Experience breathless excitement in an action-packed demonstration, the likes of which you’ve never before seen!
Partake in a primitive ritual as the crowd is whipped into a trance!!
Gentlemen hold onto your pints, gentle ladies hold onto your men as you are amazed and astounded by feats that will make your jaws drop…with hunger?
There have been more than a few occasions at Farmers Markets wherein I’ve felt I’ve resembled a side show barker. I’m not exactly introducing the audience to freaks of flora (though some vegetables, fiddlehead ferns for example, do appear as if they’ve landed from Sci-Fi-Farm). Rather, I’m enthusiastically enticing them to venture over and sample my elixir…er, I mean soup.
I admit also to having a great fascination for circus performers, and it was today, while I was sitting in the audience at Cirque du Soleil, that for several moments, my mind wandered. I began to ponder the similarities between the acrobat and the chef.
Ok, it’s a stretch, but given that I wanted to grow up to be a gypsy acrobat in the circus (shortly before deciding, at age eleven, that I would go the culinary route), I afforded myself the leeway to muse the parallels.
Both professionals perform for an audience. An audience that beholds the spectacle, but is not necessarily versed in the technique of the tricks (which would seem part of the charm of both a death-defying feat, and a good meal). We both have skills that come from practice and patience, and timing that can make or break a trick, or in my case, supper. The key difference, of course, is that if while at the market I am demonstrating to a crowd of hungry onlookers how to flip a frittata into the air, with the attempt to land it upside down back in the pan, I fail, I end up with egg on my face…and sometimes on the ground. The acrobat, on the other hand, risks scrambling much more. Which got me thinking that although years of training have afforded me a few tricks, none of those are particularly dangerous, or even necessary to do what I do.
I cook food from scratch. For all the fancy footwork and interesting terms, it’s little more than what skilled cooks have been doing for centuries. I shop for really stellar food close to the source – at the Farmers Market – and prepare it simply, using basic techniques, and seasoning until I’m satisfied.
All in all, it’s really very simple. And can be quite pleasurable, both the mechanics and the results. Which is why I’m out there demonstrating what to do with all of the wonderfully fresh foods. For as straightforward as cooking can be, domestic culinary arts have become a lost art – in many homes replaced by the convenience of pre-packaged goods, take-out, or drive-thru. I think that’s a shame. A shame to health, a shame to the environment, and a dishonor to family life. And the real shame is that there are few places that a home cook can turn to for help. Home economics class is not required in schools. Children can’t always turn to their parents for guidance, since for decades parents have relied on nutrient-deficient convenient alternatives to whole foods. Sure, we’re inundated with media, but can you really learn to cook from a magazine or flashy food tv show? At the market, shoppers can watch as foods are prepared, from the purchase to the plate. They can smell the aromas, and learn to let their senses guide them. They can feel the textures of the vegetables, and they can taste the results and the raw products. It’s a tactile experience. And it works – shoppers return week after week to sing the praises of their successes. Hearing that thrills me at least as much as an acrobat’s trick. And I can take comfort in the fact that although I can’t really be a decent acrobat, an acrobat can be a decent cook, and I can help make that happen.