“I want a brothy soup… I want an ocean in a bowl…something salty and spicy,” mused Chef Erica Wides in a recent episode on Manila clams on her radio show, Let's Get Real, on Heritage Radio Network. Chef Wides is committed to her focused effort: to get her listeners to cook easily and enjoy it. “I try to cater my show to everyone, empowering listeners to make educated choices about food.”
Healthy eating as a tool for disease prevention and maintaining wellness is a frequent topic amongst many health initiatives nationally, but Wides spotlights an overlooked issue: “I don’t think people know how to cook. For people who grew up in homes where their family did not cook or relied on processed foods, they may not have developed an innate sense of cooking – the shopping and preparing, for example. We need to move away from frozen meals and diet cokes.”
A long time instructor at Institute for Culinary Education (ICE) in New York City, Chef Wides brings her cooking class sensibilities to her listeners. What are her steadfast tips? “Eating in season,” she says, “most people don’t know what’s in season. Google it. Get educated.”
Wides insists that cooking for one’s self is not solely dependent on inspiration. As a 24 -7 foodie, she says, “I do get tired of cooking, but I try to approach each meal as something important - and as a way to nourish and feed myself.”
A culinary generalist who is at ease in a variety of cuisines – Asian, American, Italian - Wides advises listeners to not shy away from cooking as simply as possible. “Let the ingredients stand for themselves, drizzle some olive oil on your favorite in-season vegetable.” She also adds, “Many vegetables commonly go under-explored; introduce celery root, artichokes, or turnips into your menus.”
Chef Wides, aka Chef Smartypants , a title anointed by one of her culinary students at ICE after an unsuccessful effort to stump her with questions about cooking, brings her diverse culinary knowledge to her weekly show—part cooking class, part food anthropology, Wides wants listeners to get interested in their food habits and to engage in the mainstream movement towards whole foods. “Get involved in learning where your food comes from. Visit and support your local farmer’s markets. If that’s not accessible to you, go to your local Whole Foods store or get familiar with your produce department.”
Let's Get Real is a weekly date with Wides as a personal Chef Instructor. The topics for the show are educational – casting a brighter light on slimy, oily fish (anchovies, sardines, and mackerel) with prep techniques; at times quirky – black jelly beans other licorice-tinged foods such as fennel; and most of all informative – how to add more green to your breakfast routine.
Have an aching question about a recipe, cooking technique, or food trend? Tune into Chef Wides weekly radio show, Tuesdays at 6:30 EST. Send in a question on the comment section of Heritage Radio Network.com or on the Why We Cook Facebook page.
This post is the first in a series of interviews with chefs on Healthful Eating.
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