The Ultimate Science Experiment: Food Sangria on a warm Ox Bar de Tapas, 528 17th Avenue, SW

I’ve been hearing a lot about STEM lately…how Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are connected to pretty much everything we learn and do in life. I hear about it because I work in education.

Take food, for example.  There’s math used to measure ingredients, and sometimes tech and engineering come into play (think about pots and pans and the various machines used to cook—even the oven or the stove).  And there’s obviously science.

Every time you make a dish, you’re using all these things.  But to me, the science of cooking is what makes it so fascinating.

I love trying to figure out what’s in a dish, what spices and herbs will go together and in what amounts; I love being right when anticipating how something will turn out.  There’s nothing like it. And I don't even mind the occasional failure; I don't eat it, mind you, but I don't spend a lot of energy on disappointment--I just try again.

Last month when I went to Anju (with Anju), we shared the Brussels sprouts dish, and it was amazing.  I’m happy to say I ran a trial on them a few weeks ago at home and, other than the fact that the rice sticks were moldy (ew--and so I didn’t use them), I think I came very close to replicating one of their signature dishes. I know it was pretty good and very close to being spot on—minus the rice sticks, of course.

And just the other night I sat down with Meghan, who has a real passion for science which I've known about since we met more than a half dozen years ago, at Ox Bar de Tapas and we had the most amazing mushroom dish…maybe ever.

Gotta figure out how to replicate this.....

Definitely had some sherry and cream (it said so on the menu), and salt and pepper and perhaps some shallots…and I’m unsure if the garlic was rubbed onto the toast points, or if there was some in the dish…but that will come out in the experimentation as I attempt to recreate this great appetizer.

Meghan and I haven’t seen each other in years, yet we’ve kept in touch thanks to social media. So we basically picked up where we left off, this time on the patio of the well-known eatery.

I’d been to Ox a time or two before, when it was known as Ox and Angela, which our waiter explained was its name before the renovations that took place a little while back.  The place has a similar feel and the patio was pleasant on this late summer evening—one of the last few warm and sunny times, I suspect, before we are all driven back inside for the inevitable winter to come.

We both agreed the mushrooms were killer, and we also shared pan con tomate (crushed tomatoes with garlic and olive oil on grilled rustic bread), a really interesting salad with asparagus, fingerling potatoes, peas and greens, and some patatas bravas (they were surprising in flavour).

Patatas Bravas

And we caught up.  We first met when we were challenged, as a two person team, to pull off the greatest feat of all time (at least in our books)—a province-wide science competition for teachers—with the winning team advancing to a national competition. Our task was to produce the program that would select that winner. 

We weren’t given a huge budget and we weren’t given a lot of direction so it was up to the two of us to figure out how to make it work, how to entertain several hundred kids, how to make it interesting enough for the media while making it a legitimate contest between teachers (and boy, can they ever be fierce competitors), and how to keep our sanity.

Happy to say we did it all and, most importantly, stayed friends.  Shortly after, Meghan was awarded an internship to the Smithsonian's American History Museum in Washington DC.  And I went back to my communications world and Meghan went off to be a scientist/archaeologist, and we both continue in our respective paths today. 

And now, I’d like to think I’m a little bit of a scientist too.  Each time I take to the kitchen, my cooking is an experiment—and I don’t mean that in a bad way.

So tomorrow, perhaps, I’ll draw up a grocery list.  On it will be the ingredients I think I’ll need to make those mushrooms….and when I figure them out, I’ll invite Meghan—the real scientist—over to try them out.