Jozseph Schultz, a Santa Cruz food artist long before foodies were as common as bottled water, issued a challenge to patrons of the Museum of Art & History Wednesday.
Bring him some food from your home or the farmer's market and he would turn it into a gourmet meal for $10.
In they came with shopping bags. There was kale, not so challenging. Red lentils. No problem. Chicken sausage. What? That's already cooked.
"I wait for the day someone brings me snake," said Schultz, who was talking about buying fresh, organic and local in the 1970s back when health food was sold from small storefonts or garage-like warehouses.
Ahh. Quince. Now there's a challenge.
"A lot of people don't know what to do with it before it's cooked," said Schultz. "It tastes like wood when its not cooked, but when you cook it right it gets a perfumey succulence." He goes on to quote "The Owl and the Pussycat," quince and slices of mince.
Cooking with the man who lends his name to the restaurant India Joze, which specializes in dishes from the far corners of the world, is like hanging out with Picasso or taking a college course from T. S. Eliot. Words become music and food, forming new images in your mind and your tastebuds.
Let's see: there was the quince relish with fry bread, dahl from red lentils, oyster mushrooms with a spinach sauce, kale pate, kale chips, fennel and chicken, lemon curd, zuchini coconut milk curry.
Mouth watering yet?
Joe shows you how to do it every Wednesday and now will add regular monthly appearances at the It's another example of how the MAH is stretching the envelope in art and community.
This night was a perfect fit. Not only did about 15 people learn to make delicacies from around the world, but they got Schultz's philosophy, most of which turns everything you know on its ear.
MSG? No product has gotten a more successful bad publicity campaign, said Schultz, but it's a natural ingredient in tomatoes and parmesan cheese known as glutamic acid. The myth about MSG is as prevalent as the one about lemmings jumping off cliffs, which was started by a Walt Disney nature film looking for drama.
"Everyone in Santa Cruz knows what you should eat," said Schultz. "But no one can agree what that is."
He's also fond of saying: "People do amazing things with food. There is nothing you can do by accident to wreck food that isn't done on purpose someplace to make it better."
If you are a Food Channel fan, you will want to spend some time with Schultz, exploring meals from around the world in the kind of depth TV doesn't have the time to bring.
In fact, Schultz is to food TV what the New York Times is to Fox News. This kind of brilliance can't be put in a little box.