Traverse City Record-Eagle

Life

May 1, 2014

Don't let eating be the only fun you have with food

It occurs to me that perhaps I might look a bit odd as I sit in the lobby of a church where I teach kids’ cooking classes with a blow torch and a bag of squid by my side.

Of course, anyone who has been in or had children in any of my classes might not be surprised. I love introducing a little bit of theater to the kitchen. I like to make those student loans I had worth what I paid for them.

“Smell the fish sauce!” I wave the open bottle under chins, while noses wrinkle in disgust. “Now, taste the fish sauce in the pho!”

Their faces show relief and wonder.

“We need to bruise this piece of ginger root to release the flavors. How about we smash it with this enormous mallet?” Here is where ginger root turns to paste that takes flight.

Food should be entertaining and exciting. It’s a duty. I get it. We have to eat to live but — my word — if you have to do something, shouldn’t you at least have a little fun with it?

Here’s where the mallets and fish sauce and sea creatures and exotic ingredients and blow torches come into play. Yes, I mean blow torches. I don’t mean those prissy little pocket torches with big price tags.

I mean the big, ugly, attached-to-the-top-of-a-propane tank, contractor-style blow torches. Flame on, friends.

If the equipment itself isn’t the thrilling part of the dish, the origins or ingredients should be. This time of year I crave the fresh, vibrant flavors of the Middle East and Mediterranean region. Loads of lemon, fresh herbs, fragrant garlic, and earthy spices feel like warm weather and green things are indeed on the horizon. It’s exciting food for an exciting time of year.

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