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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Thing 102: Take a Cooking Class

When I was little, I used to watch Saturday morning cooking shows on PBS with my dad. Yan Can Cook, the Frugal Gourmet, and of course Julia. I liked Martin Yan the best, which I know will horrify the Julia devotees reading, but he had a lot of flare and panache and after all, I was five.

I really loved how the chefs had all their little bowls of pre-measured ingredients which they would throw in the pot with abandon, and then about halfway through the demonstration, the chef would say "I just happen to have a finished one right here" and would pull out from below the counter top a perfect, finished roasted duck or apple tart.

I was transported back to those Saturday mornings when I attended a cooking class at Whole Foods on sea vegetables last night. Taught by Rachel Brumitt, a local personal chef and a veritable encyclopedia on vegan and raw cooking methods, I was originally drawn to this class because I did not know one single thing about cooking with seaweed. I vaguely knew that it was healthy and I've used dried nori sheets to make sushi rolls and that was it. I like to fill in the gaping holes in my cooking knowledge and so I signed up.

Folks, these classes are FREE, and they are an incredible resource for learning about different ethnic cuisines or ingredients. I watched wakame sheets hydrate and unfold. I learned that sea vegetables are a great source of iodine, and flush toxins, heavy metals and even radiation from the body. I learned that seaweeds contain the same minerals that are in sea water, which are the same minerals we have in our blood. Most amazingly, as a skeptic of all things vegan and a devoted sweet tooth, I ate really well.

Rachel made four dishes: a sea vegetable and artichoke tapenade (which rocked), a wakame cucumber and orange salad, a condiment of pumpkin seeds and dulce, and a vegan blueberry pudding that was thickened with agar and sweetened with maple syrup and somehow came out creamy and really delicious. And just like those magical TV shows from my childhood, everything was ready to go, portions measured, cooked on the spot, and at one point she even said "and this is what it will look like" and had a pre-made blueberry pudding ready to go! And unlike those shows on PBS, here we could smell and eat and ask questions.

Does a Thing at Whole Foods violate the spirit of DC365 by involving a chain, and an activity that probably happens at Whole Foods around the country? Maybe. But I'm going to go ahead and include it because for one thing, it was a really fun and different thing for me to do with a Thursday night, and for another thing the classes use local talent, local experts, and local suggestions for topics. For more information about the classes offered at Whole Foods, click here.

One year ago: Snow and toddies at the Tabard Inn.

Coming up: St. Patrick's Day parade on March 16th.