This year, my Girl Scout troupe is selling cookies again! If you buy a box from my Girl Scout Cookie website and use them in a cool recipe, you can send me your recipe and I will post it on my blog. Even if you don't like cookies, you can donate a box to the soldiers in the military from the website. We are going to take all of the recipes we get and put them on the blog and then have people vote for the best recipe. The winner will get a really cool prize from Jordan's Lunch Box! Go please buy some Girl Scout Cookies here! My favorites are Thin Mints and Trefoils!
The New York Botanical Garden has a program called the Edible Academy where kids learn more about healthy eating and cooking. During my February break, The Edible Academy had an event called Culinary Kids Week where kids come to the Botanical Gardens and go to different stations to learn about food and nature. The event was sponsored by Carla Hall who is a famous chef and is a host on The Chew, which is a talk show on ABC. She also was on Top Chef, which is one of my favorite shows. My dad saw an advertisement for the event online and called the Botanical Gardens to ask them if I could cover the event for my blog. They said yes, and gave us free parking and passes to the event. They also said I could have an interview with Carla and Toby Adams, who is the Director of the Edible Academy. On Monday the 16th, we headed to the Botanical Gardens. That day was probably the coldest day of the year. So, it was a big pain getting to NYC. We got to the event, and Toby explained what we were doing that day, and the set-up of the event. He said that there were five tents that teach you different ways to garden and grow food. At 12:45pm Carla Hall was scheduled to have a demo on how to make a broccoli pesto.
We started out at a tent that teaches you how to compost. They said if you leave newspapers in a bin that is shut with worms inside, you’ll get compost. The first step is to put newspapers in a bin with a special type of worms, and after about two months all there will be is compost, and worms. Then when you want to have an apple, or a banana you could throw the peel, or the core into the compost and it will become compost in a few months. The guy who ran that station said, “I keep my bin under my bed.” I thought that was odd because why would you want a bin under your bed when you know it has dirt, and worms in it. When he finished speaking, a helper at that station helped us make seed balls using seeds and compost. My seed ball was made out of dill, which will eventually turn into a dill plant. My brother made one with cilantro seeds.
After we finished that station, it was time for me to go interview Carla Hall. Carla was waiting at a picnic table in the back for me. I asked her some questions and then we had a good conversation about things like food and our favorite restaurants. Here are some questions from the first part of the interview.
Q: What was your first childhood memory of cooking?
A: “I didn’t cook much as a child, but I remember cooking as a Girl Scout. I made spaghetti and an apple crumble to get my badge.”
Q: What was your favorite food as a child?
A: “I loved oranges. I can eat a whole bag of oranges. My grandma had this big garden. So, I loved cucumbers and vinegar. That might sound weird, but it’s so good. I also love my grandmother’s mac and cheese.”
Q: What made you get involved with today's event?
A: “I love kids, I love people discovering things, I love teaching, and to see people get an aha moment. When I do my cooking demo I’m going to bring people up.”
You can see the full interview with Carla at the video below.
After my interview with Carla, the first station we went to was a station that taught you about healthy eating. They were giving out free samples of fresh pea hummus. You could have the pea hummus with a carrot or a pita chip. I tried the pita chip with hummus first. The pea hummus was sweet, smooth, and went really well with the pita chip. When I tried the hummus with the carrot though I thought the pita chip was a little too hard, and I preferred the carrot more than I preferred the pita chip. The woman who made the pea hummus was an author who wrote a book called Appetite for Life. Her name is Stacey Antine. The book is about healthy eating and cooking for kids and has easy recipes for parents to make with their kids. We looked at the book and bought a copy because the recipes looked so good. Here is a link to the webpage for the book: http://www.healthbarnusa.com/appetite-for-life/.
She also gave us a copy of the recipe for the pea hummus to share with you on my blog. Here it is:
After we finished our hummus, I made a pea plant, so I could make pea hummus at home. When we made our pea plant it was really cool how we made the pot. To make the pea plant you needed: A strip of a newspaper, a mold, two dried peas, and damp soil. You took the newspaper curl it into a circle. Then, you put it into the mold and pressed hard. You have your pot, voila! Then you put a scoop of soil into the pot and press two pea seeds in, then cover them and you have your pea plant.
After we finished the pea hummus, I had an interview with Toby Adams who is the Director of the Edible Academy and who helped create this event.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for this event?
A: “Right now I supervise the garden and we are only open from April-October, and so we thought it would be a great way to have an event in the middle of while school is out. During either the Spring break or February break. We decided February break would be best. What we usually teach about is gardening, and cooking with the plants we grow. We don’t have any plants growing right now because it is so cold out.”
Q: Why did you invite Carla Hall?
A: “Carla became one of our friends. We have a close relationship with her co-host Mario Batali. So, he comes to a lot of our events. So, during our gardening season he brought Carla with him and we met Carla and she loved our family garden and the Edible Academy. So, she decided that we were great partners, and now she is our friend.”
Q: How did you pick the other chefs for this event?
A: “That is a good question. We reached out to different organizations that also do food education or associate with food education. We asked them if they wanted to join us, and they had experience teaching kids about food. They were from all around the metropolitan New York area, and we thought it would be nice to spread the word.”
Q: Why is this event for children?
A: “I call adults big kids, but we usually have events for children, but everyone can learn here.”
Q: What do you think kids will learn from this?
A: “Well I hope they learn a little bit more about how they eat every day and where their food comes from. I hope they make some connections to the gardens and the farms that produce food. I hope they learn cooking is fun, and that they can be involved with family meals at home, and maybe learn about new foods, and might be inspired to grow foods at home, and have some fresh foods available.”
Q: Will you have this event more often?
A: “Well right now this is our slow time. In about five weeks we are gonna open our two acre garden. It’s bigger than this whole tent. Then we have activities every day of the week from April-October. We do cooking demonstrations every week, three times a week, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.”
After my interview with Toby, we went to our last tent. It was a tent where they teach you about bread. When I got to the tent they were showing different grains and we had to guess what they were. I guessed two grains and got them right. They were rice and quinoa. At the tent I got to make flour. First, they put in a grain and we mashed it in a stone bowl with a masher. When your time was up they put the flour in a bag to take home. After we finished that tent we headed to our seats to watch Carla’s demo. During the demo, she gave us good tips on how to make a pesto out of broccoli and she was entertained us. She called up a few people for her demo. At the end of the demo it looked so yummy. This was a good experience for me and if you want to do something like this look you should look into some of the other Edible Academy activities at the New York Botanical Garden.
After a long plane ride from New York, with a stop at Tokyo in between, we got to Vietnam for a two-week vacation. Our cousin Rena was there at the airport waiting for us. We got in her car and drove to the hotel. We talked over what we were doing on the trip. The first thing we would do the next night would be going on a food tour in Ho Chi Minh City on motorbikes. Ho Chi Minh City used to be called Saigon, but only the people in Vietnam still call it Saigon. In Vietnam, the population of motorbikes is higher than cars. If you look out on the streets, you’re most likely to see a few cabs and a lot of motorbikes. The people said if you leave a car lying around somewhere it won’t get stolen because most people don’t know how to drive a car!
So the next night, we went into the lobby of the hotel and there were two girls waiting for us. They said hello and hugged us. They were two of our drivers/tour guides. Then we went outside and met the other two girls. My driver was named Isabel. We are still in touch and are BFF (Best Friends Forever). We headed off to the first stop. When we got there, another group of tourists were already there. We took our seats and the leader Anh said, “The first dish of the night is called Bun Bo Hue.” Bun Bo Hue is a Vietnamese soup that you can only get in Vietnam. The main ingredient is lemongrass. Lemongrass is very strong, so when you take a bite of the soup you get a very powerful taste. In Bun Bo Hue, the main ingredients are rice vermicelli and lemongrass. The other ingredients are beef, fermented shrimp sauce, and fish balls. You could also add bean sprouts to make it crunchy, fish sauce to make it salty, or hot peppers to make it hotter. After we ate our soup, we got back on our motorbikes and headed to the next restaurant. At that point it was raining, so they gave us ponchos. We drove through Chinatown on a narrow road through a market. It felt weird driving so close to the people and live animals there. After driving through Chinatown, we drove a little bit more and got to our second restaurant. The first dish was goat breast and our drivers cooked it over a grill. The goat breast was very tender and the sauce on it made it a pale yellow. I was a little bit nervous to try it, but I liked it. The next dish was stir-fried squid, which was just like I’ve had at home. We tried to get my little brother to eat it, but he said “No way!” The third dish was fresh, local shrimp that was caught that morning! It was the best shrimp I have ever had. It was tender and it tasted so fresh. They were really big shrimp too! I took the head off the shrimp and dipped it in chili salt. Mmmm! It tasted delicious! I didn’t eat the whole head, I just sucked the meat and juices. The fourth dish was frog legs. Hold it right there. You know how people say that frog legs taste like chicken? Well they do. I took one bite and declared, “This tastes like chicken!”
While we were there, we played a game with our drivers that involved chopsticks. We were going to find out who the chopstick champion was! The goal was to get six peanuts into a water bottle before the other person did. The drivers picked up the peanut and placed it onto our chopsticks, which we would put over the water bottle, and then open up so that the peanut fell in. My mom and dad went first. My dad won. Then me and my brother played. He said he won, but I think I won. My mom beat my grandma too. In the end, everyone got a “Chopstick Champion” pin.
Then we headed off to our next stop. On our way to the next stop, my grandma yelled out to me on her bike. She said, “At the next stop they are going to serve baby duck embryo!” Before getting to the third stop, we met a Vietnamese Santa Claus and he gave us homemade candies. When we got to the next stop, the baby duck egg wasn't first. The first dish was roasted quail. To be honest, I didn’t like the quail. The next dish I liked more The next dish I had was scallops served in a seashell with peanuts and spring onion oil on top which was good. The last dish, I had was baby duck embryo. They call it balut and it is a dish in Asia that many people eat. They came out with two versions of it. One was a seasoned kind with tamarind and herbs and the other was just an egg in a cup. I knew the egg was tougher to eat, so I challenged my dad to do this because he’ll eat whatever I’ll eat so I picked the egg. If you notice in the video, he has beads of sweat coming down his face. They cracked the egg open for us. Inside, it looked like a weird baby duck forming. They told us there were three steps. First, we had to drink the water from the egg. Then we ate the yolk and then the baby duck. Just to tell you, my dad was freaked out the whole time and complaining that his egg had more baby duck than mine! My mom took some video so you can see how freaked out he was.
At the end of the night, our drivers took us back to our hotel. We had a great time. The name of the tour company was XO Tours and if you are ever in Vietnam, you should definitely take the tour and eat balut! Please keep up with my next few posts to hear about the rest of our adventures in Vietnam.
A lot of people celebrate Easter, but my family celebrates Passover. Every year we have a Seder with a lot of food. This year, we had a Seder with my dad's side of the family. I know this may sound crazy but my great-grandma is still alive! For Passover, she came over to teach me how to make latkes (potato pancakes). We are changing it up and doing our first video instead of a regular blog post! Hope you like it!
In one of my earlier posts, I talked about how I went to a pop-out restaurant and I met Lisa Wexler. She is a radio host at WFAS Radio. Well a couple of weeks ago, she asked me to be on her show! My brother came with me and so did my mom and dad. I was super nervous! What if I messed up? I was getting interviewed like a pop star! When I went into the studio, it had four microphones. I sat at the first microphone during the interview. She asked me what my favorite restaurants were here in Westchester. She asked me when my birthday was. I said June 10th. She gasped and said that we have the same birthday! I thought that was really cool! The interview wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. I hope I can be on the radio again soon!
You can hear the whole interview with Lisa Wexler and Katie Schlientz by clicking here!
My name is Jordan. I am a 12th grader and I love food!