Campus / News / April 8, 2008

Cooking with Helmut

“Diversity is important, it really is.” New Dining Services Director Helmut Mayer addressed students gathered for a cooking demonstration Thursday in Ferris Lounge with advice about both food and life: “Diversity is important, it really is.”

The event, organized by Food for Thought, drew approximately 30 guests in from the pouring rain at 5 p.m. and ran for about an hour, during which time students were able to observe Mayer prepare an array of popular Austrian salads, along with taking part in an open forum where anyone could ask for cooking advice. The discussion was also a chance for students to voice their questions and suggestions about future changes in the cafeteria, the Grab-‘n-Go, and the Gizmo.

The presentation itself had all the entertainment flavor of a televised cooking show, with an overhead screen and video equipment making it easy for those seated in the rows further back to view Mayer’s methods up close. Indeed, amidst the rows of chairs, several whispered opinions could be heard proposing that Mayer should launch his own program on The Food Network.

Mayer’s salad advice:

1. Be careful when using flavored oils, since a small amount can change the entire composition of a salad and overpower all the other ingredients; the same rule of thumb applies for strong cheeses.

2. Salads actually taste best the second and third days after they are made, because the ingredients are at their most potent once they have had an opportunity to “mingle.” The exception to this rule is with salads containing tomatoes. Those should be consumed the day they are made, because the tomatoes will not keep for as long.

3. “One eats with the eye as much as with the mouth or stomach,” Mayer told his audience. The aesthetic appearance of the salad is just as important as the taste. Okay, maybe not just as important. But a food’s appearance does have proven effects upon the way the taste will be interpreted. For an aesthetic as well as flavorful flourish Mayer recommends the use of pepper, parsley, and other personal seasonings of choice.

4. When using tomatoes in salad, any aspiring salad master should not seek out the ripest specimens; if overly ripe, the tomato’s texture will not be firm enough for the slices to remain shapely through slicing and mixing.

The four dishes included a cucumber salad, cabbage salad, bologna salad with Swiss cheese (a surprisingly delightful combination), and a three-bean salad. Overall, the food was a hit with the audience, who were able to take the recipes home with them for their own experimentation.

“They were delicious,” sophomore Brian Starr said, when asked about the salad samples. He also mentioned that, in the future, “it would be nice to see even more events like this offering other types of food, maybe some kind of warm dish.”

Both Mayer and Food for Thought members echoed that idea, which is in the works for the future, provided that a suitable location and necessary equipment can be arranged.

“In the past, Dining Services directors have often been ‘behind the scenes,’ so to speak,” said sophomore Meredith Lirman of Food for Thought. “But we wanted this to be an opportunity for the Knox community to really get to know Helmut and socialize with him. He is very eager to talk with students and hear their perspectives.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about Food for Thought, whose goals are to raise consciousness and conversation about the foods we consume in our daily lives, can meet at Ferris Lounge, at 4 p.m. on Tuesdays. The club’s recent activities have included culinary involvements in environmental week, I-Fair, and Fallfest.

Deanna Wendel

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