Cooking And Loving With Chef Mike

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Chef Mike before taking this photo: “Let me put my hat on first, I’m naked without it.”

If you haven’t noticed from the multiple advertising campaigns on Bwog’s homepage, Columbia’s Sexual Respect Initiative is required for all new Columbia students to complete by October 29. While the program offers a range of ways to fulfill the requirement, Bwogger Ramisa Murshed took a peek at one particular event that involved, you guessed it, teaching students how to set up the perfect dinner date.

When I walked into John Jay Dining Hall for Columbia Dining and Sexual Violence Response’s joint program called “Ingredients for Healthy Relationships,” I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting. The idea behind the event seemed kind of bizarre to me, but in the end, I’m glad I got to experience it.

The facilitators and participants of the program, including myself, congregated in the area around Chef Mike’s Kitchen, and the participants signed in, grabbed some recipes and SVR pamphlets, and sat down at two thoughtfully decorated tables. The tables were covered with brown tablecloths and had orange (a shade that was a mix of pumpkin and blood orange) napkins, utensils placed the proper way, and glasses filled with ice (with a lemon on top!) for each person. Each table was also topped with two blue glass bottles of Saratoga Spring Water.

Once students began to get situated at the tables, we were given blue pieces of paper written with different aspects of a relationship, like “going to couples counseling” and “the relationship scorecard.” We discussed the blue papers and which category they would fall under as a table and went over to Chef Mike’s Kitchen to tape them next to pink sheets of paper that said “healthy” and “unhealthy or toxic,” depending on how we felt about those aspects of relationships.

Next, a member of the SVR education team led a group discussion with all of the participants in the program about our placement of the blue papers. We all agreed on the placement of most of them, but the SVR education team member moved a few over, explaining why the repositioned papers belonged in a different category from the ones in which they were previously placed.

After reaching a consensus on whether the given relationship aspects were healthy or unhealthy, the food portion began. Prior to coming to this event, I thought that we would actually be cooking, but instead, Chef Mike explained each recipe to us as each course was served, describing what ingredients he used, how he used them, and why he chose those ingredients and methods. The entire purpose of this was to learn how to cook full meals on a budget, so many of the ingredients he used were inexpensive.

The first course was then served: Roasted Eggplant Carbonara. It was served with garlic toast, which I was eating separately from the eggplant carbonara until I realized that it would taste even better if I ate the garlic toast with the eggplant carbonara on top. It was a good starter, since it was fairly light, and prepared me well for the next course.

Once everyone finished eating their Roasted Eggplant Carbonara, Chef Mike brought out Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque, and it was delicious. It was creamy, but not too creamy, with a delectable consistency similar to that of, say, potato soup. Chef Mike added a bit of cinnamon, giving the soup a hint of sweetness, although it was mostly savory. This was probably my favorite course of the afternoon.

We then reconvened with SVR for another discourse on the blue pieces of paper, discussing whether anything that was moved shocked or surprised us. We talked more about relationships, and that when thinking about relationships, people tend to think more about what we look for in others rather than what we want for ourselves. The SVR education team member told us to discuss this question over the next course: “What does it mean to love you?”

As we discussed, we received Blackened Chicken Breast over Spaghetti Squash Nest, the main course. The spaghetti squash was just the right sweetness: not too sweet, but still sweet enough for you to notice. The chicken breast and spaghetti squash were both covered in a strange tangy sauce (which I wasn’t sure if I liked or not) that looked like barbeque sauce, but clearly wasn’t. Although I did enjoy this course, I think I would have liked it more without the sauce.

With “What does it mean to love you?” in mind, the SVR team member gave us all a handout, titled “Recipe for Loving Me.” After filling this out, we were treated to the final course: dessert, apple strudel with ice cream. I was so full from the other courses that I could barely finish dessert, but there’s never a bad time for ice cream.

To conclude, we all shared what we learned from this event. Personally, I learned a lot more about myself through this in addition to learning how to cook a four-course meal on a budget. Overall, this was a very wholesome event, and I even got a free apron out of it!


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