Anyone who has ever attended any one of our sushi courses knows that the first five minutes of the powerpoint presentation is allotted to the issues of food literacy, childhood poverty, and food injustice in the Greater Toronto Area. (It is a grave problem, which I have addressed in many public speaking engagements over the years, including at TEDx and SIPO and Passages Canada, to libraries and universities across this province and Mexico.) These issues are also highlighted at every corporate sushi workshop, and companies with greater moral purpose have openly embraced this. As an organization, we have been on this mission for almost eight years and over 17,000 participants later. Let’s roll sushi and also briefly talk about bigger issues of food insecurity- who gets to eat (and eat nutritionally) and who doesn’t, and why. We do this in both stable and affluent communities and those that are vulnerable to the whims of the slightest economic and social forces.
Those who know me well, know how important this issue of food insecurity and childhood hunger is to me. It is the WHY of what I do, as it speaks profoundly from my personal life journey, one that is documented in my upcoming book “Woody Allen Ate My Kimchi” (Exile Editions, 2018). Similar journeys have been taken- are being taken today- by millions all over the world. I am overwhelmed by a great feeling of allegiance.
Therefore, it fills my heart when we receive letters and emails of thanks from the students. It bolsters our organization’s sense of purpose. And occasionally, inspired students will write a piece about their experience. On February 16, 2017, I was invited to do a sushi workshop for a class of high school students at Greenwood College, a progressive and ambitious preparatory school in one of Toronto’s most affluent neighbourhoods. None of these students in the class recalled ever knowing a day of real hunger in their lives; and with the almost certain trajectory to success, they likely never will. But this did not stop them from wanting to understand, empathize. Over the years, we have learned that our workshops are much more effective when we are not preaching to the choir (i.e. children suffering from hunger and food insecurity). It works wonders when “non-congregants”, with the moral courage to venture with genuine curiosity over to the “other side of the tracks”, wish to do something about it, in part because they have the resources to do so. Conor Alexander is one such young man. He wrote this kind blog about his experience of the workshop and the school gave us permission to share it. You can read his essay here. I want to personally thank Conor for the wonderful write-up (keep inspiring, young man!), and to Greenwood College and its tight community of parents, administrators, and teachers for inculcating and engendering this most pressing of human values in their children/students: that a successful education is not merely measured by how well-fed the bank account is; it is also about nourishing the soul. There are other such schools who in recent years have asked us to come “talk-and-roll” with their students (too many to mention here) and they deserve kudos as well.
Finally, with immense gratitude I would like to personally thank all of you (individuals and companies alike) who have paid to attend one of our workshops over the years. Part of the proceeds (5%) goes toward subsidizing our sushi workshops with children in schools, libraries, community centres, church basements etc. across this province. Through your contribution, and our workshops, you have brought a smile to a child’s day and one less nutritious meal to worry about.
Three of our most popular classes are now up for the month of February. Book soon because it is limited seating and these classes are historically the quickest sell-outs. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
VALENTINE’S DAY LOVERS EDITION: COUPLES ONLY SATURDAY FEB 11th + TUESDAY FEB 14th, 7pm-10pm
Two classes are on offer. Begins with a presentation on the theme of romance and sushi. Edamame snack to begin. You and your partner make 8 sushi rolls together. Dessert treat at the end. Candlelight, great music. All about kindling and re-kindling that spark through sushi with your partner. Vegetarians, Vegans and Pescatorians all equally welcome! $100 (+HST) per couple. A selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are also available for purchase during the class.
FAMILY DAY FUN CLASS: FAMILIES ONLY: MONDAY FEBRUARY 20th, 5pm-7pm
Specially discounted class on Family Day. The workshop is 1.5 hours long. Everybody makes four sushi rolls each- this is your dinner for the night. This class is all about bonding between children (8-18 years of age) and between parents and children. *Parents do not have to participate. This workshop is nut, shellfish, dairy, MSG and Gluten-free! Children: $20 (+HST). Adults: $25 (+HST).
NIGIRI + SASHIMI CLASS: SATURDAY FEBRUARY 25th, 7pm-9:30pm
LEVEL II Nigiri + Sashimi class. You learn to make proper sushi rice. Cut salmon, butterfish, tuna sashimi. Make shrimp, unagi and ika nigiri. And a California Roll. LEVEL I Making Makimonos class is highly recommended. $70 (+HST) per person.
If you’ve never heard of Bibimbap, it’s time to get on board. Chef and restaurateur Sang Kim returned to The Social to tell us all about one of Korea’s most iconic dishes.
The original form of the dish goes back to the early Chosun Period (14th century). The distribution of ingredients in a rice bowl was dictated by the five basic yin and yang elements: earth, fire, wood, water, metal. Each of these elements/ingredients was offered in the bowl together and in balanced formation.
WHAT DOES BIBIMBAP MEAN?
The word “bibimbap” literally means “mixed rice.”
Bibimbap is only about 100 years old and became super popular in the 20th century.
It’s traditionally eaten on the even of the lunar new year to finish off all of the leftovers of the previous year. It’s kind of like a cleansing.
HOW DO YOU MAKE IT?
A rice cooker is typically used for the rice but a pot with a glass lid will do, too.
WHAT INGREDIENTS SHOULD BE USED?
Bibimbap is usually made with different types of sauteed and seasoned vegetables (i.e. shiitake mushrooms, spicy radishes, zucchini)
A raw or yolky egg
Meat (usually beef)
Chili pepper paste, fermented soybean paste and soy sauce
HOW TO ASSEMBLE IT
It’s more than simply piling the ingredients on top of one another. Part of the challenge is to assemble the prettiest bowl.
Most chefs assemble the ingredients in small piles around the bowl with a raw or cooked egg placed in the centre.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU START ASSEMBLING
Think about the first ingredient you put into your rice bowl because it says a lot about your character. It could be a colour you’re drawn to or a food you fancy.
The five colours (or “obangsaek”) represent the traditional five elements of the universe. The colours white black/brown, green, red and yellow have a deep philosophical meaning.
If you choose yellow (i.e. bean sprouts, eggs)
Yellow represents Centre:
Sense organ: Mouth
Prominent emotion: Pensiveness
If you choose black/brown (i.e. shiitake mushrooms)
Black/brown represents North:
Sense organ: Ears
Prominent emotion: Fear
If you choose red (i.e. spicy radishes)
Red represents South:
Sense organ: Tongue
Prominent emotion: Joy
If you choose green (i.e. zucchini)
Green represents East:
Sense organ: Eyes
Prominent emotion: Anger