My destination was Mount Pleasant, Michigan.
The purpose of my trip was to speak to a class of journalism students about blogging as an alternative way of making a living from writing.
The highlight (other than the kids of course) was a cooking class on root vegetables.
Our instructor was Emma Currie, chef at The Brass in Mount Pleasant.
Being Vegetarian, this Class Was for Me
I love vegetables.
Last year when I went to India a strange thing happened – I became a vegetarian.
It wasn't for health reasons. It wasn't a principled stand. It was just something that happened as a result of living with a Sikh family for five days and then staying at an Ashram for another week. After eating vegetarian for almost two weeks, I couldn't imagine eating meat again.
I didn't pressure myself into this. Eating veg in India was easy. When I went home I decided to just see how it went. If I wanted meat I would eat it. But it's now been a year and while I force myself to eat fish a couple of times a month, I have no desire for it or any other form of meat.
But, as our entertaining chef often said, I digress….
Cooking Classes Are Great for Solo Travelers
At first my trip was simply about speaking to the students. But when Micki, a regular reader of Solo Traveler and the professor who invited me (she also has a blog called Culinary Woman) realized that the cooking class at The Market on Main was on the night before I would speak, she asked me to join her at the class. I was very lucky to get in as these classes sell out – so much so that they allow people to sign up for only two in a series so that everyone gets a chance.
An Education in Food
This was not a hands-on cooking class but a demonstration. I've done both and my preference is the demonstration while Micki prefers to roll up her sleeves and cook. Over the course of the evening every vegetable was introduced, chopping and other preparation tricks of a chef's trade were shared and recipes were cooked and tasted. They were delicious. Here are a few of the things I learned:
- How to peel lots of garlic fast and easy. Now this is too much for one clove but if you need to peel a whole bulb or more, this is a technique worth trying. Separate the cloves and place them in a metal bowl. Cover the metal bowl with another metal bowl and shake vigorously. Shake it enough and the motion will peel all your garlic cloves.
- How to chop onions without tears. I didn't know that the majority of the tear-inducing smell of an onion comes out of the root of the onion. In addition to holding the smell in, the root can hold the onion together for chopping. So, to cut an onion efficiently, cut it once vertically. Place it face down on a cutting board, cut off the tip and peel off the skin but leave the root intact. Now slice or chop the onion getting close to the root but don't cut it. Throw away the root after you're done.
- How to love beets. Oh no. Oh no no no no no. Beets – not my thing. Until, that is, I ate the roasted beets with honey and walnuts and the beet risotto created by Emma. I'm a convert.
- Jicima is… I had never heard of Jicima (the j is silent) before. It seems that it has not crossed the border into Canada – at least not into my experience. Jicima is a root vegetable that is less starchy than a potato and tastes somewhat like an apple. It was great in the salad we enjoyed.
So while I didn't touch a knife, I learned lots and walked away with some great recipes to try. As Emma would say when looking at a completed dish: “Now that's a good time, right there.”
It's a statement that holds true for the entire evening.