Sunday, September 25, 2011

It's the last semester of my last year as a Journalism and Media Studies student at Rhodes University. Since I started as a student here, I've changed more than I could ever have imagined. I'm more mature (I hope), I'm more determined (I want to say "ask my lecturer" but  I may be shooting myself in the foot) and I've definitely discovered what it is I want to do once I leave Grahamstown (hint hint future employers).

I am going to be a producer. Hopefully.

This term I get the chance to do my own thing for my radio course. I have therefore decided to produce a show. But not just any show. You see, I love food. It's not often people see me around Grahamstown without my jaw getting a workout and my nickname to some of my very close friends is actually "Biscuit".

*Mmmmm.... hungry again*

I will be creating three pilot cooking shows titled "Snap Crackle Pop" which will be posted as podcasts on a website I am yet to create. This lack of webpage is not a result of me not trying though. I don't have a clue when it comes to this stuff. But, I will persevere! I'm determined, remember?

The podcasts as well as website as a whole are going to be aimed at students living in
digs, I will examine the new "Masterchef" fad that seems to have taken over digs kitchens across Grahamstown. Being responsible for feeding yourself is associated, at Rhodes and everywhere else, with independence. You cook, you eat, you survive. Simple right? Kitchen experiences can make or break living in digs and often we have to endure other people's culinary prowess.

My show will encourage a community amongst digs students through the exciting prospects food offers to young people who are looking to show-off what they can do in the kitchen as well as creating an atmosphere where people can really get excited about meal times. The fact that the podcasts will be posted online will facilitate communication and interaction as audience members will be able to comment and share recipes and tips on the website. The podcasts will be downloadable so that Rhodes students will be able to keep them together and create a sort of "audio cookbook" for themselves. This will ensure that the podcasts have a shelflife of sorts (excuse the pun).

I don't want to put all this effort in and then abandon the podcast after three pilots though. I have thus decided to bring a team into it. That way I actually get to train and really get involved in the delegation processes involved in producing a show. BK, Nadia and Jacek - be prepared! This is going to be good. Almost as good as my dinner. Ostrich bobotie with raisins and chutney and all the Malay spices with a roast tomato salad on the side. I'm just saying.

*stomach grumbles*

I start gathering my material tomorrow. This means I get to taste other people's cooking - mmmm....

Well, at least I know if my life as a producer doesn't work out I'll be able to eat my way to the top.
Snap Crackle Pop is officially up and running. It has been a difficult week though, apart from the food of course. That’s been great...

Monday saw a few health issues getting in the way of our recording of Chris Troskie’s hangover breakfast. It seemed silly to do it on a Monday anyway – I mean, who has a hangover on a Monday? Well, I could be writing this slightly intoxicated and it is a Sunday evening. I am a Rhodent after all and we always seem to find an excuse for a party. You’ll never know. Makes me feel kind of powerful really – I quite like this feeling: me, in control. Oh yeah!

Right, back to the serious business. You know, the hangover. The food. The FUN! Tuesday saw Nadia, Nicky and I invading a tiny flat at 3rd on Milner armed with a camera, a recorder and empty stomachs. All as a result of careful planning. Very cunning even if I do say so myself.

*Grumble* Could that be a pie I’m craving? If I’ve been drinking it may very well be. You still don’t know though. (Sometimes I wish Blogger had the equivalent of BBM faces: I’d put the “rolling on the floor laughing” one in right about now.)

Focus Marcelle; ignore your stomach, it doesn’t control you! Come on... So, Chris’s breakfast. We laughed so much during the recording process and I feel like it’s the first time I’ve actually realised how much fun radio production can be. Not that I haven’t enjoyed it before, I just felt like I’d finally struck on something I really feel could bring joy to people. It doesn’t always have to be hard news and sombre stories about strikes and bombing. Quite refreshing really. Kind of like that drink I could have in my hand right now. Hmmm?

Wednesday saw Jack and I writing a script for his anchoring position this week; more laughing. It probably could’ve been done in an hour – we took three. Oops! Still, I managed to learn something from the process. You have to write for your audience. I’ve always ‘known’ that but I really understood it after we’d printed the first draft. Very stiff. Again, a drinking analogy perhaps?

Jack and I realised we were completely off track and we didn’t even really have an interest in what we’d compiled. So we started again. We’re students therefore we CAN write for a student audience. The jokes and puns were included and the questions for our studio guest, also a student, were slightly tweaked to be less formal. When we interviewed Grant Bisset, a fourth year student specialising in Health Journalism, we realised we’d struck gold. Grant and Jack had never met before but as soon as Jack began recording, Grant relaxed and they actually had a conversation. It was very chilled and very entertaining when we listened back afterwards. Grant gave his perspective on a very serious topic at Rhodes, that of health amongst students. He made informed comments about exercise and healthy eating but because it was from a peer’s perspective, it wasn’t a lecture. People might actually listen to this stuff.

The rest of the week was spent fighting with technology. My webpage is still in progress simply because computers actually hate me. Literally. Even my lecturer from third year, Danika, couldn’t understand how it was possible for everything I tried to go so wrong. Her help included tutorials and advice and a whole bunch of jokes about how I could be “the anti-Christ for the internet”. Everyone else found that hysterical. Me? Not so much.

My podcast is ready and waiting. It’s 25 minutes; slightly longer than I anticipated but I don’t think it’ll be a problem because it’s really great. The Snap Crackle Pop team is cool like that, you see. I think everyone enjoyed themselves and learnt something. I haven’t really asked them though. I will, as soon as the internet stops hating on me and lets me upload this audio file. You see, then I can actually leave the radio labs. And then maybe I could get drunk or at least drunk-ish. And food...


The second podcast will look at cooking on a budget. Jack, Nadia and myself are going to an all-girl digs on Monday evening for toasted sandwiches. Nicky’s going to be the anchor this week and I’m waiting for a recommendation from a friend about an economics lecturer that might not bore my audience to death. I might just bring in an Honours student from the accounting department though. I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place on this: do I keep the show strictly student based and leave lecturers from Rhodes out of the content thus risking credibility, or do I include lecturer’s voices and lose the young, vibey identity I think we’ve created in the first show.

*Come on!*

Ok, maybe the answer lies in a late night snack.

Until next week,

Have you ever sat down to really consider what food means to you?

Oh, you haven't. So that's just me then. Right.
Mmmm... Budget!

Anyway... when I started this project I was only thinking about it from a journalist's point of view. Then, as I became more involved in what can only be described as the new wave of cooking culture at Rhodes University, I realised that it had less to do with a basic human need and more to do with the relationships cooking forms.

Thus, this post may be slightly more philosophical than any of the others. Very uncharacteristic, I know but bare with me.

You see, this week saw our team taking on the very scary topic of "dun dun dun" - Cooking on a Budget. We even sourced drunken Rhodes students outside BP at 2am, enquiring as to what their favourite budget snack at that time of evening was. We got "pies" and "tuna" a lot. Others were simply too strange to broadcast or even repeat on this blog. But back to the tuna thing: I bet when some crazy fisherman thought to put this fish into a confined space with a bit of salt water, he never would've guessed that he'd one day be providing a healthy snack to Rhodes students in South Africa. And it's only R9 a tin, people!
Not bad for R9 a tin?!
Hmmm... maybe I could come up with some crazy tinned food initiative to make me some cash money. I reckon my belly's got what it takes...

*Oh yes I do.*

Since I've been at Rhodes, students have begun to base their identities on signature dishes and skills in the kitchen. Kamusha digs, a group of six girls, have a pairing system when it comes to dividing cooking duties. Lauren van der Vyver and Kaitlin Britz, the pair Nicky interviewed this week, based their cooking identities on whole cooked chicken from a certain grocery store here in Grahamstown. Not exactly gourmet but the rest of their housemates have come to love their dishes. Unfortunately, we were not privy to toasted sandwiches. Budget cooking at its best - fair enough considering it was the end of a very long month that saw electricity prices taking another hike.

Later in the week, I witnessed yet another identity cook-off at the Rat and Parrot. Two very, let's say eccentric, young men were engaged in a drunken battle regarding whose pie was better. Grubby, one of the opponents confirmed that his cooking was superior when he shared a "chip and chicken" recipe with the spectators. Chips, as in the Simba kind. Weird right? but, none-the-less, innovative. This dish made him, well him, in the kitchen. His skills with an oven and an apron made him, Grubby the Masterchef. At least in his version of the show.

*Mmmm... chips and chicken! I'm hungry...*

This week will see me delving even deeper into the student chef's psyche and discovering just why they decided to explore their culinary prowess. What are their hopes and dreams for the future and how do they feel that cooking might help them achieve this etc.? I would like to interview Carina Truyts, a second year Journalism students who was actually a year above me in high school. She completed a professional cooking course but decided to further her career here. I feel like we may have stumbled upon a very concise and professional guest who tries to spite us.

But first, as with every Sunday afternoon: I cook. Chicken pasta with a garlic and herb sauce along with fried mushrooms. Ok, I'm out. See you next week...


BIG R, little r 

As you may have noticed, this blog post has taken me an extremely long time to write. This is not a result of any real obstacles or technological difficulties. It is simply me being too afraid to leave this project behind. When I leave it and move on with my life and my degree, I leave behind Radio as well as radio. The subject (BIG R) forever but I the concept (little r) will forever remain a part of who I am. I have become so attached to this sphere of journalism as well as to the Snap Crackle Pop elective that I now cannot imagine what to do without it. I said the same thing about Hear Hospice, my previous project, though so maybe I am taking it all way too seriously. I may have taken the whole ‘immerse yourself’ vibe a little too far. Hmmmm?

*Wait a minute. Does this mean that with the end of Snap Crackle Pop comes the end of my days of glorious meals and absolute content?*

I would like to point out that I became so involved in tasting and food and all the deliciousness that comes with it, that I may have put on a few kilos.

*There’s no “may have”. You did, Marcelle. The waistband on your jeans and I now have an overly intimate relationship.*

Now that my stomach has insulted me, I think it’s clear that I have to move on. Nothing lasts forever and food certainly doesn’t. I need to continue onto new things now. As I’m writing this MGMT’s “Love Always Remains” is playing through the speakers and I realise that I can always love food, the enjoyment it brings, and radio as a whole. I may be leaving it alone for now but I can come back to it. And I will. My father and I have been discussing the possibility of me writing a cookbook. A student cookbook to be exact. What do you think?

*I love it! Mmmmm.... more food.*
What have I learnt from Snap Crackle Pop? Good things as well as bad. The good? Nothing is too advanced when it comes to your ability to use your imagination. I’ve had great teachers who have become more than just people who offer me information regarding the foundations for radio production. They have given me everything I need to become successful. Except maybe determination. That comes from me. And, trust me, I’m determined. I will write that book, I will become a great asset to the radio platform in this country, and I will use this medium to bring about social change.

 I’ve seen from Snap Crackle Pop that a radio program can change people’s views on everyday activities and social norms. The comments on the website as well as those I’ve received from people who’ve been involved in the podcasts confirm this. Numerous comments compliment the team on compiling a form of audio they didn’t think was possible. And to be honest, I wasn’t sure it was possible when I started out. But, with perseverance and a fantastic team of radio students and guidance, I made it work. And I succeeded, even if I do say so myself. We eat every single day and when I moved into digs at the beginning of last year, I realised that it was a huge part of my independence. I become an adult when I no longer needed someone to remind me that I needed to eat and that I couldn’t forget my greens! I reckon I’m an adult now – I had a salad for lunch.

*A VERY green salad, might I add.*

Part of what I proposed for Snap Crackle Pop was an aspect of training. I coached three awesome young people through what it takes to produce a show that was based on something which hadn’t really been done before. These three students, Nadia, Beketele and Jacek, were often the ones teaching me though. Jacek about the technical side, Beketele about the relationships one has to form with interviewees, and Nadia about how to pick yourself up again even when it seems like it’s all falling apart. If you asked them what I had given to them with regard to training, they probably wouldn’t be able to answer you. None of it was extreme enough to be considered different and absolutely worthwhile but I can guarantee that they learnt about team work and diligence. Nothing tangible; but certainly something which I know is lodged in who I am as a journalist and especially as a radio practitioner forever. And, as I write my last blog post as a Radio student at Rhodes University I know that it’s not over. Not the learning, not the teaching and certainly not the eating.

*Thank goodness!*