Monday, May 19, 2014
Treat Yo Self: Sushi Class with Kasie Barger
I love food. LOVE it. I suppose the argument could be made that everyone loves food since it provides the energy necessary to sustain life, but a respect for the machinations of human survival is not the same as truly appreciating the creation and experimentation of taste and flavor.
I do not possess the talents of culinary greatness, but I do enjoy cooking. I've lately been on a bit of a cornbread kick – not to brag, but my vanilla raspberry cornbread muffins were the talk of the latest family get-together – and once farmer's market season kicks back into gear I'm planning on getting into homemade soups.
It's very satisfying, because the act of preparing and eating a meal is the perfect marriage of both working with your hands to create and also stuffing your face with tasty treats.
So for this month's Treat Yo Self, I decided to take a cooking class and learn how to roll my own sushi, and invited my friend Kasie to come along.
Kasie and I met as undergrads at Utah State University, although she went on to complete a master's at Columbia University whereas I chickened out of enrolling at Columbia after being accepted because I have debt-aversion ingrained into my DNA (the paltry salary I command as a journalist didn't help either). We share a love of New York City and film, although her cinematic choices are sometimes swayed by the prospect of a shirtless Chris Pine.
For the class we went to Harmon's Neighborhood Grocer at City Creek, which operates a charming little cooking school. The class was overseen by Chef Aaron, who walked us through the types of rice, fish and knives to buy as well as some practical tips for rolling, cutting and serving rolls.
We donned our aprons and got to work, spreading rice and fish over seaweed for about three rolls each. Chef Aaron also taught us how to Julienne a cucumber – essentially shaving it into thin sheets rather than cutting circular slices – which is probably the only skill from the class that I'll ever use at home. Not that the rest of the class wasn't useful, I just don't have many occasions – or the budget – that call for sushi-grade Ahi tuna.
We ate ourselves full on sushi during the class, which included dessert in the form of chili-chocolate gelato and sake sipped from traditional square wooden bowls, and decided to conduct our interview in the car during our drive home. This was my first experience with sake, and although Chef Aaron assured me we were sampling "the good stuff" with notes of licorice, I found it unpleasant, like taking a shot of very pungent rice vinegar.
Wood's Stock: Who are you and what do you do?
Kasie Barger: What do you mean ‘who am I?’ Like, what’s my name?
WS: Yeah. It’s not an existential question. Who are you, and what do you do?
KB: My name is Kasie Barger and I’m a social worker at the University of Utah Hospital.
WS: How do you like that?
KB: I really love it, a lot. It’s exactly the job that I wanted. Dream job.
WS: So sushi class, what did you think?
KB: I loved it.
WS: Elaborate. What did you love?
KB: I really liked the chef man, named Aaron, and I don’t know, I’m not a seasoned sushi eater but I really enjoyed it and I thought it was delicious.
WS: Tell me about your culinary history. On a scale of 1 to Domestic Goddess what are you?
KB: I hate that, “domestic goddess,” I’m not a domestic goddess in any sense of the word. You mean, like, cooking?
WS: Yeah, do you often cook or do you go out for most of your meals?
KB: I would say I enjoy cooking when it’s not for just me. I hate just cooking for myself because I feel like it’s a lot of work. But I do enjoy cooking and I think I’m decent at it but I don’t make fancy exotic things.
WS: Walk me through the class: what it entailed, what it was, what you did.
KB: We got there and the teacher gave us a brief history of Sushi – where it came from, all of that – showed us how to make the rice. What you do is you have the rice that you make in a rice cooker and then you put rice vinegar and, what was the other thing?
WS: Sugar and salt?
KB: Sugar and salt or something. You mix that together and that makes the rice. Then he walked us through how to make it. You have these cool mat rolling things and you put the seaweed on that and the rice on that ,like a grain or two thick, and then you just put whatever fish on there you want and you do this cool rolly-up thing and you have your sushi.
WS: Sushi is a polarizing food. Are you squeamish about your food, are you picky?
KB: Yes, I am picky. Pretty picky.
WS: But you’re ok with seaweed and raw fish?
KB: I’m picky when it comes to certain things. I don’t like tomatoes. That is one thing that I do not like so I feel like that makes me seam really picky because a lot of stuff has tomatoes in it.
WS: It’s a fairly common ingredient.
KB: But I love fish, all sorts of fish. I haven’t had a lot of sushi but everything I’ve had I’ve really enjoyed. So I’m picky on some things but not picky on others.
WS: What did you put into your sushi?
KB: I think I had one with Tuna, I can’t remember which kind. I had some lobster and imitation crab and I liked them all, I think the tuna was my favorite though.
WS: Anything that surprised you from the class?
KB: They had these, were they fish eggs?
WS: Flying fish eggs.
KB: These flying fish eggs that were bright orange and I was really hesitant about them at first but they really were delicious. They were a little crunchy and a little sweet and I couldn’t get enough.
WS: But you weren’t down with the Beluga?
KB: No. I tried the beluga caviar which they had, which is apparently really expensive, but it just tasted like salt to me. Like pure salt because I’m no fancy lady so apparently I don’t have a refined palate for things like that.
WS: Let’s talk about food generally. You’re on death row, what’s your last meal?
KB: Oh gosh. Like I could have any food from anywhere?
WS: Any food from anywhere, before you die.
KB: This is so hard. I recently, in the past couple of years, have kind of been obsessed with Indian food and there’s an Indian place in Queens, New York called Jackson’s Diner which, don’t let the C or B health rating sketch you out because I ate there a couple of times and I did not die so that’s something. They have the best Indian food I’ve ever had. So I would say maybe that.
WS: Like a tikka masala?
KB: No they have this chicken korma that’s coconut based with cashews and chicken and it’s so good, and garlic naan.
WS: I think it’s amazing that you like Indian food, you’re ok with raw tuna, but you draw the line at tomatoes.
KB: It’s a texture thing with the tomatoes. It just makes me gag. I don’t like them. I can’t do it.
WS: Anything else you can’t do?
KB: I don’t like onions. I’m fine with the flavor and if they’re cooked in things but I don’t like raw onions.
WS: Yeah, I fancy myself to be a very open-minded eater but raw onions are tough.
KB: My main thing with food I don’t like is a texture thing. I don’t like cooked broccoli or cooked cauliflower but I really like it raw.
WS: You don’t like it mushy?
KB: If it’s cooked perfectly to where it’s not mushy I’m fine, but I don’t know what it is, it’s a texture thing.
WS: So what were you doing in Queens?
KB: We went for the Indian food. We and a couple of my friends had been hearing about how wonderful Jackson Diner was so we went to check it out.
WS: Did it live up to the hype?
KB: Obviously. I just said I want it for my last meal.
WS: Does it really have a B or C health rating?
KB: The last time we went I think it had a B and now it has a C.
WS: Would you still go?
KB: I don’t know, probably.
WS: I remember those ratings, it’s a big stigma in New York to have a low health grade.
KB: Oh it really is so I don’t know, maybe if I wanted it badly enough I would. It might be worth death actually so yeah, I would go back.
WS: Especially if it’s your last meal. Nothing to lose.
KB: Oh totally. I’m gonna die anyway. Might as well die happy.
WS: And well fed
WS: Any other thoughts from the class today? Did you learn anything you might use in your own kitchen?
KB: No. I will say right now that I will never make sushi on my own.
WS: Why not?
KB: Too much work and I’m too scared to pick out the fish on my own, even though he explained how to do it, and you need all these fancy things. I just know myself well enough to know that I would never go through all that work to make it myself.
WS: Had you ever done a cooking class before?
KB: No I had not, actually. But I would definitely do one again.
KB: I feel like I like cooking but it’s nice having a step-by-step guide and sushi is something I never would have made on my own, so I would take cooking classes more for things that I don’t know how to make and want to learn how to make.
WS: Prestige meals?
KB: Yes, prestige meals, to impress people. Now I can brag that I know how to make sushi.
WS: Even if you never do it again.
KB: Even if I never do it again, but I have the pictures.
WS: Facebook official.
KB: Yeah. Facebook and Instagram official.
WS: So you’d recommend cooking classes?
KB: I would. Can we talk about something else really quick?
KB: That one girl who was there and then her…
WS: The super young girl with the super old man?
KB: YEAH! I thought that was her dad and then they were all over each other.
WS: Definitely not her dad. I thought the same thing. How big an age gap do you think that was?
KB: I don’t know. She looked maybe like 30?
KB: Like 30ish, I’m horrible with ages so I don’t know, and then he was at least 50. He was old.
WS: As soon as they started snuggling with each other I thought…I bet she’s closer to 40 than she looks. But maybe not.
KB: I feel like she’s probably a gold digger.
WS: Love is blind, and all that.
KB: Yes. And now I sound super judgmental but I was like ‘oh. That’s happening.’ And they were just attached at the hip.
WS: They’re a great couple for the “Girlfriend or Daughter” game.
KB: Whatever makes them happy though. What are your thoughts on older men with younger women?
WS: What are my thoughts? Like, am I for or against?
KB: I don’t know, I’m just curious.
WS: Once women reach a certain age they can date whoever they want. What creeps me out though is when girls in their 20s are with the super old guy. I had a friend who literally as a 24 year old was dating a man in his 60s and in no world is that ok. Once you’re older, do what you gotta do, but if you’re still in your 20s I get a little creeped out.
KB: So I’m 24, what’s the oldest age that is appropriate for me to date?
WS: You’re 24?
KB: All right, I’m on board with that.
WS: And that’s just when it starts to be weird. If he was 33 it wouldn’t be, like, atrocious. We’d still be friends.
KB: What about the reverse?
WS: The reverse is a whole different ball game. For one thing it’s so rare. You so rarely see an older woman with a younger guy. I don’t know. I’ve never dated anyone older than me, I’ve barely dated anyone at all, so who knows.
Anything you want to promote?
KB: That I'm a strong smart sensual woman.
WS: Are you on twitter?
KB: Yes, @KasieBarger