Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Flaccid, Rotting Chard

Last night we had a vegetable ID lecture. It was very interesting and I learned a whole lot of new information... as I have the entire week and a half I have been in school. We talked about several vegetables, differences in heat in chilis, etc. Then there were the cooking greens, some of them looked not terribly edible, and there was a bunch of chard sitting on the table that was so wilted and gray... so much so that I could imagine eating it. I jokingly asked one of the instructors if it was possibly edible at this point, to which he turned the question on me: would I serve it? I thought it was a test, a trick question, I answered no of course I would not serve this green that is so clearly wanting to return to the earth. The instructor scoffed at me, saying that there is no restaurant on earth that would survive if they threw it out and that we have to learn to cut off the bad parts and use the rest. Normally, I would agree, but this chard has mold growing all up its stalks and leaves, the leaves wilted and crumbling. Yes, there were probably some edible pieces, but how much labor would be involved in dividing up the bunch between rotten and non? And what would the flavor and texture be of a green that had been allowed to sit around for months before it was used? Given that the microbial activity on this produce was so screamingly apparent, I think the highest and best use would be to compost it, but this chef chose to put it right back on the storage shelf after the lecture, where it could infest everything else in that storage room.

In the same lecture last night, chef was showing us how to break up cauliflower. He cut the florets, but discarded the whole stalk. I asked him if there is any use for the stalk (at home I usually cut off the tough outer layer and eat the inner layer just as the florets). He giggled as if the suggestion was preposterous, tossed the stalk at me and said if you like it, you eat it (which I did).

I must say that I do find it awfully peculiar that old, rotten chard is considered salvagable, but the interior stalk of the cauliflower has no culinary use.

But don't get me wrong, for as many questionable bits of advice, there is far more valuable information being imparted. Hopefully someday soon I will have the time to write about those experiences as well.