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January 15, 2020 45 mins

In the final episode of Season 1, host Michael Ruhlman explores the topic of sharing food with a top chef in charge of a family style restaurant. Ruhlman also speaks with a director of a progressive school that has an unusual policy around school lunches.


Chef Ilkay Suuctugu: https://www.instagram.com/chef.ilkay/?hl=en


The Trilok School: https://trilokschool.org/


Michael Ruhlman's new book "From Scratch": https://www.amazon.com/Scratch-Meals-Recipes-Dozens-Techniques/dp/1419732773


Season 2 of "From Scratch w/ Michael Ruhlman" is currently under production and will return in 2020. Bonus episodes featuring extended interviews and more will be released starting January 22nd.


Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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Transcript

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:18):
A young student in Marson, Turkey. I thought she'd go
into the hospitality industry, though everything she'd learned from growing
up steered her away from it. She loved the idea
of traveling in Europe, especially Germany. She even studied German
for five years to improve her chances of getting into
the business there. And one day I was watching this commercial.

(00:40):
It was a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and it was
showing Miami stout beat. I'm like, oh my god. I
was like, wow, look at this, this is something so different.
I have to be there. I have to see this,
I have to experience this. And then one night I
told my mom my sister said I'm not going to German,
I'm going to America. And they're like what. But the

(01:06):
young woman, Ecai suit too, had a problem. For a
hospitality job in Florida, you'd need to be able to
speak the language there, and back then I didn't know
in English. This didn't slower down, however, and she found
an agency who lined up a job interview for a
hotel on the east coast of the state. The first
hotel called me for an interview. It was a fiasco.

(01:26):
It went down the hill I couldn't say a word.
I was like, Okay, I don't understand what these people
are saying, and nothing happened. I still can't fathom what
she expected. She didn't understand a word of English, but
she was nevertheless unfazed. I'm very stubborn, very stubborn, and
I never gave up. I'm very passionate about my plans
for my future. I just didn't want to be in Turkey.

(01:47):
I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and
do something different and that I can be proud myself
and then my family can be proud of me as well.
Um My father passed away when I was eighteen, and
I really didn't get a much uppertunity to connect with
him so much. So before he passed away, I told him,
you'll see I'm gonna do something really different. You're gonna
be proud of me. And then he said, I believe

(02:08):
in you because it's in you. See, this is what
I love about certain humans. She didn't listen to common sense,
which would be to stay on course and go to
Germany or suck it up and stay in Turkey. She
had a vision and she determined to make it happen.
She did what a natural born cook does by nature
and chef Brian Poulson's words, adept, persevere and overcome. Yes,

(02:30):
this time I had a plan. I had to get
my friend, who is an English teacher back home, and
I had to use her talents or skills to get
the visa to come to the United States. If you
didn't completely catch that, Ekai's friend would be impersonating her
on her job interview while Ecai listened in. It went

(02:51):
something like this, tell me, I tell you that's it's
ringing and shut up in Turkish? May I speak with ill?
Okay suit please, it's going Yes, this is your gay.
Just a few easy questions to begin. Do you have
a hospitality degree? Yes, I study food and verage. What

(03:14):
do you love about hospitality? I love taking care of
other others people, that's great, that's great? And and what
are the four values of great hospitality management? One minute? Please?
There was a lot of like one minute games, no breaking,
no connection, storry, can't hear you, And she just keeps
saying that, and then she would have whisper it to
me like what do I say? What is this? And

(03:36):
I would just scratching chicken switch and then she'll get
the pissa paper and trying to read my handwriting, and
she's like, what is this? And then she will whisper,
okay a minute, what word is this? So at some
point we were like muted and they take your pass
for like quick ten seconds, and it would have been
like I told you, you say this and da da
dada and it goes and then okay, hi, yes, I

(03:57):
think my connection is better if I stand right here.
Can you hear me? Now? I suppose that sounds about
the same. Yeah, okay, good. So the four values of
hospitality management our service, consistency, resourcefulness, unbelievably, unable to speak

(04:19):
the language, and with no real training in a kitchen
or a dining room, she got the job. Everything that
happened through in my life, it wasn't always a plan.
It was something happened naturally, authentically, and I had to
come up with a plan and do something in that
moment and really go for it, because if I was
sitting here in a planning for days and months, it
will probably lost what's the meaning of And I didn't

(04:42):
want to lose that. Welcome to the final episode of
the inaugural season of From Scratch with Michael Ruhman. I'm
Michael Roll, and I've spent the last twenty years in
professional kitchens, writing about and with the world's best chefs.

(05:07):
The great thing about the cooking life is that you
never stopped learning. In this show, I want to go
to the edges of what I know and then go
beyond together with you, with all chefs, home cooks, and
everyone who cares about food and cooking from Scratches, a
podcast about cooking. In each episode, we'll talk with one
chef and one non chef about the same theme. Today's

(05:30):
theme is sharing and not some kind of Kumbaya bullshit
about how sharing gives more to the giver than to
the receiver, which is really a load if you stop
to think about it. What I'm looking at today is
how the sharing of food and everything surrounding food, the
work of getting it, preparing it, and cleaning up after
shapes our lives. But first, the astonishing and unlikely rise

(05:57):
of Ekai the Chef. My name is Ekai, and I'm
the executive chef at the Metal Door Room. That's Ekai
suit to executive chef at the Metador Room in Miami.
I can't even pronounce her last name. It's spelled s
uu c t u g u. Yes, it's a very
unique last name. It has four years in it. And

(06:20):
I'm probably only my family the only people have did
on the world as a worldwide. Before scheming her way
into a career in America, she grew up in the
coastal town of Marson, Turkey, the daughter of a woman
who's the chef restaurateur of a tiny restaurant there to
fit about maximum fifteen people. It's a very family oriented.

(06:41):
The meal is it's more like a self surf. It's
like an open buffet. So my mom will go there
and three four o'clock in the morning she starts cooking
from scratch and buy six o'clock chef breakfast items are ready,
and after that she gets ready for lunch, and then
it's an all day open and also outside that she
has a little bit of terrace out there, and then
there's a girl and then she could that was all

(07:02):
the girling stuff, which in Turkey, you know, it's very
famous Turkish kebab and all of that stuff. And and
I think she's really best at making it. I love it.
I she still have it this day. And my mom
is about sixty plus years old and she still works
it through every day. And then she had this restaurant
ever since I was in UM, in the middle school

(07:23):
and UM. Many times during my high school years, I
will go there and be her buster her dishwasher, pretty
much cleaned tables, go back to kitchen and wash the
dishes and reset the kitchen for her. But I never
get into cooking with her. And who the hell would
looking at it from the inside, seeing how hard her
mother had to work, I always run away from the

(07:43):
kitchen because my mom had a restaurant, and and her
family had a restaurant. It was like a family business
for them. But as I was a little child seeing
their lifestyle, and I always promised myself that I will
not get into cooking. I will not get into food
or the restaurant world or you know, servicing, because I
thought they never had a quality life. They always had

(08:04):
to be at work. And I remember many nights that
I would go I would go home alone and trying
to do my homework and there's no parents and who
is taking care of me. I'm like, Okay, don't know
whom we're going to watch TV. So I didn't want
to be in debt and I had a different dreams.
That's why I like my Childhoo. Was like every time
my mom asked me to come to the kitchen and
she will show me something to cook, I would run

(08:24):
away and would go to the street and just play
games and so that I don't get that stick to me.
I was very stubborn and eager to not to be
in the kitchen very much. So yeah, and it looked
at me now, it was a bumpy beginning, as you'd
expect of someone faking it till they're making it. Her
first job was as a food runner at the Marriott

(08:45):
Hutchinson Island Beach Resort, Golf and Marina. She spent two
days running food in the dining room, assisting waiters and
understanding not one word. And on the third day, someone
came to me said that, hey, we're gonna have to
take you off the floor because because of your language bearer,
we cannot help you here, which understood it would happen.

(09:07):
And then I had a friend who was speaking Turkish.
He said that the chef wants to talk to you.
I said, who chef and then he said his name.
I'm like, what a chef? And then he's like Okay,
let me take you the kitchen. And then he took
me to my very first executive chef. I never forget him.
He came in, he said something I couldn't understand, so

(09:27):
my friend translated to me. Obviously, he saw my resume.
My mom had a restaurant, and he thought that if
mom had a restaurant, she might have to know how
to cook, or I have to have to be in
the kitchen. But he was wrong. He had a wrong
philosophy about me at that moment um. So they put
me in the kitchen. They're talking to me. I don't
understand anything they're showing me. I don't understand anything. I

(09:48):
felt so bad, and I felt like it was the
moment for me that it was a big breakdown. I'm like,
that's not what I came here for. To feel so little.
I can embarrass myself. I have to do this with
my little English. I put a few words together and
I want to chef. I told him that I want
to be in the dish room. He gave me a
look like what like, I said, can you please put

(10:09):
me into dish pit? And I want to watch dishes. First,
he thought that I was scared to being in the kitchen,
because you know, when you you don't have a language,
you don't know what you're doing, and that's easy way
to get away, and then it's hiding points. I'm like, no,
I want to go in a dish room so I
can actually learn, because when you told me to bring
it ladle, I don't know what ladle is. When you
tell me bring spotler, I don't know what spotler is.

(10:30):
And I went to I remember, I went to UH
one of those UH stores and bought like a whole
pack of a post post it's, and then I started
writing every single word to anybody comes to the dish pit, Hey,
where can I get the part or pen or rondo
or or bucket and whatever you name it in the
dish room that you can't find it? They will show

(10:51):
me this is the ladle like ladle, and write it
down a word of lattle. What is it means? How
do you write it, how do you spell it, how
do you read it? And how do you say it?
So like all steps in one on one piece of paper,
So one paper represented one word for me, and that's
how I collected them. And in my room was like
a rainbow. I have all kinds of colors of a
post it in my room, even in my bathroom. Four

(11:13):
o'clock in the morning, I had to get up and
go to work, and then I was getting ready, brushing
my teeth, and then look into my mirror. I'm like, oh,
now I get in the world. It was this one.
And sometimes I walk in my room like a crazy
person trying to find the words that I know, because
I put it somewhere so that three months later I
had a bit of English on my own. Chef e

(11:40):
Kai's idea to start at the bottom worked. She learned
the language and kept moving until she reached her current
post in the J G V restaurant. The stunning Matador
Room inside the Miami Beach Edition Hotel. It's a powerful space.
You descend into the oval dining room, low light, with
lots of rich wood it. The mood is quiet, almost churchlike,

(12:03):
with a matador's jacket on a stand where the priest
would be. Meals are primarily served family style rather than
ala carte, meaning that many small plates are offered to
be shared by the entire table. Family style is It's
not for everybody. I'll tell you this, especially someone who
comes from the big family. Probably they have an experience

(12:23):
of like sitting in a one table under the table
kicking each other or who's gonna eat the most food,
or you know, stealing food from each other's plate, Give
me salt, no, like all of those fights. Right, family
meal experience is really different for every person. I love
it because I'm coming from a big family. I have
three siblings on the baby, so we always had this
small fights in the table. But there are some individuals

(12:46):
that are really hate that. It's not their passion. They
don't want to sit in front of the siblings or
parents or anybody who cousins, uncles, whatever, just sit there
and get embarrassed or get questioned or had to explain themselves. Right.
They wanted to be comfortable while they're eating because that's
gonna be their charging moment. So it is really different.
There's a lot of people like all a cart service

(13:08):
because when you go to a beautiful restaurant, hello, my
name is this is this, I'm going to be your
server whenever we're ready, let me know which you like,
will make it happen for you. And that's the happy
moment for someone that likes to eat by themselves. As
from all a cart restaurant. But for people who was
in the later ages probably feel that family meal is
more important because that brings the memories back for them

(13:30):
and then they will love that. They will come in
here maybe when they were ten and lay around, maybe
their thirty or forties. Now they're coming and say, hey,
remember we had this food when we're literally were fighting
with me or we were talking about this. There's so
many memories and stories to bring it back. Is the
connection family meal? For me, it is a icebreaking moment.
You get comfortable, you get together, and if you really

(13:51):
enjoy being around the people that you love and you
want to share what's happening in your life, maybe that's
the time that you can actually speak about something. It celebration,
bad news, good news, who knows, but that's the moment
that you build in that connection. How does the chef
think to create food for this style of dining? For me,
when I come to the first thing, when I come
to the kitchen, it's not like, okay, what are we

(14:12):
cooking today? But okay, we're cooking this product, but how
are we going to serve this so that people can
enjoy it and share from the same plate. It's really
important of the presentations in here. The importance is the
presentation and the flavors of you print together, and how
are you going to display it on the plate? If
you put it one little salad in the middle of
the plate, no one's going to be able to reach

(14:34):
out to you. So you have to spread it beautifully nicely,
and then that everybody equally can get something what's in
front of them. Let's say you bring in a bone
and meat. Right, you don't want to separate that bone.
You want to keep it together because that's how it
allows you to get the beautiful flavor out of it.
It treated like that. But then how are you gonna
put one piece of meat with the bone in the
middle of the plate and expect everybody to eat that?

(14:57):
And you have That's where the chefs comes into moment.
And in creative of the cooking that meat and slicing
and beautifully and make the signature something special. As a sauce,
you create some sort of sauce that is unique to you.
But but yeah, you get together with of a family,
you're slicing a beautiful stick on the bone and you
get that the juice in it is and the fat
and smell and texture and flavor all together, and you're

(15:19):
putting a beautiful sauce and then the presentation on the plate.
That's where the chefs comes in a place to make
that happen. For me, if I'm making something really small
depends on the product and you're cooking, I have to
make sure that there's a one or two three bites
that in one plate that if there's two people or
three people can at least get one bite out of
it instead of you're sharing one little piece. So that's

(15:41):
why if you ask to any of my staff members today,
when I see the plates, they're like so tight and
you know, in a in a modern way, the presentation
the plates, everything needs to look so neat and tight
and clean. I agree. But at the same time, you're
serving to a family style. You're serving more than one person,
so that it needs to become comfortable. If I'm putting

(16:01):
a salad again in the middle of the plate and
we're looking at each other, who's going to get that
bite right? You don't want to create that moment. You
want to be like, oh great, I have this part
of the plate in front of me, other parties on
the other persons, So Devich shared that moment or you
pass on the plates the around and there's still enough
food to share. That's that's in my head when I
see the presentation of the place going out, I gotta

(16:23):
make sure that every person experience that plate, not only
one person and a fight for a second bite. And
those shared meals are happening behind the scenes in important
ways between the staff each night, a staff of astonishing
diversity who share their own family meal I have from
most of them are Latin America. I have Columbia, Puerto Rico, Cuba.

(16:46):
I also have Jamaica, Haiti, Turkey. So when I first
started in the kitchen, I work with many people from
different countries, different backgrounds, and a little bit a little
bit of English that I had. I tried to understand
them and connect them. What is it so important for
us to cook for people to eat? First, it's a job.
But then yes, with my non experienced kitchen moments, it

(17:09):
was a job I had to collect my paycheck. But
then working with the different people in that kitchen and
understanding their backgrounds of where they were here, I thought
that I was given an amazing opportunity and it was
there for me. The whole time that I never saw that,
and I was run away from it because that's had it.
There was a disadvantage of being in the kitchen, but

(17:29):
then working with those people them connecting together. We will hustle,
working together all day long, eighteen hours at some point
and eighteen a day, and we realized that we didn't
need anything all day. We were feeding thousands of people,
and they would actually get one of the plates to
each other, put on the on the floor like some
sort of mat or seats, the milk crates flip overset

(17:51):
and each of the will get that plate and then
scoop it out from the pot and that would be
our family meal at that moment. And that's where I'm
connecting with those people working through the hustle and then
seeing the beautiful place going out there, but you don't
have a moment to sit down and eat. But then
eventually you sit down with those people and shared that
moment and you enjoy the food because you work for
it so hard. And that's where I get connected, connecting

(18:14):
with the kitchen. How I get to it. It was
the people for me, not necessarily the food. It was
the people that who made me fell in love being
in the kitchen because we weren't understand each other and
in the language wise, but we were moving the same way,
we were thinking the same way, and all of us
had the same mission and the same goal at the
end of the day, and then we would sit down

(18:34):
and eat together and we feel so proud of each
other that, yeah, we did it today, and we made
it just many food for that many people, and now
it's our time to sit down and celebrate everybody. Every
time someone asked me who inspired to be in the kitchen,
I don't have a specific name to tell you. I
have all those people that I work with that made
me fall in love with the kitchen. Before we left,

(18:56):
Chef Echai named the one person that she wishes she
could share a meal with. I mean, if you ask me,
what would you like to eat and who you want
to cook for and things like that, I will say
that I wouldn't want to cook the simplest food ever.
Could be tomato, soup, could be salad, it could be anything,
and I would like to sit down and eat with

(19:17):
my father because I'm connected that and I know that
this is not going to happen, so it's my dream.
Every time I make things that my father used to like.
So I feel like, okay, let's visit, let's talk, let's
sit down, like this is it. I guess I might
be really emotional about this stuff, which is nothing wrong

(19:37):
with that. I'm very happy and proud of it, because
if I lose those emotions and connections, I'm not gonna
be who I am. I do know what she means.
I was lucky enough to have had forty five years
with my dad before he died, and how he loved
to eat, how he loved to share food. But it

(19:58):
wasn't just the food. Who was the people. As his
good friends Stuart Eisler's remembered at his service, Rip wouldn't
even have gotten the grill going before the guests arrived
because he knew that the sooner he got the grill going,
the sooner people would be leaving, and he wanted people
to stay. How I wish he would have stayed so
I could cook him one more meal, just as Kai does.

(20:24):
When we come back, I'm talking with the founding director
of a school who has an experimental and unusual practice
regarding food at her school. Welcome back to Front Scratch.

(20:57):
I'm Michael Ruhlman and I reached out to Suda sit Rama,
who created the Treelock School t R I l Okay
in Brooklyn, New York. Heavily art centric, as we'll see,
but what I found most fascinating was the uncommon relationship
she and the students and parents have with food. I

(21:18):
spoke with her by phone from Rhode Island, she and
her school's media editing studio with my producer Jonathan. I'm Sudasamin.
I'm the executive director of Trillo School. And how do
you describe the school to other people? It's a progressive school.
Progressive is overrated today, but um, in our terms, it

(21:38):
is more think out of the box. We don't want
the education to be as it was for our grandfather
or their grandfather. I think our time is very different.
The younger generation's time is very different. So then we
say progressive, we literally mean we have no grades in
our schools. We took Annie the play, but it's completely

(22:00):
Brooklyn centric. It's it is written by the kids, it's
visualized by the kids. So it just changed its name.
It was a female and now it's a male Anthony,
so they changed the whole thing. But it is inspired
by the any play, so you know, and we put
one act and now we're going to work on our
second act coming up. And the kids themselves right the

(22:22):
play and they design the sets and they make the sets,
and they literally work hard on doing everything. But here's
where the food component comes in. We also are very
progressive and it comes to eating. I've seen in America.
I've been in America for thirty years, and I've seen
that very few occasions that people really share their food.

(22:45):
We are big time food lovers. We grow our own food,
We share our food every single day. We are an
international school. We literally have families from around the globe
and we want to taste everyone's food. Tell me about
your your personal relationship to food. Oh, my goodness, I

(23:06):
I love food. I am a Tamilian. I'm from south
of India. I'm a person from Tamil Nadu. But I
grew up in gud Rat, which is the west of India.
That's where my father was a professor and I am
Indian Institute of Management. So he was a business management professor.
And so we every day had these cool discussions on

(23:28):
the dining table. So would this be would this be
in the evening. In the evening, yes, in the evening meals.
What was, for instance, a staple What would a staple
meal be? A staple meal will be. My mother was
very creative. She was a teacher too. She didn't want
to repeat the same menu. So literally every day we
would have something interesting. Of course, we are coming from India, right,

(23:50):
so the cuisines are countless, so we would have meals
prepared from different parts of the country. So one day
it'll be Gujati food, one day it'll South Indian food,
one day it will be Bengali food. Yes, I imagine.
I imagine also that during dinner when when you're reading
that the talk and discussion of one another's days, what

(24:12):
you're doing was an important part of the meal time. Yes,
it was. It was a big part of the meal time.
That is where all of our feelings were shared. You know,
wherever My mother used to say, wherever you guys are,
even when we were teenagers. Okay, we were having dates,
are going and it doesn't doesn't matter, bring your date,
bring everybody, but dinner time, every single person should be

(24:35):
home at seven, at six thirty seven o'clock. That was like,
and then you guys can have meetings after, you can
have meetings before, including my dad, who was super achiever.
He was all over the world, but he would still
make the dinner time on time. So it was kind
of very very important for us. When student's first daughter

(24:59):
was in school, Suita noticed some things at meal times
that made her very uncomfortable. For me, one of the
biggest jarring things that I saw with my older daughter
in the lunch room. Those kids would go they are
screaming their heads off, they're talking to each other, and
then they have so much food that they go and
take it from the counter and then go and dump
it into the trash bin, even without tasting. So there

(25:22):
was no talk around the food. There was no talk
about the food. There was teachers were there, people were there,
but it was just a mechanical job. It was not
an important factor. For me. Food was important. And I
see that people don't share food. They hold their lunch
boxes and they eat and they don't even ask can
you eat something? Do you want something? I mean, that

(25:44):
was not that is not bad. I'm not judging at all,
but that is something that I think comes with being
free and open about the food that we have and
what we do with our food that we have. So
for me, having a school uh and not talking or
thinking about food was not the thing at all because
we live in a time of rampant food allergies and intolerances.

(26:08):
How did she handle the parents because most of the
people ask me, oh, you share your food. That means
I have my child has allergies. What am I going
to do? Like? Oh, great, it's an inclusive program, which
means we know your child has allergies, and we know
the other students also know that your child has an allergy,
and we start talking about what is allergy. When they
are two, they just hear the term allergy and they

(26:30):
are being very nice to their neighbors student. But as
they get older, it becomes an immune system class biology
class for the student's oldest students. So they say, why
am I getting allergy to this food? What is making
me do? What? What symptoms do I get? So that
goes into the next level there. How did you how

(26:50):
did this policy of sharing come about? And did you
face resistance from parents? And um, just I'm fascinated by
it and how does it? How does it physically work
every day? It's a very difficult. It's a It's a
very difficult thing to do, but I did it seamlessly.
Is because I would speak at the tour itself. You know,

(27:13):
when they first come to see the school, I do
tell them that we are progressive because of many, many,
many reasons, and this is one of the biggest reason,
because we do believe that, um, whatever you put in
is what you're gonna give. So I want to talk
to you about your food sharing. So the people started thinking, oh,
my goodness, food sharing, which means I have to bring
food for thirty kids. I have to bring food for

(27:34):
twelve kids. I said, no, you just think about your
child and bring me food. Um uh to bring me food? Um,
that is just for you, know, these kids that are here,
which means I want you to think about your child.
Your child will need some proteins, some vegetables, some fruit,
and some starts. So think about that and just pack.

(27:56):
But when you're packing sandwiches, cut them into twelve pieces.
When you're thinking about rice, take twelve pieces of rice spoons,
you know, so that I can give it to the
twelve kids. But believe it or not, we are in America,
so most of our parents are thinking about similar things,
and so we will have a second serve. We will
have a third serve, so don't worry at all, your

(28:17):
child will be cared. But it was very shocking for
a lot of parents. Some of them were like very
happy when they started, and then after a point they
were saying, oh, this is this is very scary. I
don't know if my child is getting everything. I'm like,
our teachers are paying full attention. They are trained to
do this very organically. They were trying to organize as

(28:39):
parents groups. You know, I'll bring this vegetable, you bring this,
I'll do this. I said, why are you complicating things
that are so simple, So let's just keep it simple.
She kept the whole food program simple, and what she
noticed was that the way children aid changed their disposition,
changed who they were. For me, the food program um

(29:00):
is the highlight, and I always tell them about that
because that's what it's going to make your child calm.
In the school, I have sixties to seventy kids right now.
You won't hear the sound at all. It is. Kids
are really relaxed. In fact, we had few public school
kids that joined us. They're very jittery to begin with
in the beginning because they came with lots of frustrations

(29:21):
and anger and ideas. But then once they started eating
our school eating sharing program, that the toughest child became
the easiest child, and she could. I mean, I wish
I had done a scientist that was here and could
write down all the the the the what you call
the the data collection they could have done. You have

(29:41):
been really amazing to see how much our kids are
at ease sharing food. If you share food, there's no
snatching of scales or rubbers or toys or all those
anxieties that people have about sharing. It's all very very simple.
It's like, so you're so you're saying that the sharing

(30:02):
of food actually translates into different behavior throughout the day. Absolutely. Absolutely,
The calmness, the mindfulness, this was second nature even in America.
I mean food, We used to really cook together and
we used to eat lots of time spent around food.
But now we are so meturalistic. I think, uh, then

(30:26):
being who we are that we start running after time
and time is is in. You just take your time, eat,
don't run and eat your food. Don't run and take
a snack bar and run because you have to be
on schedule. How does it physically work. I'm i'm for example,
i'm uh. I have a ten year old son at
your school. For instance, what do I send him to

(30:48):
school with? And what is his lunch experience? You send
what culturally you eat, Like I come from south of India.
I make Italy's and those and send my year old
child to school and the other kids are like, what
is this food? They in our school, they won't ask
that question. They know she's coming from this country, or

(31:10):
her mother comes from this country, her father comes from Ireland,
and so they have these food that they bring and
so we talk about that in the lunch room during
the lunch time. Who brought this food? At the age two,
it is even talked. And then by the time they
get to ten year old is fifth grader. By the
time they get to fifth grade, they would be talking
to the others, you know, if they are a new students,

(31:32):
they will be explaining to them what what is happening
in the classrooms. So they just send their regular food,
whatever their parents are making for them. They can either
make it the day night night before and they can
bring that, or they can get up in the morning
and cook and bring it so it doesn't matter as
long as the child knows. In fact, as they get
to third grade and fourth grade, we asked the kids

(31:52):
to pack their own lunches so that they can know
what is going into their lunch box and they can
come and talk about what they brought today, and so
that really becomes the most amazing learning ground for them.
And she's expanding Treelocks program beyond the lunchtime hour. Food
is it are woven into the fabric of the school
as it is in life, not simply a period like

(32:14):
history or math. So right now, um, we have around
sixty kids, so we make produce to maybe feed twenty kids,
but we are trying to multiply that into three times
so that we'll have three farm greenhouses so we will
be able to get the produce to at least do
salads and some vegetables. We won't be able to do rice,

(32:37):
and we won't be able to do pasta dishes and
stuff yet, but maybe at some point, you know the
way we are going, that might happen. Even the school's
pet turtles and fish get in on the actions. So
when we tell the kids it's the poop of the
fish that makes our food, they're going like what but
that is what the reality of real life is, you know.

(32:58):
So h But I wondered if she noticed any friction
from the internetting of so many cultures in an American school.
I think, Um, it is we are all, at the
end of it, human beings. And when you have a
good point that you communicate, well, it will come across
and people will take it and they will accept. And

(33:21):
they have accepted the food program in the best way possible. Yes,
we do share food every single day. Yes, it is
a new concept, but we do it seamlessly. It becomes
it's not my country, your country, your ideas, my ideas.
It does our ideas. It is east idea, just best idea.
We all did sharing, but we just forgot somewhere in

(33:42):
the line, and now we are rediscovering. We're coming back
to it. That's what it is. What are give me
an example of some of the foods that that kids
bring into share. Okay, um, okay, that's a very good question.
We have sushi. I'm like, what all do I tell?
We have sushi that comes, we have Korean um glass

(34:06):
noodle dish that comes. We have in one day, you
will have all of this, Okay, and then you will
have Italy's that's from south of India that comes. Then
you have m the sandwich from America that it comes.
Then you have um Uh Indonesian mom that actually came

(34:26):
and cooked for us and fed all of us some
lovely Indonesian food, so that she brings those those are
like special kind of rice balls that they make which
is very different. So so all these I mean in
a day, you would literally have a variety of sea
of food, a sea of food, and all the food

(34:47):
is shared and enjoyed on wide silver partition plates traditional
in India called tally tally or plate is basically a
plate that is with divisions in it so that you
know that you're getting all your protein, you're getting your
your vegetables, you're getting your fruit, you're getting your start,
you're getting your you know, any other vitamins that you need.

(35:10):
You're getting everything in it. So it kind of divides
and it becomes a learning plate, so people learn from
that so that they know that they're eating all of
this consciously. I want kids to eat consciously. I want
them to feel or even the adults, even my teachers,
I tell them all the time, we have food topic

(35:30):
all the time, because we do want them to understand
that what you put in is what you're gonna give.
So that's why we say no fa soda, not because
soda is bad. Soda is bad because off So you
give the whole reasoning behind it, so then you know
that they are there. These are smart kids, these are
our kids, so they will learn way more than what
we can even imagine. Well, I'm I'm almost ashamed to

(35:53):
ask what the someone like me who's American Midwestern guy
would bring in. You know what would they what is
made of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich or the
bologna sandwich on wonder bread and the bag of lace
potato chips, So we will take that too. I do
believe that junk food is equally important in life as

(36:13):
much as good food. And if you don't bring me
that peanut butter jelly sandwich that you're talking about, I
will never know that that even existed and what that
means or what it tastes like. And the more you're
going to say no to junk food, people are going
to want more junk food. So I'm not here stopping
anyone from anything. In our school, one of the biggest
philosophy that we teach our teachers is please don't say

(36:35):
no to them. Say no only when you really mean no, no,
and then stick to the no. So if there is
a no, there should be a reasoning behind it. Uh.
And the reasoning is that if you if you're eating
junk food, what is it doing to your body? You know,
how many peanut butter jelly sandwiches can you have? And
what does it do to your body? And what are

(36:55):
you missing? And what how are you going to get that?
You know? And Okay, in this meal you peanut butter
jelly sand which next meal will be peut butter jelly
sandwich with maybe a little bit of roccoley, maybe a
little bit of carrot. Who likes carrot? The rabbits like carrot?
So do am I a rabbit today? Or am I
a broccoli kid today? So that as our conversation wound down,

(37:54):
Suda on our own brought up what I've long preached,
our fundamental facets of our humanity and our connection to
one another. Two things that connect all of us. They
come from the tongue. Okay. The first is the language.
If you go to any country and learn three sentences
of their country and talk to them. Before you know,
they will give you everything under the sun because they

(38:17):
think you're so awesome. You learned my language, you're like
the best, so that makes you the best friends. Okay.
The second one is the food. The minute you say
those things in the language, the food comes. The culture
comes the food eating and talking to someone about what
is your like about food? And you start talking, Believe
it or not, everyone will become your friend. As Suda said,

(38:41):
two things that connect us all and they come from
the tongue, taste and talk, food and language. We are
the only animal that cooks and the only animal that
tells stories, and they are hard wired into our species.
It became clear to me when I read a book
called Catching Fire, How Cooking Made Us Human. It's by

(39:03):
Richard Rangum, a Harvard evolutionary biologist. In it, he theorizes
that humans didn't become the most successful species on the
planet because of a genetic fluke or the taming of fire.
He argues that humans became the most successful species on
the planet because we learned to cook food. When we

(39:24):
cook food, we were suddenly able to consume massive amounts
of calories. Before we started cooking food, our ape ancestors
sat alone for six to eight hours masticating raw vegetation.
Once we started cooking food, we could get huge amounts
of calories very quickly. These calories grew our very calorie
hungry brain. It changed the shape of our bodies. It

(39:47):
made us healthy, so our genes spread. And then it
did something really important. It changed our disposition. It changed
who we were. Cooking food takes work. Someone has to
gather it so monastic prepare it. Someone has to care
for what happens after all the food is consumed. Someone
has to tend the families as those gathering the food

(40:09):
get the food. The cooking of food forced us to cooperate.
If we wanted the advantages of cooked food of all
these calories, we had to work together. It changed us,
and it did another thing. Because we weren't shoving massive
amounts of raw vegetation down our throats, we were able
to evolve nuanced vocal anatomy that allowed for nuanced speech,

(40:33):
the speech required for language. We became storytellers, and I
think we became storytellers around food. The ability to tell
stories allowed us to tell each other where the food was,
where predators might be. We were pretty low on the
food chain back then, but language and storytelling helped us
to survive. As my mentor, the writer Reynolds Price, wrote,

(40:58):
a need to tell and hear your stories is essential
to the species Homo sapiens second in necessity, apparently after
nourishment and before love and shelter. Millions live without love
or shelter, he wrote, No one lives without the sound
of stories. And so many of those stories we tell
each other happen around food during the meals we share.

(41:21):
We're the only animal that tells stories, and we're the
only animal that cooks. There's something to be learned from
this and something to be lost for failing to acknowledge it.
I really want to end this show with some cooking
and a technique that I love in Indian cuisine. I
was inspired by Suda, and I also want to end

(41:43):
up by sharing some food with my producer, Hi Jonathan.
Thank you so much for filling me do this. It's
a great technique. I've got some doll here, but the
key here is the tempering. It's called here or tadka
in India. And I've got some butter about. I have
stick of butter and a big pot of lentils here,
and we cook this butter until it's brown and frothy.

(42:05):
The butter is gonna get nutty and delicious. Then all
I'm gonna do is add some raw ginger and garlic,
some Indian spices too. Teaspoons are gara masala, teaspoon of human,
half teaspoon of turmeric, one quarter teaspoon cayenne, the garlic,
and inch of minced ginger, and a big squeeze of lemon.
First step is browning the butter. I've got about a

(42:26):
half stick of butter here. I can see it's getting
frocky um and a little bit brown on top, and
the bubbles are getting a little bigger. I can add
my garlic and cook that. Get that cooking in the
brown butter. I'm gonna add my seasoning, my spices to
the brown butter, already mixing a ramicin let those bloom. Yes,

(42:50):
listen it sound. I love it, and it's getting so
fragrant and it's beautiful. And then I'm gonna cool it
down so it doesn't burn. With a splash of lemon,
here's that scissle again, and we're done with the butter
tempering and all we're gonna do is stir this now
into our hot doll, and that finishes it with this
beautiful fragrant spiced butter so that the season oil comes

(43:14):
in at the end on top, comes in right at
the end on top, and this allows for great fragrance,
great flavors. As a rest before it in my book,
of course, gave you a taste earlier of how plain
it was, Jonathan Um and now we're gonna taste it
and you can see how it has been transformed by
these spices and the technique called toddka okay so wow.

(43:39):
I got a little kick to it too at the
end that's from the Kayen, but it really transforms the
whole doll dish and it's a really great technique. Let's see.
Special thanks to our guests Ecai soup to interviewed in
Miami by my producer Jonathan Hodge Dressler, and thank you
Whitney in the whole team at the Manador Room. Thanks

(44:02):
also to sudac To Romin and her talented and thoughtful
staff at the Treelock School in Brooklyn, New York. Special
thanks to our actress and translation expert Berna Parlock. My
new book is out now. It's also called From Scratch,
but it's all about cooking and ten meals that can
teach us all we need to know in the kitchen.

(44:23):
We'll have a link to it in the show notes
and on my site Roman dot com. From Scratches produced
by Jonathan Hawes Dressler. Our executive producer is Christopher Hasiotis.
Our supervising producer is Gabrielle Collins. The music except for
the cruise Ship Mambo is by Ryan Scott off his

(44:43):
album A Freak Grows in Brooklyn and listeners don't worry.
Season two of From Scratches already under production and will
be arriving soon In until then, we'll be releasing several
bonus episodes featuring full interviews with some of our wonderful guests.
From Scratch is a production of I Heart Radio. For

(45:05):
more podcasts from I Heart Radio, visit the I heart
Radio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your
favorite shows.
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