Last week at cooking school was a blast! We started the week with a super fun Taste Workshop by the fabulous Barb Stuckey. I read her book Taste What You’re Missing over the summer and had no idea our curriculum included a taste workshop with her. It was a fascinating few hours. We did a test to determine what kind of taster we were.
Based on a strip of paper on our tongue, I determined that I am a “hypertaster,” which is one that tastes intensely. The opposite of this is a “tolerant” taster. Neither of these are better or worse- it just means what may be very very bitter to me (IPA beers and black coffee) isn’t to someone else. There is a reason why some people prefer red wine over white. Our anatomy (partly how dense our taste buds are on our tongue) and genetics play a huge part in what taste experience we have. I learned that “bitter is the taste of health.” Those brussels sprouts that our kids don’t want to eat can be bitter. In fact, they have the right amount of bitter to make them healthy. The way to get your kids to eat them even if they don’t like bitter food things? Add salt. Salt knocks down bitterness. If that doesn’t work, also try adding a squeeze of lemon or balsamic vinegar to add some freshness. Either way- get them to eat those brussels!
We also spent quite a bit of time exploring how our other senses affect the taste of food. Did you know a noisy room dulls the flavor of your food? My husband and I managed to get out for a date on Friday night and while we enjoyed our time together, the food (which we have previously enjoyed from this restaurant) didn’t seem to meet our expectations. On this particular night we sat in a part of the restaurant where we’d never sat before and the acoustics were so poor that the noise in the room was literally hurting my ears. I had read this fact months earlier, so I don’t think it was the recent workshop that put this in my head- neither of us enjoyed our food OR drink! Crazy. Who doesn’t enjoy their cocktail after a long week?!?
Speaking of things we enjoy- I’m wondering if anyone craves pizza like I do. I don’t just like pizza, or love pizza. I crave it- and now I know why. Pizza is an “umami bomb.” Umami is one of the 5 basic tastes. Umami was discovered from seaweed and is the “taste of time.” Think: salami, dry aged beef, parmesan cheese, etc. Pizza is full of ingredients that are aged- fermented dough, slow cooked tomato sauce, aged cheese, aged pepperoni, salt and fat. Yum to all of that. It’s good to know my childlike cravings have a reason! It was one of my favorite days in school yet.
Later in the week we worked on cooking vegetables using dry and wet heat methods. For two days I had an entire lunch of veggies cooked different ways- think Thanksgiving plate sized servings. Braised, roasted, grilled, fried, stewed, etc. It was absolutely delicious and I could eat that way every single day, so long as there are still Pizza Fridays.
To end the week we did our first Menu Day. It was our first time with all 14 of us working in teams to make all parts of the meal- appetizer, entree, and dessert. With plenty of guidance from our Chef instructor, we had to figure out timing, order of tasks, plating, and serving. We’ve all done this at home before, but with 14 commercial burners, 14 cooks, a few ovens, several refrigerators, all new super sharp knife sets and dozens and dozens of pots and pans- you can imagine how hectic it can get! We are still all learning how to work together and it’s always a bit of a dance to accomplish what needs to be done. Despite the fact that there were several errors by the group (at least 3-4 by me personally!), the meal was ridiculously good and even our instructor complimented us on the final dishes. It was a good way to end the week.
I spent this past weekend reflecting on my past two weeks in cooking school. It would actually be easier to never have applied for this program. If my kids were sick, I was always available to stay with them. If someone needed their laundry done or a friend’s birthday gift purchased last minute, mom to the rescue. But, because of my schooling, everyone in my house is having to not only take care of more tasks, they are helping each other out to make sure everything is getting accomplished- I call this a win for all of us. I may have later bedtimes and earlier mornings than I’d like, and busier weekends trying to play catch up or get a jump on things; but I am proud that I made the leap to follow a passion that I have. Each day is tiring and challenging, but it’s also rewarding and delicious. I cannot wait to see where these new skills take me!
Today marks week 3 and it’s Egg Week. My Chef instructor told us on Friday that we’d need to put our “egg pants” on… she wasn’t kidding. Today was Eggs Benedict with tomato, bacon, and Hollandaise sauce, along with roasted potatoes and a green salad. All delicious. And then we made Creme Brulee…