Eat. Live. Travel. Write: Inspiring A Love Of Cooking Through WordsTue 29 Jul 2014
Story by Mardi Michels
July 2014 Blog of the Month: eat.live.travel.write
I’ve been blogging at eat. live. travel. write. for five years, writing about recipes, cooking with kids, cookbooks and travel. You’ll see my blog header licorice allsorts – a reflection of the eclectic mix of all (the) sorts of things I love to do and write about – reading, baking, cooking, travelling and teaching!
In fact, I’ve been blogging since 2006, privately, for three of those years. I started documenting summer trips to Paris where I was completing courses for my MA via weekly email updates with photos for family and friends. After a summer of email updates, the following year I moved to a private blog where I shared a photo a day and at the end of the second summer, someone commented that a lot of my photos were of food. Not necessarily what I was eating everyday but of foods that caught my eye – and of course, people find it fascinating to see what’s on offer in foreign supermarkets, markets and restaurants. If you look back as some of my earliest travel photographs – non-digital – many of those are of food too!
I started my blog in May 2009, originally tagged “A blog about ‘allsorts’ of things”. The tagline and the reasons for writing the blog have changed a little – originally it was a fun writing project in the year between finishing my MA and starting my PhD – the inspiration for my second tagline “My creative refuge from academia”. When, a couple of years into blogging and in my 2nd year of my PhD, I realised that my interests were much more food and travel-focused than academic, I put my PhD on hold, creating my third and current tagline (and focus) “Culinary adventures, near and far.”
Food and travel is an important part of my blog but it’s more than simply taking photos of food – when I travel, I like to learn how people shop and eat as well as how to cook some of the dishes I taste because it’s a great insight into different cultures. I also love trying to recreate some newly-discovered dishes when I get home – a way to extend myself in the kitchen and keep those holiday memories living on well after the holiday has ended.
Over the past four years, a focus that’s become increasingly important on my blog has been writing about teaching kids to cook. What started out as an after-school cooking club once a week (Les Petits Chefs) has turned into a twice-weekly endeavour that has led to my involvement with Jamie’s Food Revolution as a Food Revolution Ambassador for Toronto. When I heard Jamie speak in Toronto in 2009, I was inspired by his determination to bring change to the way people eat (getting people back in the kitchen cooking real food) and felt it was my duty as an educator to “do” something with that knowledge.
When I first started the club in March 2010, I had no idea how much I would learn from cooking with my students. The club gives me a chance to get to know them outside the classroom – a context where many of them really shine. Boys who may not necessarily enjoy French (because let’s be honest, it’s not everyone’s favourite subject!) get to see me in a totally different light too – and this definitely benefits our in-class interactions as well.
Over the years, we’ve made many Jamie Oliver recipes; I like that they show how easy some of the boys’ favourite dishes are to make from scratch. There’s also a guest chef programme where chefs and food enthusiasts from around Toronto work with the boys in our kitchen/ science lab. You’d be surprised how much you can do in just one hour – like this molecular cuisine session where they made 'rhubarb in textures’! The boys have also been invited to cook in restaurant kitchens; making, amongst many other dishes, pasta from scratch, deep- fried mini meatball pizzas, choux pastry, chocolate ravioli, and they even competed in an “Iron Chef” type cook off.
I’m proud to say that many of the boys cook regularly at home and one of them recently cooked a pop-up dinner for 30 people (he made gnocchi from scratch)! Members of the club have been lucky enough to be invited to hear René Redzepi, Daniel Patterson and Alex Atala speak in Toronto as well.
The posts I write about cooking with kids are amongst my personal favourites. It’s such an important topic - I don’t think I can ever say too much about it. Posts about my summers in France (especially Paris) are ones I enjoy writing as well and I can’t mention favourite posts without French Fridays with Dorie – a group of bloggers working our way through Dorie Greenspan’s “Around my French Table”. We’re nearing the end of the book and I’m proud to say I have not missed one week of posting since October 2010! The people in this group have become good friends and are so supportive of everything I do – we even participated virtually in Food Revolution Day in 2013 and 2014! Something I’ve enjoyed learning how to make and which has led to some of my most popular posts is macarons (here’s my recipe for those who are interested), and this has expanded into teaching (mostly French pastry) classes around Toronto.
When I started my blog back in 2009, I could never have predicted how many wonderful opportunities it would lead to. I hope through my words I can inspire others to cook with (their) kids, step outside their comfort zone in the kitchen and explore other cultures through food.
About the author: Mardi Michels is a full-time teacher of French at an independent boys’ school in Toronto, Canada. She blogs at eat. live. travel. write. As part of her job, she runs a cooking class twice a week for 7-13 year-old boys, Les Petits Chefs and Cooking Basics. She’s also a contributor to JamieOliver.com and has been a Food Revolution Ambassador for Toronto since 2012. In her spare time she teaches adult and children's cooking classes around Toronto.
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