords decided they didn't want her 3 dogs and she's been struggling to find a place since. She walks about 4 or 5 miles each day, hoping to hail a ride if she can, to use the internet, check her mailbox, check on her stuff all stuck inside a storage container, find a book at the library, and most importantly find a place to live.

At this point we've reached mile marker 5 but instead she's invited us to see her "wacky" temporary home and to really meet "the girls" (her dogs). We get off the main vein of the island and onto a rugged dirt road where I suddenly feel like I'm back in the Ozarks with my homesteading family. There's odd looking patched up structures made into dwellings, a standard small house or two, solar panels clustered throughout tall mango trees, and eventually the shipping container Pat calls temporary home.

"Are we havin' fun yet?" Pat nearly laughs her catch phrase out loud as we get out of the car and take our location in. She goes inside the door- one has been added to the front- to get her three girls and bring them out to meet us. Eager, big, but very sweet, her pups are put on a rope because they aren't in an area they can wander. Pat shows us inside-  her mattress that has to be moved constantly while trying to figure out where rain didn't come in. There was an old tv set that gets electricity for a short window in the evening so she can watch the news. A high table for bits of cooking components, like a campsite, for her meals. There's no bathroom or shower but she proudly pulled up a hose attachment that Lucas helped her open.

It was 10am and I couldn't tell if both Lucas & I wanted to leave or if we were hungry. She invited us for a puff of weed and we brought out some beers we'd stashed in the car from Maui. Soon the three of us sat on some stumps outside the shipping container to "Talk Story." A term commonly used on the island that essentially encompassed everything I love about conversation. Let's go deep. Let's avoid the shallow end of small talk. Let's talk story.

Pat showed us photos of a house she built on one side of the island in the 70's. Her friend had bought a bunch of lumber and Pat knew, had it been left unattended, would be stolen, or foraged for, by the locals. So she set up camp and began through trial & error to construct a pretty amazing house. Pat was in the army. Pat had a second life and described a car accident she had where she was T-boned, dragged across the road on her face and pronounced dead on-site. But my telling is a disgusting disservice. Pat's description was seeing the entire process being played out from above. A new soul about to take a nearly destroyed body. And as the paramedics were about to ditch her recently deceased corpse at the nearest hospital, Pat's new soul was slapped inside and she sat up shocking everyone in the ambulance. Pat shouldn't have had any use in her legs. Pat shouldn't have recovered to be a perfectly able bodied woman. But she did.

Let's back up a second. One of the reasons Lucas & I thought we should leave straight away after dropping Pat off is- we knew we could get the gear out, set up the camera, put a microphone on Pat and put together a great episode, but this was a time I didn't want to film. When we film, my first job is to be absorbed and present with my subject. Immediately followed by writing, producing, editing- really overall shaping- the story as it happens. It's a mind that hums quickly to make this two person process efficient. On the quiet island of Molokai in the backwoods with this fascinating woman, I just wanted to be present. Lucas & I looked at each other and without words had this entire conversation and the camera case wasn't opened.

By about 3pm and after much talking story we moseyed on to our hotel. Making a plan to come and meet Pat in the morning and spend our last day on the island with her.

We found her in the village around 9am clearing out her junk mail on her laptop, seeing if anyone had responded to her letters in the mail. The three of us walked through the village and picked up some beers and provisions for the day. Pat was in her ultimate tour guide form as we got back in the car and heard history. She took us to the overlook spot of Kalaupapa and talked about Father Damien. We wandered through the crimson roads as she showed us her past homes and hopefully future neighborhoods. We drank beer. She asked if I knew she was a lesbian (yes, I did. The rainbow pin on her lapel a dead giveaway). She took us to her favorite old diving spot where I befriended a gang of wild cats with deli meats.

Eventually we ended on another beach to eat and have a swim. In the water she spoke to a local she'd met in passing who may have a lead on a place. Pat was positive the house was coming to her this week. Somehow it was coming. Pat also liked to say, "No beliefs required." Because it's not about believing: it's about what happens. And as we waded out in the water we noticed a local pulling a large bag of something on the rocks. She was worried he was dumping trash- not uncommon- and we eyed him as we fought the waves to retreat from the ocean bed.

"Hey, do you guys want some venison?" This tanned, shirtless man asked us.

Pat said to take whatever he offers as she rushed off to gather her stuff to leave. I followed the handsome young man over to his truck (what's up with these island guys?!) He just killed a deer about an hour ago nearby. He told me, as I had assumed through research, venison is very big for subsistence living. I told him about Pat and that she would appreciate whatever he wants to provide. He handed me a long heavy piece of saddle meat. It could feed a family for days. I asked if I could trade him something. He declined my offers. Invited us to stay for beers but I sadly told him we had a flight to catch.

Pat was thrilled to take us back to her shipping container to cook something for us before we left. She explained how much fun it had been spending time together and wanted to show her appreciation. I told her I felt bad because I didn't have anything to trade him in thanks.

"Kelly, that's the Aloha spirit. It's to give. It's not because you want something in return."

Pat begrudgingly cooked in her crock pot like contraption ("This should be done on the stove with a little a butter and salt, not like this," she said) and invited the neighbors over who loaned her the shipping container. We talked a little more story and eventually made a tearful goodbye.

Pat: we've played a little phone tag since I saw you last and I apologize. I'm terrible at the phone. My connection is through being present together or words written, but there is not a day that goes by that I don't think of you and miss you. We are kindred spirits. You are a vagabond of story- just like me- and I can't tell you how rare it is to come across that even in my travels.

I loved that our story together ended where I started: with venison. But even if it didn't, you showed me the Aloha spirit. I just wanted to give a fellow woman a ride to wherever you needed to go.

I'll see you again soon, Pat. No Beliefs Required.

Pat & Kelly pose with their gifted venison outside of Pat's

Pat & Kelly pose with their gifted venison outside of Pat's

Pat cooks up the venison

Pat cooks up the venison

One of the girls poses for Lucas

One of the girls poses for Lucas

The venison is served

The venison is served









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Whatever happened to being the damsel in distress?

I definitely have an addiction to putting myself into situations that scare me.

I went skydiving when I was younger not because it was on my bucket list but because I thought I had to. I spent my teenage years with groups of much older, slightly dangerous guys because it wasn't safe. I fly constantly and am convinced every single time it's my day to die. When I started doing this show I was terrified of guns and never wanted to kill an animal- and now I would love nothing more than to walk into a field to hunt.

When I do the show with women they are much better at preparing me for what I'm about to get into. With Holly and our duck hunting episode, she made me go through gun training, get fitted, spend some time at the range before she'd get into the field with me. Going out to hunt gaper clams in Bodega Bay with her partner, Hank (my first episode), he told me "You better keep up or you'll be left behind." (Hank, in your defense, we didn't have guns. I'm sure you'd be much more on my ass about details with shotguns in my hands.)

I came across Kainoa and Mike's dinner series through some help from the tourism board. They do these monthly dinners at Grand Wailea in Maui and let's be honest: the Grand Wailea isn't necessarily Original Fare ethos. But after a phone conversation I really got that they were passionate about utilizing ingredients foraged from the lands based on moon phases. And Mike suggested spearfishing. That sounds scary so yeah, let's do this.

Chef Mike & Kainoa at their dinner

Chef Mike & Kainoa at their dinner

As you'll see in the episode, Kainoa begins every venture into ocean or jungle or wherever he is seeking food with an Oli. It's the Hawaiian's chant to acknowledge the gods and pay tribute and respect. It's also kind of asking for permission. It's the kind of ritual I do every time I stand at the edge of sea but mine is nearly wordless, always silent, and recently limited to just wading in chest deep.

Kainoa on the rocks

Kainoa on the rocks

I followed Mike and Kainoa while Lucas trailed behind trying desperately to manipulate cameras and flippers and waves all at the same time. We waded out into water: seeing first a sandy blanket below. Then dark mounds take shape in your eyes as rocks. The movement of fish dilates your pupils and a sharper, more detailed perception comes into view. Before you know it you’re swimming out over thick, hilly clusters of jagged rock, coral, spiny sea urchins, and the occasional sea turtle half my size.

We stayed in a group at first, then Mike ventured on to do some real hunting (which was great because he got the fish needed for the dinner).  Kainoa began to swim out deeper to find vana. The current pushed me towards sea turtles and I became entranced by their gentle movements in the water. Their graceful half turns. I paddled my flippers towards them to do a water dance. Getting closer I tried to mimic their movements. Learn from the experts. Pretty soon I realized the current had pushed me on the other side of very steep, rocky cliffs filled with spiny urchins with only a shallow distance between the surface. I panicked. I couldn't see the guys. The current was pushing me harder and I had only one direction to head in- over these rocks- as any other way meant further out into the deep, dark, quiet sea.

It was at this moment I realized that sometimes I want to be treated like the girl everybody takes care of. The damsel in distress. The women in my family would be doted on and saved. Yet here I am, lifetime trait of being thrown into the deep end- never let the boys see you sweat so sort it out on your own- finally slapped me in the face.

Eventually I had to nut up and propelled myself hard against the water, over the rocks, my bare stomach sucking in tight to keep from bringing along an urchin or five.

Sometimes I wonder if my addiction is to the feeling of calm I get after doing these often sketchy activities. As I pulled myself out of the water and back onto the shore, that sense of facing my fears and working for it swelled inside. I was ready to drink. To celebrate not being a pussy. But then the guys tell me we're heading onto the rocks to harvest opihi- and it's the most dangerous sport fishing because these little limpets grow on the edges of the rocks, have to be pried off by a butter knife, and if you aren't paying attention the waves will knock you out, drag you in, leaving your lifeless, shredded body to wash up in Tahiti.

The guys & I waiting for the waves to give us room to forage. Notice their confidence!

The guys & I waiting for the waves to give us room to forage. Notice their confidence!

So of course, I do it. I follow them- all three of us barefoot on the rocks- to harvest. The feeling of accomplishment comes again. But at this point I'm too tired to even care. And sunburned.

The deadly Opihi.

The deadly Opihi.

The next morning I follow the same two daredevils as we trek off pavement, trail, and into mud and weed, deep in the jungle. We're gathering fruits like guava, thimbleberry, the invasive strawberry guava, yellow ginger, and awapuhi. There is no path really, except for muddy patches showing the locals come and go here for foraging as they please. Kainoa is barefoot so my shoes come off. The mud and the scent of yellow ginger fill me with a sense of home. Not that we had exotic fragrances like Hawaii in Missouri, but being barefoot and muddy is my happy place. My childhood.

You'll see in the episode as I'm pulling guavas off these high branches I look down and spot something beneath the brush. A bad ass tonto point pocket knife. A tool I'd been wanting for months. In Hawaii you can't leave with shells and such but this man made material in the jungle; it was given to me and Kainoa said I had to take it.

My new adventure companion!

My new adventure companion!

The trek is going great until we have to get down the mountain to the spring to wash off. The only sense of a path is mud slides from yesterday's storm. It's steep. Our option is to hang from strawberry guava tree branches as support. I fall immediately. Another fear of mine is falling. I take my time.

Kainoa captured my muddy feet

Kainoa captured my muddy feet

The boys are faster, and further ahead. I can hear their conversations in the distance as my short self tries to reach to branch, shoes in one hand, and then reach for another. Kainoa did offer to carry my shoes multiple times but my female pride got in the way. I keep getting stuck in places, more frustrated, and further behind from the group.

At this point the sound of their voices are gone and I stop. I want to scream out "Wait for me!" I want pull my husband aside and remind him I'm the girl he's supposed to take care of. I want to forget women's lib all together and get carried down this treacherous cliff side like a damsel in distress. As I'm dropping my shoes to the ground in frustration, ready to leave them as a gift for the next person, my arm brushes the knife. I pick it up, unfold the blade, and feel it in my hand.

The jungle presented this to me. This tool that I've been in need of since starting the show, doing these adventures, on my quest to become more self-reliant. As my feet seep down into the mud my happy place envelopes me. "Remember kid, this is the path you chose," I tell myself. I realize my addiction has never been about being scared or to feel that sense of relief because I've accomplished something. It's because I know how short life is. And I want it to be filled exploring all the wild there is to do.

And if I'm gonna pull that off I can't be hollering for the boys to wait up. I have to be self-reliant. I get to be the adventurer. Not the damsel in distress.

 




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PATHS THAT CROSS

A student walks the halls at Light Of Hope.

A student walks the halls at Light Of Hope.

I really have no idea how I got there. A phone call occurred, likely sparked from an email exchange. As the car rolled up curvy mountainsides, bustling with broad shouldered baboons and little pits of fire where men roasted corn for passersby, I was racking my brain with what brought me out to this school where I left moved to exhaustion.

 

Light of Hope is a school for girls. I was in Kenya filming a story for my documentary Big Dream, with a really capable young woman named Martha. I enjoyed spending time with this 21 year old, who felt wise beyond my years, so I invited her to come spend the weekend with me at Light Of Hope. You may also remember Martha from the chicken episode.

Martha poses with a chicken she bought at the market for our Dirty Bird episode.

Martha poses with a chicken she bought at the market for our Dirty Bird episode.

 

With a small crew like ours, and tiny budget to match, Lucas & I tripled up on filming for both the documentary and multiple episodes of Original Fare. The work load nearly broke us, and in some ways I still feel like I’m recovering a year later, but the parallel between both the documentary and Original Fare radiates around girl power. When Light of Hope came upon me, I knew the story of girl power would be lurking somewhere inside the walls. And when a story calls…

The school is somewhere outside the little village of Naivasha. It’s exact location meant little to me because it was my first time in the country and I was already completely turned around. There are no hotels nearby so the owners of the school set the three of us up at a little bed and breakfast ran by their friends just a walk away.

 

We had no car once dropped off in this lost little place and had to walk a dirt path until we found the school. I was a bit nervous - we had all of our equipment on us - just walking down this strange path to a strange school. A man walking passed carrying a machete kindly asking us for money, we all exchanged a smile and a wave. (Don’t worry, Kelly, this gear will all be stolen in a few months time in Italy anyways. You will soon learn your possessions aren't meant to own you.)

A large guarded gate greeted us with the following words "Mission Statement: Making a Difference One At A Time By Providing Refuge, Quality Education, Spiritual, Social, and Emotional Support".

The girls were all gathered in the cafeteria waiting for us to be introduced. Their ages ranged from 2 to 22. We all shyly looked in each others direction until we journeyed outside together where the activity of picking lettuces and vegetables for our lunch got us chatting.

 

I knew there were hardships in nearly all of these girl’s stories but I didn’t want to exploit them in any way. I didn’t want to be the outsider filmmaker there with sappy music, pushing the camera towards the downtrodden and rusty corners of walls to manipulate some image. These girls were dressed in bright colors, laughing, playing, being as any young girl can be. What I wanted to do was meet them. Pick lettuce. Talk movies. Talk fashion. Answer questions they may have about my country. Ask them questions about theirs. And that’s what we spent our first day doing. Just learning each other.

Martha sits in front of the fire at the B&B in Naivasha.

Martha sits in front of the fire at the B&B in Naivasha.

 

That night Martha, Lucas, and I sat around the fire at the B&B. Nights were chilly in Kenya and it had been an intense few days of shooting. Plus, we had cow stomach for dinner that even Martha felt tasted a little off, but as guests we ate as much as we could. I asked Martha what she may know about these girls and the environments they come from. Martha explained that female genital mutilation is still something quite popular among some tribes and was certain many of the girls had been through the horrific process. The idea being women are property and to enjoy sexual pleasure is not why we have sex. It’s also to discourage women from cheating on men. Men who all have rights to have intercourse with whomever/whenever they choose. Lucas added more wood to the fire as Martha’s toes got colder. I became determined to hear these girls stories.

Lucas films the students frying the chapati.

Lucas films the students frying the chapati.

 

As we filmed the scene of making chapati the next day Miriam, the headmistress, brought me into her office and said some of the girls would like to talk to me.

The first girl I sat with was Grace. At 5 years old Grace was left on the side of the road with her baby sister. Eventually they were picked up and brought to Light of Hope. I couldn’t stop staring at her yellow t-shirt after she spoke. The office had shreds of light coming through a high window. I smiled at Grace repeatedly. I could say nothing. What have I to add? Beyond compassion and an ear I have no idea what that must have felt like. Grace may be around 9 or 10 now, and later in the day I could see her still watching after her little sister.

Evelyn came in next. Evelyn was the most recent addition to the school. Her eyes were in shadows. I could feel the intensity burning off of her. I waited to let her speak at the pace she was comfortable with. Evelyn was married off by her father in exchange for a cow to a much older man a few villages over. Evelyn was beaten and raped. Evelyn had enough one day and walked through the village- in which she was a stranger- and asked around until she found a police station. Evelyn had her husband arrested. She was 13.

Evelyn’s father wont speak to her. She was his property until she decided she wasn’t. Evelyn spoke with measured emotion. I did my best to meet her gaze, keep water out of my eyes, and show her all the respect I could.

Evelyn, what I should have said to you that day was this: When I was 19 I was raped. I lived in New York City. I ran away from the scene and further still. I never reported the crime. I never had him arrested. I was 19. You are the bravest soul I have ever met. Your story is a beacon of not just hope but strength to all girls out there who have been confused as property. You shared your story with me so I feel obliged to share mine. I feel full of shame just typing the words of what happened. After meeting you, a young woman who I would never want to feel shame for what you went through, I learn we have to remove that word from those experiences.

I sat with a few other girls and eventually we all returned to the cafeteria to eat our lunch. Evelyn began to play with Lucas’ camera and whatever shyness was upon us at the start was now invisible. We all played games, made funny faces for the camera, laughed and shared cake.

A student shows off her homemade glasses.

A student shows off her homemade glasses.

Lucas builds lego creations with the girls. Rocketship!

Lucas builds lego creations with the girls. Rocketship!

 

I know this is a show about food. And I hope you enjoy learning how this area of our world makes their bread on a wood stove and uses the bounty of vegetables grown from their garden to feed a school of girls. So often as Americans we see limited viewpoints of places less traveled to. The people here have more access to vegetables and fruits than we. In Kenya it's a luxury to buy a box of cookies where kale is grown widely. If any of you have been to a grocery store in America recently then you know that is not our story. To limit this experience to a recipe or a how-to would do each of these girls an injustice. And what I think all of us love about food is how it so quickly can connect us.

After saying tearful goodbyes and taking many more photos (most of which were sadly among the stolen goods), Martha, Lucas and I head back to Nairobi. As the car began to move beyond the great valley and into the mountains, I realized what brought me here. I had to run all the way to a school outside of Naivasha to learn how to be strong. And how to make chapati.




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I was a two-time loser

Those words were spoken to me by Ronnie, head of plant operations for Dave’s Killer Bread. I sat in his office as he described what landed him into prison the first time: selling ecstasy. Not long after, he was back in the system- which sadly, is not very uncommon for formerly incarcerated individuals.

Dave's Killer Bread, or DKB, is one of the few mass production operations I’ve come across that considers such details like which ingredients to use. That attention to detail is rare enough, so it was a surprisie to discover a business with individuals once filled with such shame.

Much like Ronnie, I myself have a past that at times makes me sigh out loud from deep in my diaphragm; a wave of shame, regret, confusion, and self loathing rolling throughout my body like a thunderstorm creeping on the horizon. As though every inch of me needs reminding what a fuck up I can be.

By the time I turned 15 years old I went from a straight-A student, an early model Leslie Knope, to a drug addict who stole from my family, spent time in an institution, was cuffed in the back of a cop car on multiple occasions, and was ultimately kicked out of high school by 17. I was a multi-time loser. I headed straight for NYC before my peers graduated high school; the path only bounced me harder. The difference between me and Ronnie, Crystal, Wilhelm and the others I met at DKB? I didn’t always get caught.

I sought out a story on DKB because it was a bread introduced to me by my father (and agreeing with him on anything in the realm of food is a giant triumph), but when I learned about their recidivism program, my interest went beyond food. I became obsessed with exploring the opportunity companies have to give people second chances.

America may have a fascinating addiction to putting things between two pieces of bread but its addiction to the prison system is far more dangerous. We incarcerate more people than any other country in the world. And what typically happens to those individuals who come out the other end? If they are lucky, a barely minimum-wage job. A stigma. A life filled with shame.

Now, this is a food show, and I have no intention to enter the deep well of conversation- albeit important- on individuals who should no longer be in society vs those that have paid back a very real debt to society.  For the time being- until I can find a food related story- I will forgo focusing on America's very scary obsession with incarcerating male minorities often for small drug charges, or worse, no charges at all.

The conversation I’m pointing to is how important second chances are. Or forgiveness. Or re-jiggering a corporate structure that takes away a box you have to check that automatically omits your opportunities for getting real work (which typically reduce chances for employment by 50%), or paying a debt back to society in a real way. If you look at what Crystal describes in the episode on how she brings food into schools for kids who don’t normally have access to healthy meals, that is what I call a very positive imprint on our communities.

I may do my show and try my damnedest to promote individuals, businesses and farmers who are creating good in this world, but I look at what Crystal does and think how much more I should be doing. Because ultimately we’ve all fucked up once or twice or multiple times in our lives, and don’t we all owe something- even a little- back to each other and ourselves?

To quote the great Liz Lemon, “All of humankind has one thing in common: the sandwich.” If this connection through putting ingredients between two slices of bread can inspire a conversation around second chances- I’m in.

Kelly visits Dave's Killer Bread expecting to understand America's addiction to bread. But she ends up learning how this Milwaukie, OR, company is providing much-needed second chances and trying to help beat America's addiction to incarceration.

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What do we really have to lose?

It’s rare I ever begin an interview in the field just drinking beers and floating flat on my back staring at a bright white sun- but for some, this is what they call home.

Cristina & I met when I approached her about going to Spain on a culinary trip with Jose- her husband & partner at Ataula. But once our initial lunch meeting evolved into a regular catch up, we spontaneously decided to adventure to her hometown in Puerto Rico to find a disappearing pepper she’d become obsessed with. And since I’m obsessed with obsessed people, well, I followed.

The caballeros, or gentleman’s pepper, used to grow wild everywhere. Cristina’s father would ask her as a child to go out back and pick some for dinner. They would burn her fingers until she learned how to pluck them from the stem. They were used daily. Now, her mother can't find any to send for her Puerto Rican pop-up dinners, Patria, in Portland.

 

I’d only flown through San Juan decades ago, when I spent a summer in Tortola, refurbishing an old 90-foot tug boat while helping my friend with her newborn. But mostly I was just trying to clean up my act after a debaucherous first year in NYC. (Note to self: island living amongst fellow pirates does not a clean slate make.) Flying through San Juan didn’t inspire a strong desire to return.

Now it seemed as though I was coming back to the Caribbean islands to overcome a severe case of fatigue. After filming in Alabama then flying straight to Colombia for a story and traveling to Portland for two days- I was slightly exhausted. A red eye into NYC and a connection to the island I was both tired of flying, quite confused as to where I was, and not completely prepared for what was ahead. When we landed in San Juan I had expected Cristina to have her little son Ethan holding a welcome sign- as she & Natty both had arrived days earlier- but instead I received a mysterious video message and a text to follow the man with the sign. (I did that last time I was in the Caribbean and 2.5 days of my life disappeared.)

Lucas & I followed, then whisked into a Mercedes town car (there was a taxi strike to protest uber) and driven to an undisclosed location. After twenty minutes of head scratching we came upon a tiny airport. Ah, another plane. A tiny plane. Is it a good time to tell someone I’m a nervous flyer?

The girls had us flying to the west side, Aguadilla, Natty’s hometown. They were taking me on a boat ride. The Caribbean Sea side- the warm waters called to me the second we touched down and I met my friends.

Driving to the boat, Cristina & Natty’s energy was electric. They were pointing out in long, hurried sentences the movie theater they used to hang out at, Natty’s favorite surf spots, the place that made maize ice cream which was “the best!”

By the time we made it to Natty’s boat and the fragrant smell of the Caribbean hit our lungs, the girls had added to our cooler of Coronitas: platanos, fried local grouper, and pastelillo. We made our way through the water to a cay to anchor, bathe, and float. We ate our snacks off the boogie board until little Ethan spilled it feeding some very confused fish. We let the current carry us on our backs beneath the mangroves. Fatigue melted away as the sea gently rocked chunks of platanos by.

 

It had me curious as to what I’d show them if they ever came to small town middle America. Here’s so-and-so’s cow pasture. I could point out the corn fields where we spent summer nights playing ghost in the graveyard usually becoming entranced by the brightness of the moon. The only road that ran through town, slightly paved, between our two churches, when a night’s bike ride revealed a hailstorm of frogs so thick atop the path, you couldn’t help but squish one as you tried to ride through.

As we spent the next week hunting our elusive caballero pepper, going deeper into island cuisine, learning terms like sabrasudo and tropicalaeo and boricua, I realized that Cristina & Natty’s plight of the peppers was really an attempt to fight back the mass consumption of mediocrity that our fine country has done so well sprinkling around the world.

 

Fast food chains littered the historic streets of Old San Juan, the shacks that served bacalaitos made by the locals were being replaced with strip malls that can easily confuse this road warrior, “In what city am I in again?”

It suddenly made my corn fields and frog covered streets and cow pastures feel a tad more special. Because while strip malls have certainly penetrated most reaches of our world, in a tiny county in Missouri we still have only one big box store— and it’s been there long before my family arrived and departed.

But I also realized why this fight was worthy of actions. What you have to know about Puerto Rico is— the food is incredible! If you don’t know the locals or are with a local you may miss real quesitos- puff pastries filled with cream cheese or mallorca- which we'd get with a fried egg, type of ham and cheese for breakfast. It’s pretty easy for a tourist to get trapped in the same mucky muck they can find in their own backyard. And once those peppers disappear forever, what other delicious details will follow?

 

Adventures are all about the details— without those every experience would feel the same or look the same, thus making you react the same. Life is too short for mediocrity. It’s too brief for repetition. Sometimes you have to start it lying on your back in the warm waters of the Caribbean. Beer in hand. And not completely sure of what really lies ahead.

Kelly joins Portland chef Cristina Baez on a journey to Puerto Rico to reconnect with the food of her childhood and solve a mystery: Why has the caballeros (or Gentleman's) pepper disappeared?

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"I make 16 solid half hour friendships every evening"

My favorite thing to do is listen to someone. I love learning about what they do; why the drive to do what they do is so strong. But in order to make a show and keep up with an efficient production schedule, these opportunities to discover a person boil down to brief moments in the field followed by weeks of staring at their faces on a screen. I meet someone, listen to them, learn them, and then usually only see them again during the arduous editing task. At times an email or Instagram shout-out is exchanged only to be gone again.

In this process I do two things: 1) get really absorbed with what makes a person tick and 2) get really lonely (and hungry- I’m looking at footage of food all day).

When Rodriguez wrote the lyrics “I make 16 solid half hour friendships every evening” in his incredibly epic and transparent song “Cause,” I always related that to the loneliness of making art, sharing pieces of yourself for a brief moment, and then moving onto the next dark, bar stage in another city, in another land.

Doing this show, being on the road constantly, meeting new people steadily, I definitely feel that way. Or as Jay-Z put it, “Onto the next one.” But I never stop being fascinated, challenged, confuzzled, and confounded by those I interview along the way.

 

For Carlo’s story- he was never a chef I thought I’d come across. First, his restaurant Clyde Common was not on my radar. I thought “oh, its a hotel restaurant,” and then “oh its a hipster hangout,” and then “oh, I’m not cool enough to go there.” It took my husband going to a press event, where Carlo was showcasing some new menu items, to stop me in my tracks. What did hubby convey to me? 1) Carlo spent his formative years in the Philippines with no choice but to kill his dinner with a knife and 2) he’s trying to serve up crazy shit he grew up eating, some of which is offal, to Portland’s timid diners. (Yes, Portland. I said it. Do with me what you will.)

 

When I finally sat down with Carlo- I laughed. We both had these strange, staunch ideals- clearly from kids who grew up broke and in the field- but he had such a sense of humor and wit about those ideals and what he believed in. I told him about my 3-day boar hunt in California and how much appreciation I had for the animal we’d all worked so hard to get. He went on to list all the things his family would make when breaking down a pig- which he’d had to slaughter as a kid. His list ran on because they used everything. I got excited, and being from Missouri, said “show me.”

We agreed to slaughter a pig and use all the organs because I knew we’d be sincere about the task at hand. Carlo explained to me he doesn't like to hunt. He respects working with the animals he gets but to take a life is a huge responsibility. I can sympathize. I also knew we’d laugh.

The day came at picturesque Worden Hill Farms, just outside of Portland, the sun burning down on the patch of fields where big hunks of pig laid lazily in spots of green and dirt. Carlo broke the news to me on-site that others were coming. Staff from his kitchen. And not just 1...like 7. Enter my panic attack. My goal is to be sure that my subject is comfortable, feels like they can open up, be themselves…and when you put a crowd around, be it crew or friends or staff, people clam up. Would I be able to listen?

Watch the episode and you can see that having his crew there was not only a great time but also incredibly useful. Because breaking down a whole pig is one thing. Breaking down the organs and using every piece is another. It’s important- and a clear waste of food when we don’t- so having the crew was a luxury. Like, 5 star hotel service. But done by hip young things who don’t hide their disgust while squeezing bile from intestines. (Is that what’s in the intestines? Or is it just poo’s prequel?)


While Carlo blew my mind with things like harvesting the blood, quick searing the still warm tenderloin for a light snack, what I really learned that day was his ability to be his total self. Carlo revered where he came from, he respected the losses we all must face along the way, he recognized the path he took in his career, and in his place of leadership all of these little strings that connect our life dots— he celebrated. He brought me out to experience a piece of that. He brought his team out to witness a piece of that. He took his own time and energy to re-create that.

 

I may have made a few 16 solid half hour friendships that day in the field, but I learned my favorite thing to do is not to listen to someone: It is to witness someone.

And now I’m hungry and I want more.

This week, Kelly explores what it means to be a responsible meat eater. She meets Carlo Lamagna, head chef at Clyde Common in Portland, to learn how to properly slaughter and butcher a hog. Then, Chef Carlo shows Kelly how to use the organs — parts that often get wasted — in some of his favorite family recipes from the Philippines. Those recipes and his personal connection to the meat are inspiration for the innovative dishes (things like crispy fried pig ears and offal) that Carlo is bringing to the trendy set in Portland.

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