There’s a good chance you saw— or took — a photo of a youngster’s first day of school yesterday. It’s one of the greatest photographic traditions: the child waiting at the front door or end of the driveway to begin another long year of school. But I came across a blog post a few weeks ago which unfortunately turned the tradition on its head.
The author provided a list of things to exclude from a back-to-school photo that was going to be shared online, including the school’s sign, the student’s bus number, your own house number, and the door of the student’s classroom (if the teacher’s name was on it). My initial thought — reflecting the privilege of living in a small, friendly, town — was “paranoid, much?”
That’s not a fair assumption, considering that, for some, revealing this kind of information can put a family at risk. But if a parent believes they are at this kind of risk, perhaps they shouldn’t be sharing photos on social media sites in the first place. Cropping out all context from a photo leaves little room for the associated memories, like what colour the front door of the family home was, that particularly terrific/terrible teacher, and even unusual weather phenomenon. (It looks like it’s snowing in one of my “first day” photos, but it was merely so foggy that the buses were cancelled completely.)
A solution for snap-happy yet safety-conscious parents would be to take two photos, and then somehow find the willpower not to share the detail-laden version. After all, we have the capacity to endlessly take photos these days — which calls to mind another school tradition being upended. The long-awaited/long-dreaded portrait day is now being deemed a dinosaur. Photo companies have tried to modernize, offering digital proofs and flexible packages, but with digital cameras omnipresent, should families fall for this extra expense?
If you can afford it, I would argue yes. The standardization of the school portrait offers a different kind of context than mere snapshots. You send your young scholar off on portrait day, brimming with hope that they’ll stay presentable until the photo is taken. And then — unheard of in this day and age! — we have to wait a while to see how they did. And the process is repeated, year after year, in exactly the same pose, a kind of growth chart.
There’s an interesting online project which touches on this. Called the Awkward Years Project (http://awkwardyearsproject. tumblr.com), people are encouraged to submit photos from their youth and the present day to show “just how far they’ve come.” It’s not a taunting, “look how hot I am now” exercise, but instead an emotional affirmation to the bullied that life does get better, no matter how ugly one believes they are. Tellingly, so many of the “before” photos submitted are school portraits.
It’s the lack of control that makes the results such emotional keepsakes. There are websites devoted to the hilariously awful backgrounds (were you laser beams, bookshelves or mountains?), and the goofy expressions forced out of students by weary, well intentioned photographers. While the close-cropped first day photo can be endlessly manipulated, the charm of the school portrait is that the student is the variable within the frame — and not, as it is so often these days, the other way around.
Broccoli isn’t a beloved vegetable by most. But add bacon and it may be a different story! Local broccoli is hitting grocery stores at great prices right now, too.
Broccoli, Apple and Bacon Salad
4 strips thick-cut bacon
1 large head of broccoli
1 cup toasted walnut halves, divided
1 medium red apple, chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. maple syrup
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
Chop bacon into small pieces and cook in a frying pan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until crisp and golden. Spoon bacon bits onto a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Slice stalks from floret section of the broccoli head right at the base of the flower, keeping the flower section intact. Cut off the bottom inch of the stalk and discard the tough end. Peel remaining stalk to the tender interior. Thinly slice and transfer to a large bowl.
Cut the flower-top portion of the broccoli as thinly as possible, lengthwise, into bite-size pieces. Add to bowl.
Chop 1/2 cup walnuts and add to the bowl along with the apple and half of the bacon bits. Whirl remaining walnuts in a food processor until finely ground. With processor running, pour in olive oil. Whirl until combined. Scrape into a medium bowl. Stir in lemon juice, maple syrup, salt and pepper.
Spoon walnut mixture over salad and toss well to coat. Garnish with remaining bacon.