Monday, February 13, 2006

On Expanding My Palate

with thanks to my teacher, Jen Knapp at Tante Marie

photograph picture chicken liver crostini tante marie

Sadly, the Slow Mediterranean cooking course I was taking at Tante marie has come to an end. I am almost heartbroken. It was so much delicious fun, with such a great bunch of people, I wonder what will I do without it?

Knowing of my love affair with food and cooking it, people often ask me "why on earth do you need to take a cooking class, you can already cook?" Before I went to cooking school I would simply have answered that there are always some new techniques to learn. Although this is true and indeed I have learnt so much over the last 6 weeks, like how to bake fish in salt, how to prepare artichokes, how to make mayonnaise successfully every time, how to cook paella and how to make Zuni's famous chicken with bread salad, if someone were to ask me that question again, my answer would now contain another level.

I go to Cooking School, these days in order to broaden my palate as well as to learn new techniques. Every week we prepared about a dozen recipes which we communally feasted on at the end of the class. I have been introduced to so many foods that I simply thought I didn't care for as much as others and would never have experienced left to my own devices. There is no choosing from this menu, we get to try everything. Even foods I thought I hated have come up trumps in this unique environment where the choice about what I eat for my dinner was made by our teacher, not by me. I have retired many of my own prejudices thanks to Jen. Mum - listen to this - I ate raisins, I ate currants, I enjoyed brussel sprouts in my pasta, I greedily devoured not one, but two chicken liver crostini and from this year forth I absolutely love anchovies! What has happened to the pinickerty, fusser eater daughter you once knew? I am now more food brave than the rest of the family put together. This is progress on my part, to put it mildly.

It is also why, when Fred treated me to dinner at Zuni on Saturday night, after I got home late from work, I chose to have Cured anchovies with olives celery and cheese, followed by Oxtail where the old Sam would undoubtedly have picked Ricotta cheese and then Duck breast. It's an adventure and I can't wait for the next chapter!

PS. And as for missing cooking class? If truth be told - since I signed up for the next class, starting this Thursday, Flavours of Latin America with Penelope Alzamora chef, I guess my palate is going to continue expanding at an alarming rate!

Archive Alert! On this date in 2005 Fred is the Pasta King. You have to check this one out.

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On Expanding My Palate


  • At 13/2/06 08:53, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Good for you Sam! Although I haven't taken cooking classes, I often feel that blogging has forced me to overcome prejudices and learn new techniques. And it's not only coming from my end - I can't tell you how many times I've been seduced into preparing something I never would have previously dreamed of by reading about it on another blog!

  • At 13/2/06 09:29, Blogger Barbara Fisher said…

    There is nothing alarming about an expanding palate--no matter how fast it is changing!

    It is all to the good!

  • At 13/2/06 09:35, Blogger Barbara Fisher said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 13/2/06 09:59, Blogger Jennifer Maiser said…

    The anchovy plate at Zuni is perfection - a great way to celebrate your newly found taste buds!

  • At 13/2/06 10:45, Anonymous Anonymous said… Food Humor, enjoy!

  • At 13/2/06 11:57, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree with the ladies, Sam. I take classes for the same reason. There is always something to learn and the menu is set for you. I took some classes at a local commercial restaurant. A working class in a commercial kitchen with the chef. Under those circumstances you begin to appreciate what is done in a restaurant kitchen.

    Keep up the good work.

  • At 13/2/06 13:11, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    well done Sam i'm glad your taste buds are tingling from all the new experiences. I don't think you can convert me to anchovies but you never know!!

  • At 13/2/06 14:32, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey Sam-

    It was great having you in the class! Very happy that you liked it, despite your skepticism about currants and anchovies. :-) It's very gratifying to introduce people to ingredients, recipes and foods that I love. Penny's class is going to be great, too--think chiles and ceviches!

    Take care, and I will spread the word about your blog.

  • At 13/2/06 16:15, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    One of the things I really love about bloggers is their open way of admitting what they don't like -- whether or not they eventually come around (as you did, in your class).

    It's so refreshing to think I'm not the only one who thinks offal off-putting or who had to be converted to certain flavors and textures.Snooty restaurant critics would never dare to talk that way!

    I look forward to hearing about your next session.

  • At 13/2/06 16:47, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    One of my biggest struggles in life is trying to open myself up culinarily-speaking. I keep trying to like sushi, but no success. I want to like anchovies and lamb, and I am close. I have texture issues and thinking-too-much issues (hence the lamb, although I love veal... go figure). Good for you for breaking down the barriers... I will try anchovies again in your honor!

  • At 13/2/06 20:14, Blogger Matt Armendariz said…

    It must be the heavens doing this, but it seems everyone has had Zuni on their minds and that couldn't make me happier!

    Now you're going to make me dream of anchovies and celery slices.

    What a happy man I am :)

  • At 13/2/06 23:40, Blogger Joycelyn said…

    hi sam, sounds like you're having a blast ;) i've yet to take a cooking class but can empathise with exactly what you mean - like melissa, everytime i read some exotic post about some exotic food, i feel my horizons broadening

  • At 13/2/06 23:49, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Sam
    Thanks for this post. I have toyed with the idea of enroling on a cookery course but have been dissuaded by people who think that it will be a waste of time. I'm glad that you were able to gain so much from your time spent on one of them and I am going to enrol on a course at Prue Leith's this spring.

  • At 14/2/06 08:06, Blogger Sam said…

    melissa - and you are someone who expands your readers' palates perhaps more than most food bloggers

    Barbara - you are right - bad choice of word - exciting would have been better

    Jennifer - Ever since I have knon of you I have known about your anchovy love (chowhound picnic circa 2003?) - sorry its taken me this long to heed your recommendation

    Anon - that has been doing the rounds for years!

    Neil- that sounds great - I will have to look out for those kind of classes.

    Mum- i think if you tried these anchovies (not the salty ones_ you might swiftly have a rethink on your opinion

    kudzu - offal is my biggest challenge, and there are still things that make me squirm. I can now do bef heart and a few tyoes of liver, but dont expect me to rush out for a pigs liver anytime soon,or a kidney, despite the fact my mum is mad for the liver.

    maya - make sure you get the fresh anchovies in oil to begin with

    Matt - - i read your sweet little ode to Zuni too and thought the coincidence was funny

    J - there is so much to try and learn and so little time!

    Gastrochick - its not like I am learning lots of technical stuff but i find the experience reqrding other levels. I would still like to do some more technical classes too.

  • At 17/2/06 16:03, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey Sam

    The photo of those chicken liver crostinis bring back great memories! I am back to preparing mostly kid food, but will keep reading the blog and thinking about my next class for inspiration.
    Susie (from slow med)
    p.s. great job on WW


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