Kathleen Brown, her husband John and their two adopted children, Peter Quang and Claire Xuan, are touring around Vietnam during their Christmas holiday. Kathleen is a long-time television producer and /media consultant for humanitarian agencies and her husband, John, a professional photographer. Every couple of days, they will post a story along with photos on their travels and adventures.
Hoi An Cooking Class: With Love From Market to Table.
Ok, I admit it. I do most all of the cooking for my family, but knowing how much our identity as a trans-racial family is tied to food, I thought it would be valuable to immerse ourselves in a Hoi An cooking class to learn to prepare some Vietnamese dishes. A secondary benefit might be other willing and capable hands in my kitchen. I can hope!
As a child, my family’s experience of Chinese food was Chungking chow mien in a can and our Italian was Chef Boyardee spaghetti with meatballs and ravioli – also canned.
The American kitchen of the sixties and seventies was a celebration of the freeze-dried, canned, bottled, Swanson TV dinners and automats-- a packaging wasteland. Most of the fruits I ate in as a child were canned: pineapple, peaches and pears.
Fast forward some thirty years and the 21stcentury has ushered in a remarkable farm to table movement, organic production and an exciting “slow food” movement in the USA, Europe and elsewhere. The defining movements of this century are the internet technology revolution and quite possibly, the fresh, local and “clean food” movement.
Our class appropriately begins in Hoi An’s market.
There our guide shows us longan, durian, jackfruit, dragon fruit, water apples, pineapples, peppers, onions, morning glories, coriander and numerous greens--both describing their importance and how to select for quality. Warned about theft in the marketplace, Peter stands like a sentinel at John’s side guarding his camera and our purses. He lets his guard down only to receive tasty samples of dried banana, coconut and peanuts from a kindly, persistent vendor.
The hands-on portion of the class deposits us in a “cooking show” of sorts. Our chef and teacher stands at a cooking table with an overhead mirror before some 45 chefs-in-training, each of us at our own prep and cooking station. Then the fun begins!
Within the two-hour class we prepare our very own lunch, devourit, learning to prepare sauces, slice and chop, marinate, sauté and grill our way into the exciting, yin-yang of Vietnamese cuisine. It’s a sensual tour of sorts -- visual, auditory, tasting, touching and best of all, the scent of things, prepared with love and cheer. I believe I’ve inched at least Peter a bit closer to the kitchen counter! Hurray! It's a start.