Author and local gardener Norma Chang hosted a food demonstration and discussion, “From Garden to Table,” at the last Saturday. Families with children of all ages, including newborns, attended the program, which focused on teaching attendees how to cook and eat the vegetables grown in gardens.
Upon entering the Scott Room, we were overwhelmed by the smell of fresh soil and various scents of vegetables. Chang had set out three woks on two tables, along with her cooking ingredients, equipment and vegetables from her garden on a third table.
Chairs were arranged in a semi-circle positioned fairly close to the table to create an intimate setting. The braver children scrambled to sit in the front row, and gladly participated when prompted with questions from Chang.
Chang began the program by asking how many of us gardened. A few, mainly the children, raised their hands. She then struck a deal with the children, explaining that she understood children often do not like to eat vegetables, but that she was cooking them differently.
Chang promised the children that after they tried the dish, it would be OK to throw the food in the garbage if they indeed did not like the vegetables after all. However, Chang cautioned the children (and pleased parents) by telling them that to throw away the food would only be appropriate for this program and not at home.
Chang moved the program along by explaining the ingredients already prepared in her three woks and the three plates placed in front of them. The first plate contained broccoli, cabbage, kohl rabi, cucumber and onions. The second plate contained green cabbage, yellow and green squash, beans, peppers, corn starch, soy sauce and some salt. The third plate was empty at the time.
In the first two woks were chicken cooked in canola oil. Chang also used a lighter soy sauce in one, along with a darker soy sauce in the other. In the third wok, she stir fried romaine lettuce in ginger, salt and canola oil. After cooking, she placed the romaine lettuce in the third plate.
Chang then showed a PowerPoint presentation of the many vegetables in her garden, and explained how we could use each one in cooking. She passed around vegetables for us to touch, see and smell. Some of the vegetables highlighted included carrots, Chinese broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, Chinese celery, Swiss chard, Chinese long bean and fuzzy melon.
Once the PowerPoint presentation ended and all the vegetables returned to the tables, Chang added sesame oil for flavoring and chicken broth to both chicken woks to serve. She placed the lighter soy sauce chicken from wok one onto plate one, and the darker soy sauce chicken from wok two onto plate two. Lunch was served.
We lined up a few times for the stir fry dishes, and they were delicious. I am delighted to note that none of the children took Chang up on her promise by throwing away any vegetables they disliked.
To teach others how to cook stir-fry, Chang has authored two books, “My Students’ Favorite Chinese Recipes” and “Wokking Your Way to Low Fat Cooking,” which can also be followed using a frying pan in place of a wok. Visit her website for additional information.