Change the World: Teach Cooking


Photo by Anastatia Curley

In the next few weeks, I'll be wrapping up my time at the Yale Sustainable Food Project. As my two years here wind to a close, I'm sad to leave the Project but looking forward to exploring a new food landscape--I'll be moving up to Cambridge, Massachusetts and trading the Yale Farm's Sun Gold tomatoes for...well, I'm not sure yet.

As I prepare to leave, I've been teaching this fall's crop of Yale Farm interns how to make pizza in our wood-fired oven. It's a good way to go out, passing a skill on to others. Leaving feels sad, but leaving something behind feels right. Jacques Pépin visited the Sustainable Food Project last week; as part of our first Food and Film Festival he introduced a screening of Julie and Julia, and also taught a cooking demonstration.

There's something exciting about the thought that there are people out there who can do something they didn't used to be able to do, all because of me.

As our director, Melina, introduced him, she said, "If everyone who knew how to cook taught someone else how to cook, we'd have a country that believed in good food." Certainly I am no Jacques Pépin, who is an amazing cook and teacher both, and whose enthusiasm about food and commitment to teaching really do make the world a better place.

But in my own humble way I would like to think that I've done something, by teaching quite a few Yale students how to cook in a wood-fired oven. These students now know how to light a fire, know when it's hot enough to cook pizza or cool enough to make stew, know that they CAN stick their hand in a 500-degree oven (how else do you judge whether its the right temperature?), know how to sharpen a knife, and how to chop garlic. There's something tremendously exciting about the thought that there are people out there who can do something they didn't used to be able to do, all because of me.

So before I go, hopefully I can pass something on to all of you as well: here's something you can cook in a wood-fired brick oven or in your oven at home. Nothing fancy required: you'll need an eggplant or two, a fork, a sharp knife, a cookie sheet or some aluminum foil, a bowl, a few cloves of garlic, and olive oil and salt.

Roasted Eggplant Spread

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and poke a few holes in the eggplant(s) with the fork.

Put the eggplant(s) in the oven, on a cookie sheet or on foil.

Let the eggplant roast for 20 to 25 minutes, or longer, depending on how large it is, until the skin is blackened and the eggplant has mostly collapsed. Check on it once in a while and turn it over so that it roasts evenly. Meanwhile, mince the garlic.

When the eggplant has cooked, take it out of the oven and let it cool enough that you can handle it. Slice it down the middle and scrape the insides into a bowl. Pour in some olive oil (start with just a little) and add some salt and some of the minced garlic, and then mash the whole mixture with the fork. Taste it and add more salt, olive oil, or garlic as needed. (If you want babaganoush, add some tahini and lemon juice.)

Spread it on toast and enjoy.

Teach someone else to do it.

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Anastatia Curley is the former Communications Coordinator of the Yale Sustainable Food Project. More

Anastatia Curley is the former Communications Coordinator of the Yale Sustainable Food Project. She now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she writes, cooks, and caters local and sustainable meals.
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