Monday, June 20, 2011

Late Monday Afternoon in Williamsburg: Louisa Shafia and "Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life" at the Leonard Library

At 5:30 p.m. today we crossed Metropolitan Avenue and went over to the Leonard Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library for a fascinating one-hour talk and demonstration -- "Secrets of the Farmers' Market" -- with Louisa Shafia, author of the wonderful bestselling organic cookbook, Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life. She's worked as a chef at really wonderful restaurants like Aquavit, Pure Food and Wine, and Roxanne's and Millennium in San Francisco.

Louisa Shafia and her husband, who was in the audience downstairs in the library's community room, live down the block on Devoe Street. It was great to s hear her talk in the neighborhood about a subject she is an expert on. After being introduced by David Mills, the Neighborhood Library Supervisor (who has always been incredibly helpful to us), Louisa spoke of the importance, which we hope everyone is aware of now, of eating locally and seasonally. She brought all kinds of interesting produce she'd gotten this morning at the Union Square Greenmarket.

Louisa had us guess what each food was, and this young man with his mother seemed to know everything, displaying an impressive knowledge. When we were his age, we knew only about iceberg lettuce and Bermuda onions. Actually, many of the women and men in the audience were foodies or experienced cooks, though maybe not as quick to identify produce.

It's hard to convey how entertaining and informative Louisa's talk on using the items -- which included sugar snap peas, which we'd eaten at lunch (okay, courtesy of Green Giant); beets and rhubarb, which we love; fava beans, which we have mixed feelings about (they seem dreadful eaten plain, and Louisa explained why); artichoke zucchini and another rarer kind of zucchini; and then stuff we'd only heard of (sorrel, Thai basil) or were complete unfamiliar with (garlic scapes, shiso).

We got to smell and taste most of the greens, and we learned imaginative ways to use all the foods in our meals. (We have the best mom in the world, but she always hated to cook, even after becoming a vegetarian, and so growing up in Brooklyn, we ate in restaurants most nights, and for the most part we take after Mom.)

Louisa Shafia's Lucid Food is a wonderful book, and she was kind enough to stay afterwards to autograph the copies bought by audience members, w all profits going to the Leonard library's Support Our Shelves program.

We're grateful to her for this talk and to the Leonard library and all the Brooklyn Public Library branches, which nurtured us as a kid and which merit your support in these fiscally-challenged times.

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