thoughts on food, culture, and community

Archive for the month “October, 2012”

“Pinky splint” Earl Grey sandwich cookie, Om Nom Bake Studio, Pittsburgh

Om Nom Bake Studio, October 2012

Om Nom Bake Studio, October 2012

If you’re like me, you’ve occasionally caved and bought a buttery Panera shortbread or a chocolate chip cookie from Subway only to wonder why all store-bought cookies somehow taste exactly the same. Who are we kidding– actual, homemade cookies, made from scratch, are hard to come by.

Fortunately, Om Nom Bake Studio works constantly to whip up original cookies and bars that are just as sophisticated as they are simple. Missing a classic peanut butter or your childhood Fig Newtons? Om Nom pays homage to them here. Want a straight up chocolate chip? Of course. Or, if you’re looking for a cookie to (finally) satisfy the gourmet foodie in you, try the “Naughty Chocolattie,” a smoked-chocolate cookie, the “Besto Pesto” with lime, pesto, and basil, or the “Holy Pinoli” of pine nuts and rich brown sugar.

This Earl Grey “Pinky Split” sandwich cookie above is my current favorite cookie in Pittsburgh: a delicate, crumbly short bread cookie hinted with Earl Grey, lingering in your mouth as if you’ve really been sipping the tea. Filled with a lightly whipped frosting tinted with orange and lemon, the cookies are then rolled in crunchy sugar and flecks of fresh lavender for an indulgence that’s light, balanced, and surprising. And since when can I say that about a cookie — that I was surprised?

Check out for a gloriously-full list of treats. Orders available online or on location.

Pittsburgh Public Market, The Strip District
1701 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Fridays 10 AM-4 PM
Saturdays 9 AM – 5 PM
Sundays 10 AM – 4 PM

Om Nom Bake Studio
5134 Clairton Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15236
(412) 219-2552

Prestogeorge Fine Foods, The Strip District
1719 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Delanie’s Coffee, Southside
1737 E Carson St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15203

720 Music, Clothing and Cafe, Lawrenceville
4405 Butler St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15201

How Facebook and the Photograph Define Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

I just checked: on my Facebook page, I have been tagged in 508 photos over the seven years that I’ve had my profile. This number I consider modest, for my 20-something-year-old cousin—who has been a member of Facebook for five years—has been tagged in 1,615. Both of these statistics would be considered enormous by any generation other than my own, but what I’m most interested in is the difference between the number of my photographs and hers. I grew up using a film camera on class field trips, but my cousin was born into the age of the digital, the age which defined the transience of the image.  As the digital camera allowed the number of photographs available in our society to increase, and as Facebook became available to publish them all, the public’s reaction to the mechanical reproduction of the photograph has followed a very similar trajectory as predicted by an author named Walter Benjamin in his 1936 essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”

In this essay, Benjamin doesn’t deny that photography is an art form, although this was a hotly-contested issue before the 1900’s. (If the photographer doesn’t create a new item with his hands, such as a sculpture or a painting, is a photograph still art?) Benjamin contends that the framing of a particular shot allows photography to be art; however, photography remains for Benjamin a representation of reality that is mechanical in its ability to be reproduced an infinite number of times, a process that destroys the “aura” of the original representation, like “prying an object from its shell” (1236). Of the two forms of art Benjamin that defines, the purpose of photographic art is decidedly exhibitionistic, meaning, the photograph is an art form that is meant to be seen (as apposed to being a representation of worship). For him, therefore, photography is an art form with very specific implications.

Benjamin’s definition of mechanically-reproduced art is 75 years old, but the millions of photographs posted on Facebook fulfill his definition troublingly well.  Via Instant Upload, photographs can now appear on Facebook seconds after they are taken. Digital photography on Facebook is so exceptionally exhibitionistic that it is not uncommon for one to take a photograph for the specific purpose of posting it to one’s profile. It is also equally acceptable to “Facebook stalk” by indiscriminately browsing someone else’s uploaded photographs in rapid succession. The surplus of photographs available to be viewed has indeed leveled the playing field between subject and viewer as Benjamin predicting, causing all of us to find fame within reach. The following comment appeared yesterday on my friend’s wedding photo:

Dawn You look like a model, Kelsey – perfectly beautiful! Yesterday at 12:52am

After distinguishing between exhibitionist art and cultish art, Benjamin claimed that an excess of exhibition can eventually lead to worship, as in the case of models or movie stars. Evidently, in the case of Facebook, the turning of a photograph from something seen to something worshiped or revered remains true.

Benjamin concludes his essay by saying that mechanical art can ultimately lead to social war, and this may not be as extreme as it sounds. Hints of it are visible whenever Facebook viewers compare photographs not with the stars of Hollywood but with themselves. Browsing other people’s Facebook pictures, which all depict laughing groups of friends, close-knit families, well-cooked dinners, and foreign countries, the modern Facebook viewer is prone to experiencing a variety of emotions; most of my girlfriends cite inferiority, jealousy, and frustration as being the top three. The happiness portrayed through Facebook photos is selective yet holds the subtle message that if we all traveled more, bought better-fitting clothes, and drank more martinis—in other words, if we consumed more, perhaps by clicking on one of Facebook’s advertisements—we too could find the source of this happiness. Facebook and the mechanically-reproduced photographs are in this way nothing more than another capitalistic tool, not one that leads to physical warfare but one that enhances the social struggle that we claim to escape.

The previous essay was written for FR 2400 Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory at the University of Pittsburgh, October 2012.

Caramel apple latte, St. Thomas Coffee Roasters, Linglestown

Hand-crafted caramel apple latte, St. Thomas Coffee Roasters, October 2012

Hand-crafted caramel apple latte, St. Thomas Coffee Roasters, October 2012

If you want to celebrate fall but are sick of pumpkin beer, pumpkin cheesecake, and pumpkin wing sauce, try the classic caramel apple latte at St. Thomas Coffee Roasters in Linglestown as reported by The Patriot-News in late September 2012.

“In my opinion, apple is more of a fall flavor than pumpkin is,” says barista Andrea Musselman. “What we think of pumpkin is usually just a particular spice blend.”

In this drink, two espresso shots are blended with caramel and apple syrups, topped with steamed 2% milk, whipped cream, and a delicate caramel drizzle, creating a drink that’s like a caramel apple without the crunch. The in-house roasted espresso blend keeps this decadent latte from becoming too sweet.

Sip while looking out the large windows of this historic coffee shop in downtown Linglestown to truly drink in the beauty of fall, and pick up a pound or two of in-house roasted coffee or gourmet tea to take home.

St. Thomas Coffee Roasters
5951 Linglestown Road
Harrisburg, PA 17112
(717) 526-4171

Monday-Thursday: 7am-8pm
Friday-Saturday: 7am-10pm
Sunday: 9am-4pm

Friday Photo: International olives, Pennsylvania Macaroni Co., Pittsburgh

Pennsylvania Macaroni Co., 2012

Pennsylvania Macaroni Co., September 2012

Outside the market of Arles, France, I have not seen as many olives as those available at The Pennsylvania Macaroni Company, known as Pittsburgh’s #1 Italian import store, located in the Strip District. In addition to this selection of olives from Italy, Greece, Morocco, Chile, California, and France, the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company also sells fresh and imported pasta, local bread, bulk olive oil and balsamic vinegar, European deli meats such as capicollo and prosciutto, fresh produce, Italian sodas and cookies and candy, and 200,000 pounds of domestic and international cheese per week. Visit on a Saturday to be caught up by the nostalgic rush of the crowds made up of locals, foodies, and tourists.

Pennsylvania Macaroni Co
2010-2012 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

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