For the last week, since attending the East Bridgewater Library Foodies group, Iíve been microplaning garlic like crazy and loving how the little, razor sharp grater nearly purees the garlic, allowing me to add a subtle yet raw garlic flavor to (truth be told) almost every savory dish I cook.
Iíve owned a microplane grater for several years, seen cooks on TV use them to grate garlic, yet never done it myself. Why? I donít know.
Some things are better learned in person.
When I watched chef Sara Welsh grate several cloves in the little food demonstration station she set up at this monthís foodie meeting, I suddenly saw -- and tasted -- how well the tool works for garlic.
Iím online so much -- go to the Internet so often for information -- that Iíd half forgotten the value of learning in person.
The East Bridgewater Library Foodies group was founded by Marika Grossman to bring together her two loves: cooking and books.
It was a simple event -- about 20 people gathered for a program entitled ďMediterranean Tastes ... Good.Ē
As foodies filed into a basement room at the library, Welsh set up a work station with a food processor, a microplane (!), fresh herbs, and foods, while Grossman arranged her favorite Mediterranean artifacts and cookbooks on an adjacent table.
Youíd think that with all the cooking shows on television, people wouldnít see the value in going to a homespun event like this one. Not so. Local foodie groups are springing up all over the country, which isnít surprising when you consider the explosion of the locavore movement -- and the popularity of all things local and food-related. Grossman started the East Bridgewater group after going to two nearby foodie groups: the South Shore Locavores and the Ames Free Library Foodie Group in Easton.
I confess that Iíd gone to the meeting with low expectations and ended up with a valuable new cooking technique, one that will make a big difference to my culinary life. I adore raw garlic in dishes, but too much is overpowering and even a good garlic press produces too chunky a texture to allow me to mix a small amount evenly into various mixtures. But garlic grated in a microplane comes out almost juiced, so it can be mixed with olive oil (for example) very nicely before adding to, say, the tomato and basil salads Iíve been eating daily. (Or spread lightly on toasted bread as the basis for a quick bruschetta.)
Welsh, a freelance chef-educator who specializes in catering ďCasual Cooking PartiesĒ in peopleís homes, made two simple, delicious dishes: hummus and cold cucumber soup. Both had a wonderfully light garlic flavor.
As she measured, chopped, mixed, and grated, Welsh gave an enlightening overview of the historical transformation of dishes as various foods and spices migrated around the many countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
The atmosphere was comfortable, so audience members felt free to make comments or question Welsh, and several people added interesting information to the presentation.
In person, knowledge can still seem like the precious thing it is, passed from person to person in the old way.
Sitting there, in the basement of the East Bridgewater library, watching, listening, smelling, talking, and tasting, I saw the world, for a few minutes, as a mysterious place filled with wonders.
And I grasped something I hadnít gleaned from all the television shows, cookbooks, and Internet sites I visit. And small as it may seem, itís making my cooking much better.
I wouldnít trade that experience for too many things.
For more information on the East Bridgewater Library Foodies, contact the library at 508 378-1616, or email Grossman at email@example.com. To reach Sara Welsh, call her at 508-241-5400, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her online at sarawelsh.com.
Joan Wilder can be reached at email@example.com.