By Marleena Eyre
On February 22, 2014, an uncharacteristically warm day, members of the BU Gastronomy Students Association spent the afternoon stretching cheese curds into velvety mozzarella and turning fresh milk into ricotta. Microbiologist Dr. Benjamin Wolfe, who is teaching Microbiology of Food for the BU Gastronomy Program this semester, hosted the GSA’s Cheese Making Workshop. With a passion for all things microbial, Dr. Wolfe obtained his B.Sc. from Cornell, his Ph.D. from Harvard University, and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University’s FAS Center for Systems Biology with Dr. Rachel Dutton.
Walking past modern offices lined with complex equations written on windows in Harvard’s Northwest Lab Building, Dr. Wolfe led us to the kitchen where we were greeted by large stainless steel pots and a slew of ingredients ready for cheese making. Before jumping into the cooking portion of the workshop, Dr. Wolfe gave a brief lecture on microbes and the fundamentals of cheese making.
The acidity which separates the casein micelles – proteins in milk that make it appear white – from the whey, also helps to bind the proteins together. This can be done with the addition of rennet or acids such as lemon, vinegar, or citric acid. From these curds, a plethora of delicious cheeses can be made. Though the excess whey is not used in the rest of the process, it can be saved and used as a nutritional additive to smoothies, used to keep a block of feta cheese fresh, or even used as a liquid replacement in baking.
After walking through the various steps to making fresh mozzarella, Dr. Wolfe sliced a 10-pound block of pressed cheese curds and placed the pieces into bowls of hot salted water to induce the stretching process. Mozzarella making is all about physics and using physical manipulation to produce the desired textural attributes known for comprising this well-known cheese.
The pulling motion of stretching mozzarella helps to align the casein micelles which are indiscriminately assembled when the cheese curds are produced. Within a few minutes, our hands turned the chunks of rigid cheese curds into silky strings ready for consumption; it was as if we were transported back to childhood and playing with silly putty.
Rounding out the workshop, we had the opportunity to peek inside the lab where Dr. Wolfe and his colleagues spend hours researching and testing thousands of microbial strains. Amongst the lab equipment was a makeshift cheese cave showcasing the fruits of their labor. One whiff of the temperature-controlled refrigerator, a zone of concentrated microbes, was not for the faint of heart; it is an acquired scent prized by cheese enthusiasts.
As gastronomy students, we couldn’t go home without sampling some of the cheese we had made. We gladly piled our plates with caprese salad and ricotta and honey slathered slices of bread. There was even enough for each of us to take some home to share with family and friends.
Making cheese at home can be a fun DIY project, and fresh cheeses are the easiest to start with. Ricotta and mozzarella are a couple great examples for novices to try. Ideally, cheese should start with raw milk, but in the United States it can be difficult to come by, especially in the state of Massachusetts. Fresh cheeses, like these, are somewhat more forgiving and can be made with purchased cheese curds or pasteurized milk – you’ll just want to make sure that you get the highest quality milk for the best results.
If you’re interested in learning more about cheese making and the science behind it, visit Dr. Wolfe’s website. He strongly suggests picking up a copy of Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen as well. Missed out on making cheese with the GSA? Check out their event page for future workshops, panels, and more!
Marleena Eyre is a second year Gastronomy student, an editorial intern at NoshOn.It, and blogs at The Flex Foodie. When she’s not studying or writing about food, she can be found paging through cookbooks at her local bookstores or breaking the ice on the Charles River with her rowing team.
This Saturday, March 1, 2014, the Gastronomy Students Association would like to invite you to a viewing party of TEDxManhattan’s: Changing the Way We Eat. They will be streaming the conference live and would love for you to join the conversation about our changing food world.
by Audrey Reid
We all love drooling over those stunning pictures of food in magazines and online. Don’t deny it, you are reading a food blog, of course you love to look at food. Well, it is people like Nina Gallant that we have to thank for appeasing our delightful addiction. Nina is a food photographer. She has a knack for revealing the truth of a dish. Like a sculpture, it is what it is, but finding the right way to portray it takes time, talent, and vision.
Nina’s family has always been in the food business. So intimidatingly so, that she left Massachusetts to pursue a more artistic outlet at The Cooper Union School of Art in New York. Nevertheless, no matter how much she thought she was escaping the family profession, her work always seemed to return to themes of food and hospitality. It wasn’t until she was working as a photographer’s assistant on a food shoot, though, that she had her great ‘aha’ moment to become a food photographer. Since then, she has opened her own brick-and-mortar studio in Allston, working on cookbooks, food product packaging, and the occasional portrait.
Nina recently joined the Boston University community to share her skills with eager students and community members. This spring, she is leading a workshop on the essentials of food photography through the BU Metropolitan College Program of Food, Wine & the Arts. Following the four week course, which meets on Saturdays in April and May, students will be comfortable using their cameras on manual and editing their photos in Photoshop Elements. To be a good photographer, you must be able to see the end result and know how to overcome your limitations to get there. This is where Nina comes in.
Nina’s goal is to find students who want to learn how to use their cameras as more than a point-and-shoot, and those who want to learn the finer techniques of capturing the perfect food shot, and transform them into confident, capable food photographers. During the first two weeks, Nina will teach students how to maximize the use of their camera’s settings, frame a shot, and to manipulate and enhance photos in Photoshop Elements. The third week will be an adventure into the field to learn about taking photographs of foods as you might normally encounter them. The last session will be a day of eating and photo sharing. Each student will have chosen a dish or meal to photograph at home and will display their creative vision in a mini art show. The more you do, the easier it gets. So yes, there will be homework, but only the fun kind.
This amazing workshop is for photographers of every experience level who wish for a little guidance in their practice and are seeking that ‘aha’ moment where everything clicks into place.
Audrey Reid is a second year Gastronomy student concentrating in food policy and president of the Gastronomy Students Association.
By Molly Farrar
On Thursday, February 6, a group of Gastronomy students attended Brewers Helping Neighbors in the South End, an event benefiting United South End Settlements, a community outreach organization. In true Gastronomy student fashion, our goal for the evening was to enjoy good food and drink. However, beyond that, we learned more about the wonderful programs this community center provides, as well as networked with small, local businesses.
The United South End Settlements’ mission is “to build a strong community by improving the education, health, safety and economic security of low-income individuals and families” living in the South End neighborhood. Events such as this one, provide vital funds to the community center and its many youth, adult, and senior programs.
At the sold-out event, we enjoyed tasting numerous samples provided by the local restaurants and breweries represented, while a jazz band played in the background. Highlights of the food available included deviled eggs with steak tartare and crispy shallots from Back Bay Harry’s, and mini Irish stout cupcakes with espresso cream cheese frosting from South End Buttery.
As for the beer, the usual suspects were there, such as Harpoon and Samuel Adams, but we focused our attention on the smaller breweries in the area. A favorite for those in attendance was Banner Beer Company, a relatively new company started by Todd Charbonneau, former Head Brewer at Harpoon Brewery. From talking to him, we learned that he focuses on creating flavorful session beers, defined by their low alcohol by volume (less than 5%). The Banner All Nighter ESB was definitely one of our favorite beers of the evening!
Overall, it was a great night filled with good company, food, and beer, all for a great cause. What more could you ask for?
Molly Farrar is in her first semester in the Gastronomy program and just moved to Boston from Virginia. She can’t wait to see what the city looks like without a blanket of snow!
by Carlos Olaechea
There’s no doubt that Gastronomy students have a passion for food, but sometimes it helps to have some professional insight into how we can turn that passion into a career. With many of our peers taking advantage of Boston Globe dining editor Sheryl Julian’s food writing class, and increased interest in visiting places for their food and beverages as much as their sights, a career in food writing and culinary tourism is on the minds of many students. On Thursday, February 6th, 2014, the BU Gastronomy Students Association hosted a discussion panel that addressed those career paths. The event featured Catherine Smart and Peggy Hernandez, both reporters for the Boston Globe’s dining section, as well as Lauren Cicione, who organizes wine tours in Italy for connoisseurs.
Catherine Smart is a graduate of the BU Gastronomy Master’s program, and, when she is not submitting articles to the Globe, she is working hard as a personal chef. As most writing gigs are freelance and don’t provide a steady source of income, Smart says it’s a good idea to have another job. She is thrilled with her personal chef business, which she finds both enjoyable and lucrative, and recommends students take the Culinary Arts Laboratory if they wish to follow in her footsteps.
Smart also advises that persistence and networking are key in developing a career in food writing, with which Peggy Hernandez couldn’t agree more. A longtime Globe veteran, Hernandez began her career as a news reporter covering “crime and grime” in the late 80s and early 90s before her husband’s job had them moving abroad. Upon returning to the US, Hernandez began freelancing for the Globe’s dining section and is known for her in-depth coverage of food trends. Both Hernandez and Smart strongly advise writers to join networking sites such as Muck Rack and LinkedIn to help brand themselves as serious writers.
Lauren Cicione got her start in culinary tourism quite by accident. Working in the New York City art world, she was no stranger to wining and dining. Once the recession hit, the market for fine art dwindled, and Cicione decided that a sojourn in Italy would be ideal. It was there that she befriended small wine producers in Piedmont and Tuscany, and, before long, had an exclusive business organizing Italian wine tours for the most discerning connoisseurs.
Like Smart and Hernandez, Cicione says that networking is key, as the majority of her clients are referred to her by word-of-mouth. She also says that it is important to do your research when planning to start a business: look at your competitors to see what they’re doing and how much they’re charging, and don’t forget that your time and knowledge are valuable. Beware of selling yourself short, while you want to be reasonable, you have to keep in mind that you are offering your talents and, especially to those in the Gastronomy program, your educational background.
The best news is, there are many people who are willing to help you along the way. Professors are a great resource to help launch your career, and many people are more than happy to offer their assistance or advice.
For those who missed the panel discussion, a digital recording is available on request by emailing email@example.com.
Carlos Olaechea was born in Peru and spent most of his life in Miami, FL before moving to Boston for the gastronomy program. He was the dining columnist for his college newspaper and the Miami dining editor for Joonbug.com.
By Ty Robinson
Last week, the Gastronomy Department hosted its first guest lecture of the season. Laura Barraclough presented a talk entitled “Cultivating Whiteness: Gentleman Farming as Settler Colonialism in Los Angeles.” Barraclough is an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Race and Migration at Yale University.
Her engaging lecture started with a brief history of what “gentleman farming” is and how it became a part of the American lifestyle, especially in the Los Angeles, CA area. Gentleman farming is a practice in which landowners engage in agribusiness but do not depend on it for a living. It is typically practiced by upper-class, white families as a means of providing additional income to the household. Barraclough’s research compared two suburban regions of Los Angeles and found that, while gentleman farming was originally a driving force behind the purchase of larger home lots, it was never a realistic means of supplemental income as the businessmen who purchased the lots had no previous farming experience. The region of Shadow Hills became largely equestrian as farms were turned into stables thereby increasing property value.
Once Barraclough had discussed suburban gentleman farming, she shifted her talk to urban farming. She talked about the history of the South Central Farm in Los Angeles and its subsequent destruction in 2006. The South Central Farm, founded to help cultivate food for those in poverty, provided a modern day example of urban farming. Barraclough made the important distinction that, while historically, gentleman farming was dominated by white upper class men and women, the farmers who worked the South Central Farm were primarily lower class Hispanics.
The historically high cost of homes in the Los Angeles suburbs, that were originally designed for gentleman farming, are still dominated by white upper class families. Whereas, the families who are farming in urban Los Angeles areas today are primarily Hispanics living below the poverty line. Using these points, Barraclough concludes that the racial divide between suburban and urban Los Angeles stems from historically high property costs and the history of gentleman farming.
Questions after the talk were diverse and provoked a lively discussion amongst the audience. Topics ranged from why she chose her subject and how she did her research, to a discussion of urban farming in Boston and how things could have been done differently if the organizers of the South Central Farm had been white. She answered each question with a lighthearted attitude that was constant throughout the presentation.
To get a more in depth view of the South Central Farm, Barraclough suggested the movie “The Garden.”
Ty Robinson is in his second semester of the Gastronomy program. He works at The Wine Emporium in the South End (Columbus Ave. location) and his focus is on all things related to wine, beer, and spirits.