A required component of my culinary education was a class titled Flavors of the World. The Chef-Instructor was of the mad scientist variety, seemingly unflappable and unamusable. The class had a reputation among students for being difficult and boring – it was one of the few non-production classes in the program. I was excited to leave the starched hat at home for a few weeks and give my previously soft hands a little relief from the dishpit.
The Chef was, in fact, unflappable. But the class was fantastic. He taught us about amaranth and other “ancient” grains. I had my first introduction to quinoa, a previously overlooked complete protein that has as much protein per ounce as cow meat. Triticale. Loquat. Quince. Kiwano. Fiddlehead Fern. Durian. The man was full of stories – travel adventures and culinary experimentation. One day we tasted twenty two grains back to back, picking apart the differences between long- and short grain rices, red and yellow lentils. We had a blind salt tasting, our task to name the origin of a tray full of refined salts – sea, or rock. It was the ultimate foodgeek class, the only time we had during school to just sit around and talk about how neat foods are.
Neat (and too often overlooked) food no. 484: Cherimoya.
The Cherimoya is an Andes native now cultivated in Spain, Ecuador, the US, Chile, Israel, Australia, and Mexico as well and, according to the class’s required text, the Visual Food Encyclopedia, is borne of a thorny-branched tree that can reach up to 24 feet high. The trees often have to be hand-pollinated as the flowers are too fragrant to attract most insects. When ripe, their soft fruit is intoxicatingly sweet, creamy, and a little tangy. Visual Food recommends using the cherimoya in salads, ice creams, yogurts or jellies. Me, I think there’s no better way than standing in the kitchen, spoonin’ the flesh from a halved fruit right into my hungry little mouth.