Every holiday dish has a backstory.
From angel cookies to zesty zucchini breads, we carry on family traditions, create new ones, spread Christmas cheer and even offer tips for a healthy New Year. We bake, roast, boil, sauté and otherwise concoct foods that glue generations and cultures together.
And today, those stories and recipes are finding new life on storytelling platforms Adobe Slate and Voice, where people are sharing why food is often at the forefront of fables from our tables.
“We eat with our eyes,” said Robin Renken of Las Vegas, who recently created “Beets and Greens,” a Slate story featuring irresistible produce from one of the many farmers markets that she and her husband, Michael, promote through their website.
Renken placed large images that she shot of beets, chard and kale in her story about making a healthy dinner on the run. She added text about how to cut and cook the vegetables, along with fun facts about them, in boxes with smaller detail pictures that popped past the bigger images in the background.
“Really big pictures of food in the background are evocative and draw people in,” she said. “It’s more than just a recipe on a blog post.”
Renken said she imported her Photoshop Lightroom photos directly into Slate and typed live into the scrolling boxes, giving her a good idea of what her presentation would look like. She later shared the Slate story URL on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and her website.
“People loved the interactive format, which was good for vendors and consumers,” she said.
For Marty Cohen, a retired pediatrician, Slate offers the chance to capture family memories. In his story, four generations of his wife Cathleen’s family prepare food for their traditional Japanese-American New Year’s Day parties.
“Traditions have been passed along so different members of generations can learn to cook dinners,” said Cohen, of Carmel Valley, California.
In Cohen’s “In The Kitchen,” viewers see close-ups of young and old hands sharpening knives, slicing octopus and salmon, trimming green onions, grinding sesame seeds and rolling sushi. Text placed as captions under photos or passing above the images explains the art and mastery required to pull together the feast at a relative’s home in Los Angeles.
But no faces are shown in the story.
“It’s about the food and the preparation,” Cohen said of the festivities attended by more than 100 people throughout the day.
Cohen said he balanced the use of many Slate features without making his presentation look too busy. He uploaded four years of images to Lightroom, which auto-syncs with Adobe’s Creative Cloud and Slate.
After grouping photos in sets of two or three, he changed the order until it “made sense” and was “visually very interesting.”
Family and friends were amazed at how Cohen’s story, starting with a hand holding up a well-worn recipe and ending with a festive table full of Japanese cuisine, caught “the colors and beauty of the food.”
“With Slate, you can change it as you go, preview as you go, and see words under or over images,” he said. “It’s easy to just play with it.”
For Livia Gamble, a reporter for “Essential Kids” in Australia, Adobe Voice offers a chance to show family activities that can introduce children to the kitchen.
Her first Voice, “Two Minute Nutella Mug Cake,” netted 600,000 views on Essential Kids and was also uploaded to Facebook, where 70,000 people liked it.
Gamble overlaid text on pictures, starting with a promising look into an empty mug. While a whistling tune from Adobe’s music selection plays, the picture changes as each ingredient revealed in text is added to the mug. Viewers see flour, sugar, cocoa, olive oil, milk, Nutella and an egg join the mix before being transformed by microwave.
“It’s really, really easy,” Gamble said of making the Voice … as well as cake. “All up, it might have taken me about an hour to make the mug video because I was making (and eating) the cake as I was taking the photos on my phone.”
Gamble said the Voice story fit well with what Essential Kids is trying to do, which is provide a wide-ranging forum of parenting advice that includes activities with food.
The Nutella cake Voice is just one example of how a sweet treat perfect to warm up the holidays also becomes an opportunity for new family fables to emerge.
“Just be creative,” Gamble said.
Tips for Creating Your Own Slate and Voice
Renken: Variety goes a long way, so use the Slate options available to make it more of an interactive experience for the user and to represent food in different ways.
Cohen: It’s good to have thought ahead about what your message is, what you want to show, what you want viewers to see. Know your goal, and you can answer that question as you prepare the Slate.
Gamble: You don’t have to make a how-to video, it could be as simple as showing off party pictures for relatives. It could also be an excellent project for kids to work on themselves.