First rule of Foodies Club: always be talking about food! I have a wonderful group of 15-20 students who have formed a Foodies Club, a place where we talk about, learn about and of course enjoy cooking and eating food! A foodie is a recent entry to the dictionary; it is someone who is passionate about every aspect of food, from where it is grown to how it is prepared. And so my club co-adviser Holly and I are giving the students exactly that. We’re exploring all aspects of food. The first meeting was just an introduction, where we learned about each other and shared the most strange food we’d ever eaten. Most contributions were meat-based, and my armadillo bite certainly fit right in, but I thought aloe was also strange. It’s not a unique plant, but most people pick it and squeeze the insides onto their burned skin. But during an ethnobotany class at my last school, we were learning about the use of aloe – ingested orally – as a digestive cleanser. So we carefully cut off the firm outer layer and spines and sliced up the jelly like interior for everyone to try. One-two-three: we all popped it in our mouths and almost instantly started gagging. We all had agreed to not spit it out, so most of us just swallowed as quickly and possible and started guzzling water to try to rid our mouths of the horrible taste. We ran to the kitchen and begged for anything with flavor, but alas, the horribly bitter taste remained on our tongues for a few hours. None of us were having digestive issues, so in the end, we just learned that aloe tastes terrible!
But back to the Foodies Club. Our second meeting featured a taste-test of organic versus conventional food. The main lesson was about organic food and what “organic” means. (We sneak lessons into this club, though we try not to make it too academic!) Plates of pineapple, papaya, carrots, cucumber and oranges were set around the room. Two different plates for each product, simply labeled “Plate One” and “Plate Two.” The students circulated the room, testing each fruit or vegetable while recording the juiciness, mouth-feel, and overall reaction. Then they had to guess which Plate was the organic product. The result was that for all products, they thought the organic ones tasted better — even though they didn’t know which was organic at the time!! Except for the cucumbers, they generally guess correctly on which Plate contained the organic fruit or vegetable. The reason the cucumbers were an anomaly was because the organic ones had many more seeds, which made the appearance a bit messier and the taste a bit stronger than what they were used to.
After the taste-testing, we talked about the difference between organic and not-organic, and then mentioned that the organic products were all also local products. They quickly understood the difference in freshness between the local goods and those shipped from other countries. I then told them that the apples they buy in the supermarket from Washington state were picked up to (or more than) a year prior! They had no idea and were completely astounded that apples could be stored for so long. We’re still a new group, so the conversation didn’t flow as well as it probably will later in the semester when all the members are more comfortable with each other. This coming week we have some ‘cooking’ on the schedule, raw-food style (due to lack of student kitchen!) We’ll select some fresh, local organic products and puree some dips and salsas that will surely be a hit. Click here to check out the recipe for pesto that the students made! (We had to hold the pine nuts though because they aren’t to be found around here.)