If you’re looking to pump up a room full of kids, whipping up a blender full of C-Splosion Smoothie is probably a good way to start.
But, lucky for Relish Magazine cooking show producer and chef Brian Morris, the crowd was already pumped pre-blender action at the Collier County Library’s headquarters branch on Orange Blossom Drive on Tuesday. The packed room of kids, ranging in ages from 4 to 12, had just borne witness to a check presentation from the Friends of the Library foundation, donating $100,000 to the county library system for books.
“Books are, in my opinion, the cornerstone of library operations,” said check presenter and chair of the board for the Friends of the Library, Nick Lynn, adding, “Books are expensive; this contribution of $100,000 is just for new books.”
The donation, which will likely help the Collier libraries purchase between 4,000-5,000 new books, comes just as the system was looking at a much-reduced 2012 budget.
And though it’s hard to upstage an oversize check with an even more oversized number on it, Chef Morris, just might have managed to pull it off — with a little help from a trio of yum, including a breakfast smoothie, some no-bake cookies and a taste bud altering trick.
The Mommy and Me cooking presentation, which was held to announce a three-day “Women Today” event set to run Sept. 29 through Oct. 1, had both moms and kids in rapture as Morris seamlessly whisked food and fun together.
But beyond just offering cooking advice, Morris made sure he also included basic nutrition advice in Tuesday’s demo, explaining why certain foods are nutritionally superior to others, and how important eating a balanced diet is.
From the middle of the room a small voice offered a kid’s perspective on nutrition, blurting out: “I know how you can tell healthy food from unhealthy food. The foods that taste better are the bad ones.”
Not losing a beat, Morris laughed — then set out to prove that healthy food can in fact be delicious.
Soliciting for volunteers to help him make his Cocoa Chewies, nearly every hand in the audience shot up. A few children even got on their tippy-toes just to make sure Morris could see them. One of the lucky volunteers selected, Lindsay Podos — who loves to pretend to put on cooking demos at home — could hardly contain her excitement at being picked, bounding toward the stage to take her place in front of an oversized mixing bowl.
For the Cocoa Chewies, which combine tahini paste, honey, cocoa powder, Rice Crispies and dried fruit into one delicious power-cookie, Morris described each ingredient in depth, including where to find it to why it was a good nutritional choice. Using super creative descriptions like, “cocoa powder is basically like chocolate glitter,” Morris’ passion for both food, and the art of making food relatable, was impossible to miss.
The program’s final act was one promised early on to the crowd, when Morris mysteriously alluded to “rewiring your taste buds.” Distributing little dried tablets of something called miracle fruit, which the children were instructed to chew and rub across their tongues, Morris promised that he could make a lemon taste completely sweet.
Miracle fruit is touted as having the ability to make sour foods sweet, and sweet foods even sweeter. The “oohs” and “ahhhs” that filled the room as kids bit gleefully into lemons, oranges, strawberries and other fruits, proved that Morris’ claims about miracle fruit were indeed correct.
“I love the strawberry, it’s so sweet!” exclaimed 6-year-old Maryn Coine.
As the program ended, it was a free-for-all of kids grabbing lemon slices by the handful, while parents undoubtedly contemplated what a little dose of miracle fruit might do for broccoli or Brussels sprouts.