Letís just say that Michele and I ate our fill of south-Louisiana
cuisine at WTAMUís Department of Continuing Educationís event. Iíll take it to
the grave how many servings of pain perdu Michele and I consumed. I swear we
didnít lick our plates Ė just our forks.
I couldnít have asked for a more heartfelt bear hug from Chef
Emile Stieffel upon my entrance to the class; I now understand what my arm goes
through when the doctor takes my blood pressure.
This embrace, and Emileís generosity, warmth toward his attentive
audience and enthusiasm of Louisiana cooking and New Orleans history made this a
wonderful experience that I will always relish. While the food was insanely
amazing, it wasn't the only aspect Michele and I enjoyed.
Michele is already a learned cook, so cooking down mustard greens
at her cooking station was no sweat for her. I, on the other hand, opted for the
beginner class and assembled a bona fide New Orleans submarine sandwich.
And I must admit, I make a mean muffaletta. Emile was taken aback
at my and three othersí overzealous portions of ham, salami, provolone cheese
and olive salad, and while he flinched and widened his eyes in total shock, he
never once scolded us for our lack of culinary skill.
As a cooking class neophyte, I walked into the course without any
knowledge of how it would pan out. My main concern was not starting a fire and
burning the university down, but my biggest fear was ruining everybody's
Louisiana feast. Turns out, those fates did not come true!
I have a feeling not all cooking classes are this fun as thoughts
of a curtly French culinarian cursing me in unintelligible French, catapulting
pots and pans against the kitchen wall and spitting out my concoction with
disgust and disapproval flutter through my head.
But Emile was kind to all of us, and I think he was actually
proud of our efforts made at the catfish courtboullion, muffaletta, mustard
greens and pain perdu stations. And from what Michele and I tasted, we did
pretty darn well.
Michele and I are so grateful to have been invited to participate
in the soul food cooking class. Although this cuisine is familiar to me, Emile
introduced me to new dishes, such as tasso ham, which incidentally set my taste
buds on fire. With gulps of water only amplifying the heat, I donít think Iíll
put my mouth through that torture again, but at least I tried it.
But the andouille? Well, that was on a spice level I could
appreciate and handle.
Michele and I couldnít have asked for a better instructor, or
better company. The group of participants ranged from seasoned cooks that
traveled from all over the Panhandle to college students seeking a new
experience to WTAMU President Patrick OíBrien and his wife Karen supporting
their friend, Emile.