I know, I’m a little late to the game, but this blog is for me and anyone who loves food and cooking. My goal is to share my experience of cooking through writing and photography.
I am happiest when I can make someone feel better with my cooking. Before attending the Culinary Institute of America, I volunteered every saturday and sunday at St. Josepth’s Soup Kitchen and St. Xavier’s Food Pantry to gain cooking experience. I was surprised by the overwhelming joy and purpose I felt from serving the men, women, and children who came through the doors. I felt so blessed to receive the warm smiles and stories that were shared over steaming trays of chicken fricassee, gumbo, franks and beans, and lasagne. There were couples in their twenties, couples in their eighties, women with bruised faces and broken teeth, children and teenagers who came with family or most often by themselves. There were men in their forties with long hair and leather jackets who confided that they were vegetarians, so I was mindful to cook at least one hot vegetarian entree each week.
With over four hundred hungry mouths to care for, the head chef, was more than happy to delegate salad duty to me which meant sorting, washing, chopping and drying five tubs (about 10 gallons each) of salad greens. In addition to our standard order shipment which made up about 25% of our food supply, we depended heavily on donations from local restaurants andgenerous programs such as City Harvest. It was easy to convert folks from eating pre-packaged salad dressing to an olive oil-based one, but being able to continue our supply of olive oil was more challenging. Luckily, I befriended a volunteer who agreed to supply six quarts of extra virgin olive oil each week as long as I was willing to make one of my dressings. So that was the beginning of our salad revolution. I made gallons of vinaigrettes using fresh herbs which I acquired from the Essex Street Market (Essex and Delancey streets). I concocted oil infusions using fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage, marjoram, tarragon, etc.), orange, lemon, cumquats–you name it, grounded fresh spices (fennel, cumin, peppercorn, etc.), and experimented with different types of vinegars and sugars to create layers of flavors from ordinary commissary items. Soon I even got involved in placing the food order. I swapped cases of apple cider and malt vinegars for white vinegar (which as far as I was concerned was a counter top cleaner and not much else); cases of dark brown sugar in place of the boring, utilitarian white granulated kind; and fresh lemons instead of bottles of citric acid. Those were good times!
That’s just one of the many reasons why I find such joy and happiness in cooking and feeding others and sharing life’s stories while breaking bread. I hope you’ll join me along this journey of self discovery, so keep on reading!