Notes from Windward: #66

Virgil's Perspective

on cooking at Windward

       One of the skills that we have been honing here at Windward is cooking. All of the interns are part of a rotation that makes them alternatively cook, assistant cook, afternoon dishwasher and evening dishwasher. Thus we often find ourselves having to cook a healthy tasty meal for the community. This can present some challenges.

at Windward, eggs come in a range of sizes and types

       First one has to be able to work with what materials are present. At times we have a preponderance of certain supplies, at other times a dearth. If one plans a meal far enough ahead it may be possible get materials that are either out of stock or out of the ordinary.

      A second challenge is the number of people being fed. Currently that number is seven but has been as high as eleven for some days this summer. This means that we have to triple or quadruple the recipes, requiring the cutting and preparation of that much more produce.

'terns making busy in the kitchen

      Which brings us to a third challenge of cooking at windward, time. Morning walks will usually end at 10, giving the cooks only two hours to prepare a meal for the noon deadline. Depending on the meal some of this work may be done the night before, or early in the morning. Usually it just requires juggling tasks for a couple of different dishes at a time.

      Yet time and time again these challenges are confronted and overcome to create tasty wonderful meals. Sometimes this can be very trying and it is very nice to have enough people here so that the cooks do not have to wash the dishes, and all of the cookware is clean and ready for the cooks in the morning.

      Although I was working on my cooking skills before I came to Windward, I feel that my skills have greatly increased while here. These challenges are not small and learning how to overcome them has made me more efficient in my use of materials and time, and has made me more comfortable deviating from recipes and creating dishes that are more my own.

Jillian and Virgil plucking a peacock

      This process has been aided by the growing collection of cookbooks and internet resources we've been cultivating. These resources have allowed even simple green salads to become learning experiences as we make our own dressings. They have also opened up our range of choices. From apple meatloaf, to na'an (an Indian bread), to molÁ, to falafel. Although some dishes or sides may be used more than once, there is still a steady stream of new and interesting flavors served everyday.

      Windward is also a place to learn or refine new skills. For example when I heard that Jillian had never tried corned beef before, I decided to make a traditional Irish meal of corned beef, potatoes, cabbage, and carrots. However Todd discovered that corned beef can be rather expensive, and had many ingredients that could not be pronounced never mind understood.

      So instead he brought home 10 pounds of brisket. I have a book on the preservation of meat called Chatcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, and I used one of the books recipes and now have five pounds of brisket soaking in brine, on its way to becoming corned beef. This is not necessarily a skill I would have chosen to take on at this time, and I certainly wouldn't have done it just for myself. But when you have a group of people to feed, extra effort goes a long way, and you take on challenges in the hope of pleasing that group that you otherwise might not normally take on.

toasting the future with a glass of home-brewed ale


Notes From Windward
      Index - Vol. 66