And I Can Cook, Too

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Marketing is Everything

I met my class met at the Central Market for an official market tour led my Mark Gleeson, owner of Providore Sweet Shop, cheese and olive oil connoisseur, and overall cool food dude. Curiously enough, he started the tour by having us take a seat. We were going to taste olive oil. He talked about the Australian olive oil industry, which dates back to the 1800’s and is now in danger of collapse if Australians don’t start buying local oil. He explained that although olives used to go through a series of presses, starting with cold, pure fruit (EVOO), and ending with a chemical bath (SWILL), top quality Australian olives now only go through one pressing, and the oil is measured for free fatty acid content. Only the oil that has less than 1% qualifies as EVOO. The amount of free fatty acids explains the clean taste of the oil, and the superb mouthfeel. Mark then passed around little plastic cups and a bottle of Magpie Gully Olive Oil. We each poured a teaspoon into our cups and waited for tasting instructions. They were, not unsurprisingly, quite similar to those for a wine tasting. Palming our hands over the tops of our cups, we swirled the oil around, both to aerate it and to warm it up, which brings opens it’s nose. We then took a small sip, swirled the oil around in our mouths. From there we departed from wine tasting. Rather than spit the oil out, we sucked it through our teeth to the back of our throats, making an extraordinary “schschschschshsch” sound as we did so. As the oil drained to our stomachs Mark asked us to identify what we were tasting. The oil had overall flavors of grass, citrus, and apple, and as I “schschsch’d”, I experienced the predictable sweetness under the tongue, bitterness on the sides of my mouth, and a strong pepper down the back of my throat. These three sensations were distinct and unmistakable. Next, Mark passed around a bottle of Waterloo Corner SA EVOO. We repeated the tasting steps. This oil also tasting like grass, but this grass was freshly mowed. Rather than a lemon citrus, I got scents of tangerine and grapes. As we “schschsch’d”, I realized that this oil did not have three distinct tastes going down. Instead, there was a smooth, almost undetectable progression of the tastes from the tip of my tongue to the back of my throat. We’d tasted perfection, and it was green and oily. To prepare us for the tour part of our tour, Mark presented us the sliced baguette and tomatoes, which he topped with the Waterloo Corner and a sprinkling of Australian Pink Sea Salt. He passed the plate around and we each took a bite. I am proud of myself for not falling off my chair.

The tour continued to The Water Shop, O’Connell’s Butcher where they only serve happy meat (and some of my classmates were mortified by the sight of pig’s faces but I digress), Café Zedz, the fabulously named Smelly Cheese Shop, and Wilson’s Organics, where a newspaper reporter and a cameraman suddenly joined us. They wanted to photograph some of the new Le Cordon Bleu students enjoying their tour. Who would the school like them to use? Soon Bonnie and I were pretending to pretend to eat baby yellow plums so sweet and succulent that neither of us could only pretend to eat them. A few moments later, I was on my own, beaming at plates of yellow and red plums while the camera snapped away. My career as a superstar has officially begun.

That night, a group of us got together to socialize for the first time all week. Over pizza margarita, parmesan crusted shiitake mushrooms, and several bottles of wine, we finally to know a little bit about each other. Some of are already food historians, some of us have been chefs, and some of us have no culinary experience at all. We’re all worried about the workload and not sure what we’re going to do when we graduate.

The restaurant was two blocks from the horrible hostel, and as we left I announced my intention to walk myself home. Two classmates immediately tried to convince me to walk the half-mile back to campus first, insisting that was the most direct route. While we argued geography, two others wandered off in the exact opposite direction of their lodging, giggling away about food, men, and how the hell were they going to drive home. Suddenly, this felt a lot like home.

Lying in bed in the horrible hostel thinking about home, I kept the taps tightly shut.


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