Dana and I are thrilled to have hosted a workshop at The Cookbook Store in Toronto a few weeks back. The Cookbook Store is a 30-year old independent book store (with an obvious narrow focus) and we consider it as one of the culinary cornerstones of our city. I, along with thousands of people watched Alison Fryer (owner of the store) interview Anthony Bourdain a few years back and my approach to cooking was permanently altered when I watcher her interview Chef Thomas Keller in front of another large crowd. To be invited to work with Alison and her team was an absolute honor.
WellPreserved is not my day job. I’ve done all sorts of things in my career but adult education and public speaking have been mainstays of ‘what I do’ for more than 20 years. I’m not a stranger to speaking in front of people and I’m generally very calm about the entire ordeal. This night was one of the rare nights I could feel myself being nervous and I continued to get more shaky as ‘go-time’ approached.
The night started with a short on-camera interview with Alison (before we opened the doors to our mutual guests). Public speaking and speaking to a camera are two very different things and I remember feeling that the entire situation was surreal. Dana isn’t a fan of the lens (she’s been behind it for too many years) but trading glances with her off camera really helped steady my nerves.
Once the formality was out-of-the-way, the amazing support team started setting up chairs. I noticed that there seemed to be a lot; we managed to fit more than 30 chairs in a space that is designed for about 25. My nerves continued to rise even though I knew we were going to have a lot of fun.
Just before opening the door, Alison shared that the store had already begun to receive our guests and that people had driven from Belleville, Buffalo and Rochester. Alison teased that, “I better be ready” and, like that, I felt excited and my nerves evaporated.
We started with a conversation followed by a demo, a tasting and then open discussion and questions. It was very fast-moving and really engaging. There were times that everyone was so excited to share that I just got to stand back and watch the crowd share their knowledge and enthusiasm with one another.
The group of people who attended were gracious, curious, enthusiastic and all-around awesome. The best part of the evening, in my mind, was the group of people who showed up and were willing to ask questions, laugh and share the excitement of fermentation. They were also awesome in their willingness to try new foods. We provided samples of:
- Two different types of sauerkraut (based on two different salt ratios)
- Fermented carrots
- Spicy pickled ginger (I forgot to warn people how hot it was); we’ll share a recipe in the next week for this.
- Ginger beer
- Fermented hot sauce (made with whey and dried pepper). This article also includes the discussion of ‘sun-dried’ tomatoes and other vegetables that are actually partly dried chemically
The evening focused on fermenting but we spoke on a lot of different topics and let the crowd guide us. The discussions included touches on the following:
- Our archive of fermenting fundamentals
- A quick guide to our 2012 posts on fermenting
- Our archive of fermenting ‘recipes’
- The remarkably high safety of preserving and canning statistics despite constant fear of botulism and death.
- The trouble with trusting bloggers (like us) for deciding what’s safe for you
- Herbes Salees (one of my favorite preserving recipes)
- Our Hot Pepper Lexicon
- Nose-to-tail vegetables and fruit
- Pasta recipes
- Airlocks for mason jars
- Retrofitting an airlock for a wide-mouthed jar
- How to keep flies out of a ferment in a mason jar without using cheesecloth
- Dehydrating fundamentals
- How to strain yogurt to get whey
- Other uses for whey
- My love of my $15 hand slicer/ mandoline
- T’ej/ Honey Wine
- My love of Sandor Katz
- Our monstrous 20-gallon ceramic crock
- A specialized line of German crocks called Harsch Gartopf
There was much more as the night meandered between many topics but always came back to the simplicity that is fermenting. Lindsay also wrote a summary of the class – show her some love and check out her summary of the class (which is a lot more pragmatic than my rambling summary) on The Kitchen Operas.
We hope to do more classes this year and hope to see you there!