If you read my blog way back in 2011, you might remember that Neil and I took part in Charcutepalooza – a group of bloggers working their way through Michael Ruhlman’s “Charcuterie” book. You might remember that time I tried to grind meat without the blade in the meat grinder. Or the sausage stuffing extravaganza. Or perhaps even the only known “Charcutepalooza injury” when I strained my hands making emulsified sausages? Ok so there were some funny times there, yes, but the takeaway we both had after a year’s merry meat-making was – WOW. It’s actually not that complicated and oh my goodness, does meat that you cure, grind, stuff etc… yourself taste good. SO much better than store-bought.
This – that “from scratch” food doesn’t have to be difficult and that it tastes so much better – is something I try to teach my students but I’ve never imagined that I could grind meat and make sausages with them in under an hour (although I have wondered…). Enter the intrepid Emily Richards. Emily’s worked with the boys before – showing them how to make gnocchi from scratch, strawberry and rhubarb pies and sticky date pudding. She is, as you can probably imagine, pretty popular amongst the boys. After this week, she’s my hero.
On Monday April 14th, we couldn’t have predicted that it would be raining cats and dogs, now could we? Well sadly spring seems to have left the building this week and poor Emily was driving in sleeting rain on traffic-clogged highways, racing to get to the school on time. I could tell she was a little flustered when she arrived (Toronto drivers in the rain will do that to you!) and the best thing I could do was to just get the class going and make sure the boys were attentive listeners. It’s interesting though – watching as Emily slowly slipped into what is obviously a well rehearsed routine, I could see her visibly relax. Food and the creative process does that to me too. I can be all stressed out about deadlines and piles of work to be done but put me in the kitchen and that stress disappears. In any case, how could you NOT have fun showing a group of boys how to grind meat and make sausages?
You can tell someone is serious about making sausages when they have a meat grinder with a motor. The boys were fascinated with this and watched patiently and with great interest as the large chunks of meat were transformed into what they are used to seeing as ground meat in the supermarket.
They helped Emily season the meat, measuring the seasonings carefully…
Emily showed them how to fry up a little bit of the meat to taste it. As you can imagine they were very excited about that. I loved watching their reactions and hearing what they thought about the meat – even with just a few carefully selected seasonings, this was “the best” tasting sausage meat ever. “And all natural”. This is the part I loved. That they could identify and pronounce each ingredient in this dish.
After some initial hesitation about the whole “intestines” thing, the boys realised that obviously they’d eaten natural casings – or perhaps artificial ones – before so it didn’t seem that bad. I saw a lot of thought going into the idea of eating something natural as opposed to artificial. This, my friends, is the point – getting kids actually thinking about what they are eating and knowing where there food comes from.
Even under pressure, Emily did a great job of making beautiful, “real looking” sausages (the words of the boys and some of the mums!). I know had I had many pairs of little eyes watching me, I wouldn’t have been able to do such a professional job!
As for the sausage patties – we used those in homemade breakfast sandwiches – with some egg and cheese. These were a huge hit, as you can imagine. I can’t think of a better way to show the boys how great real food tastes than through a breakfast sandwich, especially a from-scratch one.
Someone asked me recently, “do the boys cook at home as well?” Yes, they do, actually and when guest chefs come in, they are always inspired. To the point that this week, we’ve already had a Petit Chef tell his mum that they absolutely “need” a meat grinder. Well then – a little butcher in the making?
Emily – thank you so much for coming and working with the boys again. You are an inspiration (for me too!).
Check out Emily’s latest cookbook “Get in The Kitchen and COOK!” – a book to get you in the kitchen preparing tasty meals quickly so you can enjoy time with family and friends both for weeknight meals as well as casual kitchen entertaining with friends. Check out what Emily’s up to by visiting her website or check out her blog and follow her on Twitter ERiscooking.
Let’s get kids excited about food on May 16th 2014 – Food Revolution Day! Check out all the details for how you can participate here.