Cooking has always been a passion of mine. So when Charleston Chef Sarah Adams announced she’d be livestreaming a cooking class this month, I jumped at the chance. Thing is, passion is a slippery creature — much like a naked butternut squash, I learned.
My chef streak started when my parents were together. I would lovingly craft us family desserts to enjoy. Always the same dessert: cold bread soaked in milk. Sometimes I’d nuke it. The marriage didn’t last. Later, I progressed to stews, enchiladas, and homemade gnocchi for my college boyfriend. We broke up and I traded cooking for work as a culinary journalist in Portland, studying molecular gastronomy, sledding with Top Chef contestants, and eating my weight in Manchego.
All this is to say that passion does not necessarily translate to skill.
So, when I found myself with a machete in one hand and a puppy-sized butternut squash in the other, looking at Sarah Adams’ heartwarming smile and fearing for my life (or my limbs at least), it was nice to know that I was not alone.
Adams is something of a darling in Charleston’s foodie scene. From FIG chef to Bad Bitches co-founder, apron entrepreneur, and potential TV network star, she’s covered a lot of ground since graduating from the College of Charleston. Now operating as a “freelance chef,” Adams does what young freelance anythings do; she co-works.
One day at the Harbor Entrepreneur Center, Adams met Cori Banyon, founder of the fledgling virtual meet-and-greet site AndMe, and they hatched a perfectly millennial venture: livestream cooking. #cookalongsarahadams.
This is insta-cooking if there ever was such a thing. The cook-along has its own Instagram hashtag, Facebook following, and exclusive live chat feature, like Google Hangout, but with strangers and greasy fingers. It’s also free from any actual human interaction, meaning you could follow along, eat your fried chicken from the pan, and be rocking PINK sweatpants with zero judgement. As long as you get a good Snap out of it, right?
A warm nest of farro beneath perfectly-browned chicken thigh, spritzed with lemon and plated with a golden butternut squash-garlic-thyme puree. The peppy email I received two days prior promised all that and more. Accompanying wines selected by the pros at Grassroots Wine (#sponsored), an intimate setting in Chef Adams’ own kitchen, and if your meeting runs late — just watch the livestream later at your own convenience. Easy.
You log in, pay the not insubstantial $25 price tag, and head to your nearest Whole Foods with Adams’ recipe for a wild goose chase involving farro, chili flakes, and pecan chunks.
I did not follow direction well, I’ll admit. First mistake: Food Lion. After realising the error of my ways and hunting down farro with a friendly Trader Joe’s helper, I got nervous about keeping up and prepped everything in advance. Using twee hedgehog measuring cups my mom gave me for Christmas, I pre-measured, pre-chopped, pre-peeled and stacked every ingredient in a Pyrex tower, organized in order of usage. I didn’t even Instagram that shit, but let me tell you — it was a thing of beauty. Somewhere around two in the afternoon, I tackled the squash. I wouldn’t find my peeler for another five hours, while hunting down coconut oil because I refused to buy canola oil like Adams said. Instead, I used our machete knife (not an actual machete, but damn close), the largest knife in our butcher’s block and the sharpest because I’m normally too sissy to use it.
Thing is, for all Adams’ adorable encouragement and Facebook posts of organized shopping carts, the recipe was a bit convoluted and I was scared. I’m not recommending milky toast or anything, but maybe something with less blender to basting crossover.
The rest is a blurr. I logged on promptly, poured myself a glass of crisp white and proceeded to get salmonella all over my pink MacBook typing a back-and-forth about the great breast-thigh divide. At one point, Adams brought me on screen for the group to see my measuring hogs. She was composed, personable, and very tech-savvy for someone with a wine glass in one hand and a cleaver in the other. I felt like we were definitely new best friends. But I did not feel the same confidence about my chicken. Thankfully, my friends Brad and Laura came over with a cast-iron skillet, food processor, and two bottles of wine and saved my sanity.
Sorry Sarah Adams, but we basically ended up cooking on our own with the livestream as an amusing soundtrack of semi-frantic, semi-tipsy women discussing drapes and chili flakes.
I’m not saying it wasn’t worth it. The goose hunt took me to grocery corners I’ve never ventured to before; that butternut puree was worth risking my life for; and now I know where my peeler is. Thank you! But is it $25-plus-grocery-costs worth it?
That depends entirely on whether you have better things to do on a Thursday night. And your willingness to pay a premium to peel a squash and pursue your passion.