This week's Site We Love is The Perennial Plate, a weekly web documentary series about sustainable and adventurous eating. Running the show are camera gal extraordinaire Mirra Fine and chef-host Daniel Klein. After filming their first season in Minnesota, the talented duo have been criss-crossing the country to find the stories behind good food across America. Here's what Mirra and Daniel have to say about their site:
Live since: MIRRA: We have been filming since November 2009, but the website has been live since February 2010. It all started with a Turkey Episode filmed in November 2009: Daniel got a live turkey and prepared it for thanksgiving dinner, which included killing, butchering, seasoning and cooking.
Posting rate: MIRRA: A lot. We post a short video every Monday. But in addition to that, we also post blog entries, recipes, photos, articles, etc. on a regular basis.
Geographic location: DANIEL: Everywhere, USA. We are traveling the country for 6 months documenting stories about real food and the people who produce it. And although we hail from Minnesota (where the project began, and where the first year of episodes was filmed), we no longer have an apartment there. So… we are currently transients.
Why is the site called The Perennial Plate? DANIEL: Besides the obvious "perennial plant" reference, there is a book called The Perennial Philosophy by Alduos Huxley which details the underlying commonalities between religions. Similarly food is something that crosses all boundaries: We all want good food and to share it with others. So I thought it was fitting.
Photo: Mirra Fine
**What's been your most popular post? **MIRRA: The idea behind the show is to represent the reality behind our food, whether it be a small farmer who grows shiitake mushrooms, a backwoods southerner who noodles for catfish, or a hunter who kills wild boar. That means, in order to understand where your food comes from, its important to show all aspects. And because of that, we will show an animal being killed for food. Inevitably, those are the most controversial posts. And the most popular. But hey, if youre going to eat meat — It's important to see that it isn't just a plastic wrapped lump from the grocery store. So the most popular posts have been Catfish Noodling, Roadkill, Squirrel Hunting, Frog Catching, and Turkey Farms.
Of the non-controversial episodes, One of our most popular would be Episode 62: A Day in the Life, which was filmed outside LA. In this episode we highlighted a day on the road where we woke up in the morning and went out with a Sea Urchin Diver off the coast of Malibu, and then brought our bounty (sea urchin and crab) to a Mixteco Community Garden to meet and eat with strawberry laborers.
**What's your favorite post? **MIRRA: Tough question. Thats like asking me what my favorite cheese is. Each episode is so different, its hard to pick just one. I love Episode 65: Halfway Across America, as it is a beautiful montage of all episodes up until the halfway point. It's a great place to start if you havent seen one yet.
DANIEL: One of my favorites is from the Minnesota series, Episode 51: Kids, Cows and Ice Cream, where we made Ice Cream with my little cousins. It's super cute.
Photo: Mirra Fine
What's something great that you've learned or that's happened to you since starting your blog? DANIEL: Mirra became a vegetarian after the very first episode of the Perennial Plate in which a turkey was killed, because it made her face the reality behind the food she was eating. Her sister also became a vegetarian because of the show. [Editor's note: Daniel is still a carnivore.]
**What's the usual process for developing one of your posts? **MIRRA: We do a ton of research to find the perfect story. That involves a lot of phone calls, google searches, emails and scheduling. We want to involve our audience in finding stories, so we have a form for stories on our website and we also use facebook and twitter to fill in story gaps. Once we find a good character, we will show up at their farm/home/etc and just start filming….everything. We try to go in without an idea of what the episode will be, and instead just see what comes naturally.
After we finish filming, we will take the hours of footage and whittle it down to 5-7 minutes. Daniel and his friend Peter Borenstien do a really good job of finding independent musicians from around the country and putting very cool music to each episode. This whole process happens every few days. Its a very busy schedule.
Photo: Mirra Fine
What are your favorite ingredients and tools? DANIEL: The basics: Butter and honey, salt and vinegar. And I like vegetables, using them as the main component of a dish.
What photography equipment do you use? We have two cameras: Canon xf100 and Canon Rebel T2i. And we use Final Cut Pro for editing.
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