ZePerfect Mardi Gras Celebration

ZeBot New Orleans Mardi Gras

If there’s one thing zebras love, it’s a celebration!

And when it’s Mardi Gras, which is all about local traditions, food, family and friends–well, that makes us so happy that our stripes start to turn colors.

Purple, green and gold, to be exact.
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ZeBig Chill: A Zebra Investigates Freeze-Dried Fruit

ZeBot & ZeBig Chill Snowman in Snow with White Frame

One thing zebras know is that when we don’t know something we want to know, it’s time to start asking lots of questions.

Case in point: the other day, I overheard some scientific humans discussing “freeze-drying” as a good way to preserve fresh fruit. Supposedly, when you freeze-dry fruit, it will keep its great taste and color for years and years!

Frosty Life Around the Fruit Bowl

How do we transform our favorite fresh fruits into freeze-dried fruits?

Well, I’m a huge fan of fruit, so that sounded totally cool to me (pun totally intended)! But how the heck would a zebra go about freeze-drying?

My zebra buddies and I decided to get some frosty advice from our coolest friends: the SnowDudes and the Penguin Brothers. They said they were pretty sure they’d seen a polar bear freezing-drying his own food, so how hard could it be?

Apples, Polar Bear Style

I get the feeling this guy does not read cookbooks — or science books!

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ZePossibilities of Pumpkins

ZeBot's Pumpkin Patch Buddies

I just made ZeGreatest discovery! You know those orange spheres that are piling up in farmers’ markets and grocery stores? They’re pumpkins! Okay, you probably already knew this, but pumpkins are totally new to me. (Give me a break: I’m a zebra!)

I always figure the best way to find out about something you never knew existed is to do a little detective work. My favorite farmers, food historians and librarians were happy to help out. I even asked a couple of dogs, since if they like something, you KNOW it’s going to be cool.

My buddies Spot and Rover give pumpkins a BIG paws up!

My buddies Spot and Rover give pumpkins a BIG paws up!

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George Washington, ZeFarmer: Exploring ZeCulinary Gardens of Mount Vernon

ZeBot Poses at Mount Vernon

What do kids, zebras and George Washington have in common?

Lots of things!

Vision. Imagination. Ingenuity.

The joyful desire to explore new ideas and discover innovative ways to do things. The belief that anything is possible—and that you can have fun making it happen.

If you’re an American kid, you already know that George Washington was the very first president of the United States.

But did you know he was also called America’s “foremost farmer”?

ZeBot Visionary Farmer

It makes sense, because both being president and a farmer have a lot to do with planting, growing and harvesting—whether you’re talking about seeds or ideas.

George Washington was as innovative and visionary at farming and horticulture as he was at helping to create a country. When he wasn’t busy being president, his primary occupation was being a farmer.

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Healthy Snacks for ZeBest of Friends

Miles & ZeBotOne of the most wonderful things about great food is that it’s so much fun to share with friends.

I’ve noticed that a love for cooking and eating together seems to be true across lots of different species, including zebras, dogs and humans.

One of my best friends is a super cool dog named Miles (which perfectly describes how far he can run—especially when he’s chasing a coyote).

Miles and I have lots in common, but a love for fun food is one of ZeStrongest.

Miles Having A Ball

In fact, Miles loves food so much that he occasionally tries to eat me (I realize I’m a bedraggled little zebra who looks a bit like a dog toy—but food, really?).

Miles & Shredded Doggy

Miles and I figured this issue could cause problems in our friendship, so we decided that real friends know how to compromise.

So here’s our compromise: I agree to help Miles whip up yummy, healthy snacks—and he agrees not to eat me.

Zebra-Canine Detente

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ZeCaptiva Coconut Caper

Zebra Beach Picnic on Captiva Golf Course

When it comes to exploring, zebras (like kids) really know how to earn their stripes!

My Uncle Zep (also known as ZeGreat Chef Zepicure) and I got together to spend a whole month exploring a magical island called Captiva, which is just off the west coast of Florida in ZeGulf of Mexico.

The place where we’ve had our ZHQ (zebra headquarters) is called South Seas Island — which was once a big plantation. In the early 1900s, it was one of the world’s largest growers of Key limes!

ZeScoutAbout at Beach

We’ve been roaming ZeBeaches and mangrove forests in search of adventure—and an island fruit that could keep us going strong through all our explorations, which tend to make us super hungry and thirsty. Continue reading

ZeAmazing Magical Spice Detectives & ZeScience of Taste

ZeGreat Spice Detectives!Do you believe in magic?

That’s what some of my favorite kids and I asking were asking each other the first time we blended our own spices.

When we sprinkled our spices on hot, buttery baked sweet potatoes, the only way we could describe what happened inside our mouths was MAGIC!

But I’m kind of getting ahead of my own stripes by starting in ZeMiddle of my story.

ZeBot Spices for Whole Spice

It all began when I asked my friends Ronit and Shuli Madmone: “What are spices? And why do humans like them so much?”

I thought, considering that they’re experts who own a really cool company called Whole Spice and I’m a just a simple zebra who’s only beginning to explore the world of food, they would have given me a super-simple answer.

But they looked at each other and laughed, “If you really want to understand spices, ZeBot, come to our house.”

It turned out that my questions were the first steps on a journey that would take me into deliciously exciting new worlds.

For a taste of our adventure, please check out the video (below) — then read on!

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Wokkin’ On Sunshine: A Magical Exploration of ZeWok Shop!

Chinatown Gate with ZeBotHey, who wants to go for a wok with me?

When I asked my Chinese-born American buddy Julianne that question, her reply (like yours might be) was: “Um, what’s a wok?”

Well, I knew that a wok is a kind of cooking pan — and being a zebra who loves to roam (and is very fond of puns), I’ve always like saying stuff like “let’s go for a wok.” But Julianne and I wanted to explore all the sizzling secrets to wonderful wok cooking.

Since we think the best way to start on any new  path of culinary discovery is to do some ZeSearch, we decided to begin in my ZeNormous cookbook library.

Julianne Does Research

The next thing we did was call my friend Grace Young, who has written lots of award-winning cookbooks all about the wok and the amazing things it can do.

It turns out that the voyage into the world of woks is deliciously vast and exciting.
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For ZeLove of Moms & Mozzarella

Mom & Daughter Dinner Time

At Ramini Mozzarella, every day is Mother’s Day.

“This is a very female-oriented society here on the farm,” Craig Ramini tells me. “Everything comes down to the mothers and their babies.”

To meet the Ramini Mozzarella water buffalo moms and their babies , please check out this video (below) — I promise you’ll be glad you did!

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Grace Young & ZeYear of the Zebra

ZeYear of the Zebra

According to an old zebra saying,  friends can make your day—but my friend Grace just made my whole year!

It happened while we were talking about the Chinese New Year—a magical holiday time that falls between mid-January and late-February on the Western (solar) calendar.

Grace with the Ultimate Wok & a Zebra!

Meet Grace, “Poet Laureate of the Wok, Stir-Fry Guru & Wok Evangelist”!

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DIY Kids in ZeKitchen

3 Zebras + 2 Kids

When I first started thinking about cooking, I wondered if a zebra would really be able do it. I mean, having four hooves with no opposable thumbs definitely has its challenges, so I was feeling a tiny bit discouraged.

But then a wise kid named Max told me this, “Just because you’re not cooking now doesn’t mean you CAN’T – it only means you don’t know how yet. After you learn, you can do it yourself. As in: DIY, zebra dude!”

Max Slices Fruit

I realized he was absolutely right! If you want to do something, you just need to learn how to do it – and then you need to actually do it.

At our IACP Kids-in-the-Kitchen event at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, that’s exactly what we did!
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ZeMambo di Mozzarella di Bufala

Riding High Too!

When zebras think about good food, three things that naturally come to mind are family, friends and sharing.

So I guess it’s only natural that I’d want to share a story about the amazing cheese that starts with milk from my ultra-cool friends: the Ramini Mozzarella Water Buffalo Family.

If you’re a kid (or even a zebra), you’re probably thinking, “What’s so amazing about mozzarella? I mean: I eat it all the time!”

Ramini Mozzarella brings the flavors of Italy to California!

Ramini Mozzarella brings the flavors of Italy to California!

But guess what? Unless you’ve traveled to Italy, I’ll bet you’ve NEVER eaten mozzarella that’s been handmade using rich, creamy milk that comes fresh from the buffalo—or, as the cheese is called in Italian, mozzarella di bufala.

Why would you have to go to Italy? Because authentic mozzarella di bufala is extremely perishable, so just about the only way to enjoy the real thing is to go right to the source.

To learn about authentic mozzarella di bufala, I went right to the source (hint: it wasn't Italy)!

To learn about authentic mozzarella di bufala, I went right to the source (hint: it wasn’t Italy)!

That’s usually Italy, where black water buffalo (different from our American buffalo, which are technically bison) have roamed the hills and fields of the Compania region for about a thousand years.

But thanks to Craig Ramini and his wife Audrey, you don’t have to go to Italy to meet these legendary creatures: you can hang out with them AND try the famous cheese made from their milk, right here in Northern California!

All the water buffalo have rock star names – from Grace Slick, Pat Benatar & Dusty Springfield to Sting and Shakira!

Ramini water buffalo have rock star names – from Grace Slick, Pat Benatar & Dusty Springfield to Sting and Shakira!

To really understand the story of mozzarella di bufala, you need to hear it straight from the water buffalo’s mouth.

Since most of the water buffalo at Ramini Mozzarella are named after famous rock stars, some of my favorite  kids and I got together to make a music video, followed by an exclusive insider interview with three of the water buffalo calves: Sting, Petula and Lulu.

ZEBOT: First of all, could you please explain why mozzarella di bufala is such a huge deal?

STING: Well, dude, we’ve been around it our whole lives, so it’s just everyday food for us—but, of course, we love it! Ditto for buffalo milk. But we were actually kind of surprised that the cheese has become so famous. I mean, we think it’s awesome, but you know, everyone loves their mom’s food!

PETULA (using a hoof to pull up a link on her iPad): Oh, Sting, really: mozzarella di bufala is famous for lots of great reasons!

Here’s what Sam Anderson had to say about it in the New York Times: “Buffalo milk has roughly twice the fat of cow milk, which makes it decadently creamy and flavorful. The good stuff is almost unrealistically soft — it seems like the reason the word ‘mouthfeel’ was invented — with a depth of flavor that makes even the freshest hand-pulled artisanal cow-milk mozzarella taste like glorified string cheese.”

In Italy, mozzarella di bufala has its own special symbol to show it's authentic.

In Italy, mozzarella di bufala has its own special symbol to show it’s authentic.

LULU: Wow, he really does make our moms’ cheese sound amazing—and he’s using a lot of impressive words! Basically, he’s saying that cow’s milk mozzarella has a totally different flavor and texture. Also, not to brag or anything, but buffalo milk is so rich that it gives you a 20% cheese yield from milk—milk from cows only gives you something like 5%.

Whether they're in Italy or California, the calves say there's no place like home!

Whether they’re in Italy or California, the calves say there’s no place like home!

STING: Yeah. In fact, the kind of milk used for mozzarella is so important that, in Italy, they even make the difference super-clear by using different names for the two cheeses.

Mozzarella cheese made from buffalo milk is called mozzarella di bufala (which means “mozzarella from buffalo”), but the same type of cheese made from cow’s milk is called fior di latte (that literally translates “milk flower”—not sure why, maybe because cows like flowers or something).

LULU: When it comes to great cheese, the region where it’s made is also a big deal. In Italy, mozzarella di bufala is mostly made in Campania and Apulia. The Petaluma/Tomales Bay region of California where we live is a famous American cheesemaking area—and it has a Mediterranean climate that’s pretty similar to Italy.

In California, this is how you put the water on a water buffalo!

In California, this is how you put the water on a water buffalo!

STING: Yeah, we water buffalo love it! Sometimes visitors come to the farm and they’re like “Hey, where’s all the water for the water buffalo?”

But because it’s not super-hot here, we don’t need big ponds or lakes to cool off. When it rains, we make our own wallows in the pasture. And when it gets warm, Craig hoses us down—it’s great! We’re also really into the native grasses here, which taste fantastic.

Ramini mozzarella di bufala is made fresh -- just like in Italy!

Ramini mozzarella di bufala is made fresh — just like in Italy!

PETULA: It’s also very important to understand that mozzarella di bufala and other handcrafted local cheeses are an important part of Italian food culture. In Italy, humans go to the neighborhood caseificio (that’s an artisan cheesemaker) just like Americans might visit their favorite corner bakery.

LULU: You see, Craig and Audrey make their mozzarella di bufala fresh every few days—just like cheesemakers do in Italy, where humans know it’s best to enjoy fresh farmstead cheese “di giornata” (the day it’s made).

And, of course, everyone knows that the best cheese starts with the best milk. In order to get the best milk (or any milk at all) from a water buffalo, you REALLY have to know what you’re doing!

Farm Life

Like any kid, Petula knows how important it is to keep moms happy!

ZEBOT: So tell me about the whole dairy thing—is it sort of like milking cows?

PETULA: No way! I mean, some of my best friends are cows, but they have a totally different personality.

Water buffalo aren’t like modern dairy cows, who are more easily intimidated and will do pretty much anything humans want them to. Water buffalo are very independent thinkers. We’re tolerant to a point, but we decide when and how to cooperate.

What are you lookin' at?

What are you lookin’ at?

STING: You need to understand that even though we calves were born here in the U.S, we’re descended from centuries of wild water buffalo, who had to be constantly on the lookout for dangerous predators like hungry tigers.

That means we’re always super-aware of our surroundings—and ready to take off at a moment’s notice, if we have to.

ZEBOT: Yikes! But I thought your family was from Italy—do they have tigers in Italy?

STING: Um, I don’t think so, dude. But you see, even though water buffalo have lived in Italy for ages, we’re originally native to Southeast Asia. And trust me, the tigers there are REALLY wild.

The milking barn is so peaceful, even the cats find it relaxing!

The milking barn is so peaceful, even the cats find it relaxing!

PETULA: Okay, so let me explain how the milking works. Craig and Audrey figured out that the best thing to do is to let our moms’ natural intelligence work in everyone’s favor.

The milking barn and creamery are converted from an old cow dairy—but when Audrey (who’s a super-talented designer and architect) re-designed our milking barn, she worked hard to create a mellow, churchlike atmosphere where we’d all feel really peaceful and comfortable.

STING: And Craig, who used to work in software development, put his creativity to work in designing milking stalls that complement a water buffalo’s psychology.

See, it goes back to the whole predator thing. In order for our moms to produce milk and let it flow, their pituitary glands have to make a special hormone called oxytocin, which creates feelings of bonding, love and trust.

Love is what helps  moms produce oxytocin (this is true for humans, too)!

Love is what helps moms produce oxytocin (this is true for humans, too)!

LULU: But like Sting said before, wild water buffalo originally came from a place where there were lots of dangers, so we don’t naturally produce oxytocin easily, the way cows do.

And we DEFINITELY will not produce it if you try to lock our heads in a metal stanchion to make us stay still during milking.

ZEBOT: Oh, I totally understand—a zebra would never go for that either!

In order to make the  moms feel comfortable, Craig (the Dr. Phil of water buffalo) designed these special stalls.

In order to make the moms feel comfortable, Craig (the Dr. Phil of water buffalo) designed these special stalls.

PETULA: Exactly! So the way it works is that our moms go into the barn to be milked two-by-two in special nose-to-tail stalls designed just for them.

They get to choose their own order, too. Some of them run into the barn. Others are more like, “Hey, he gives us a little bit of hay while we’re waiting out here. So if we’re patient, we could get two meals ’cause he feeds us in there, too!”

If you treat a water buffalo like your best friend, you might even get a ride!

If you treat a water buffalo like your best friend, you might even get a ride!

LULU: Craig says that you need to treat a water buffalo just like you would your best friend. When we feel safe, secure and loved, we cooperate. So he makes sure that during milking time, everything is nice and peaceful. No tractors, no noisy farm work —even the Black Angus cattle next door have to be quiet!

STING: Yup! And since our moms give more milk when we calves are around, we get to hang out in the barn during milking time. Every morning, Craig brings us down from the pasture with these cool colored halters, then lets us chow down on really primo hay. It’s awesome!

You've probably seen a dog lead -- but have you ever seen one for water buffalo?

You’ve probably seen a dog lead — but have you ever seen one for water buffalo?

PETULA: Craig says that when the love is flowing, the milk is, too!

STING: That is so true—and some water buffalo are overflowing with love AND milk. My mom, who’s named Dusty Springfield, is so generous that she shares her milk with all the calves when we’re out in the pasture.

LULU: Yeah, Sting’s mom is the coolest—we calves all call her “the ice cream truck!” But we don’t ask her for anything in the milking barn, because we know that particular milk is the secret to making the world’s best mozzarella. We’re happy to share—we’re so proud of what our moms do!

The water buffalo calves get to nibble from this trough while their moms are being milked.

The water buffalo calves get to nibble from this trough while their moms are being milked.

ZEBOT: Wow, no WONDER water buffalo milk is so famous! So how does it turn into cheese?

PETULA: Well, the first thing is to be super-careful with the milk. Our moms are milked into special buckets, then Craig gently hand-carries the buckets from the barn side of the building to the creamery side.

LULU: This is really different from big cheese factories, where milk that’s been through high-speed pumps has to travel a long way on trucks to get there from the farm. I mean, I get dizzy just thinking about it! Our moms’ milk only has to travel six feet across the breezeway.

Anyone feel like a jug of water buffalo milk?

This jug shows exactly how much milk the water buffalo give — kind of like a giant measuring cup!

STING: So when Craig gets to the creamery, he pours the milk into this big stainless-steel vat that does three really cool things. First, it keeps the milk chilled until Craig is ready to make cheese.

Next, it pasteurizes the milk—that’s a process that takes all the bacteria out—both the good kind and the harmful kind. In the U.S., this is required by law for all fresh cheeses, which means any that are aged less than 60 days.

In order to make great cheese, you need all the traditional tools of the trade  -- including microscopic bacteria (not shown).

In order to make great cheese, you need all the traditional tools of the trade — including microscopic bacteria (not shown).

ZEBOT: But wait: I’ve read a little about cheesemaking—and I thought you NEED the good bacteria.

LULU: Oh, you do. So after the milk is pasteurized and cooled, Craig adds a patented starter that he imports from Italy—this is known as inoculating the milk. So now, the good bacteria in the starter goes to work interacting with the milk, which preps it for making cheese.

PETULA: After a few hours, Craig uses rennet to coagulate the milk (and the special bacteria keeps on working its magic). Next, he cuts the curd into smaller pieces, which increases the surface area and allows the whey to come out of the curd. Craig drains off the whey and uses it to make ricotta cheese.

ZeBot and Petula

While you wait for the curd to ferment, you get to spend quality time with your friends!

STING: At this point, all that patience our moms taught him comes in really handy, because now Craig has to wait about six hours for the curd to ferment.

If you like scientific stuff, this means the alkalinity is getting lower and the acidity is getting higher. In order to stretch the curd to make mozzarella, you’re looking for a perfect Ph window of between 4.85 and 5.00.

ZEBOT: Um, that’s a bit too scientific for this zebra—but stretching the curd sounds like fun!

Wondering what fermented mozzarella curd looks like before it's all stretched and shaped? This is it!

Wondering what fermented mozzarella curd looks like before it’s all stretched and shaped? This is it!

LULU: Oh, don’t worry—we calves don’t understand all the science yet, either. Sting’s just being a show-off and repeating what Craig says. But you’re right: stretching the curd is tons of fun!

ZEBOT: Have you guys ever tried it? Because I’d really like to, but I’m not sure about the whole hoof thing.

STING: Well, we haven’t gotten around to it yet, but I’m sure we could a great job—and so could you. What Craig does is pour almost-boiling water over the curd to melt it so he’ll be able to stretch it, kind of like Silly Putty.

Making mozzarella di bufala is tons of fun!

Making mozzarella di bufala is tons of fun!

PETULA: To make this happen, Craig stirs and kneads the whole steaming mass until it forms an elastic sort of paste that he can stretch into threads without ripping. In Italy, cheesemakers call mozzarella a pasta-filata cheese, which I’m pretty sure means “thread-making.”

LULU: Oh, wait, I want to use some Italian, too! So the next part is where Craig divides the stretchy, slippery curd into equal portions—that technique is called mozzatura and it’s actually what gives mozzarella cheese its name.

STING: Anyway, after that, Craig and Audrey form the mozzarella into balls or braids or whatever other shapes they want, then cool the cheese down a bit so it can be sliced.

And then: it’s ready to eat! I’ve heard cheese-loving humans say that tasting fresh mozzarella di bufala while it’s still warm is as close to heaven as you can get without leaving this Earth!

Fresh mozzarella di bufula is great for picnics by the pasture!

Fresh mozzarella di bufula is great for picnics by the pasture!

ZEBOT: Hey, I heard that: I tried some—and it was so soft and delicate and creamy that it made my stripes tingle! Tasting the cheese made me see why someone would go through all the hard work to make it.

Is that what motivated Craig and Audrey?

PETULA: Well, sure, that was a big part of it. And you know how we told you that love plays such a huge role in a water buffalo’s producing milk? It turns out that’s what helps humans create wonderful things, too.

The secret to happiness?

The secret to happiness?

LULU: Starting Ramini Mozzarella was a huge change (and a huge challenge) for both Craig and Audrey. The way Craig came up with it was to do what he calls a “mind map” of the things that made him the happiest.

STING: Yeah, and he came up with three big ones. First, when Craig was a kid, he always felt happy when he was with his grandfather, who owned an Italian restaurant.

Later, when he visited Africa and was around big animals and adventure, he was happy. And when he worked in high-tech, he worked with super-creative self-starters who were always trying to pull off something new—and that was another ticket to happiness.

This is a picture of pure happiness (which the calves are pretty sure was taken by Audrey).

This is a picture of pure happiness (which the calves are pretty sure was taken by Audrey).

PETULA: And like with so many family recipes, it was love and family that helped all the ingredients come together. Audrey’s food-loving brother and sister-in-law, who lived in Italy, asked why Americans didn’t make mozzarella di bufala.

LULU: Of course, to make it, you need fresh water buffalo milk—and that’s where our water buffalo families came into the picture. And Audrey loves animals and design and Italian food and family and creativity, so she was happy with the whole idea, too!

PETULA: And now, we’re all working together to make the cheese that makes everyone happy. Or, as they say in Italy: That’s amore!

STING: Hey, Lulu and Petula, that sounds like a great idea for another music video—let’s hoof it over to the pasture and get started on our next creative adventure!

If you enjoyed learning about all about farmstead mozzarella from water buffalo, the calves think you might also like to hear what a very special dog detective has to say about truffles in ZeAdventures of a Great Truffle Dog!

SoFAB Encounters of ZeVintage Kind

ZeBot Vintage Bottle Thumbnail

Exploring the world’s culinary curiosities is what zebras love best.

So when my friend Liz Williams, president of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SoFAB), invited me to help her with a very important mission, I zoomed across the country faster than you can say “stripes!”

Our meeting place: Crownsville, Maryland. Our mission: to help wrap and box a collection of 2000 beautiful bottles that had been donated to SoFAB by some super-nice humans. After that, Liz and her husband Rick Normand would personally drive the bottles all the way back to the museum, which is in New Orleans (a city famous for its amazing food and beverages).

On a rainy summer afternoon, I gathered with Liz, Rick, and our cooking teacher buddy Sheila Crye at the home of Don and Elaine Fosler. Elaine’s son, David Jones, was our guide — he led us to the special room that had been the home of the bottle collection for decades.

Think this is a lot of bottles? Imagine a WHOLE ROOM filled with cases like this!

Think this is a lot of bottles? Imagine a WHOLE ROOM filled with cases like this!

I wasn’t totally clear on exactly what used to be inside these bottles, since zebras don’t exactly have a lot do with bottles in our ordinary lives. I think it was a potion or something – sort of like in the Harry Potter stories.

For me, the fascination was in the bottles themselves. Liz told me that for humans, an important part of learning about anything is understanding its history and culture (that means society in general). She said the vessels that hold foods and beverages can have as much cultural and historical significance as what’s inside.

I had a great time exploring California history with Father Junípero Serra.

I had a great time exploring California history with Father Junípero Serra.

A vessel can reveal a lot, Liz said. “Early vessels were made of animal skins, then ceramics, then glass. The material a vessel is made of tells us a lot about its place in history. Its shape can reveal its use – and how important the vessel was to the people who used it.”

So what were these bottles made of? Mostly ceramic and glass. And when were they made? The collection includes bottles that were crafted from 1919 to around 2002. Liz said this was especially cool, because the collector actually worked through two centuries – the 20th and 21st.

Another awesome thing: these artistic bottles looked like little statues of just about everything on the planet. There was even one in the shape of a zebra!

This rare striped bottle is my all-time favorite -- can you guess why?

This rare striped bottle is my all-time favorite — can you guess why?

I think there's something fishy about this bottle -- but I can't quite put my hoof on exactly what it is!

I think there’s something fishy about this bottle — but I can’t quite put my hoof on exactly what it is!

It was quite enlightening to discuss life on the savannah with a pair of noble lions.

It was quite enlightening to discuss life on the savannah with a pair of noble lions.

According to Liz, “As our technology advanced to make vessels in certain shapes or to write something important on the vessel, it allowed them to take on even greater meaning. These statue-like bottles are collectibles in their own right, commemorating places, people, creatures and events. They give us another way to record and appreciate history.”

Well, I’ll tell you one thing: carefully wrapping and boxing up thousands of historically important bottles for a museum definitely takes a while. Not light years exactly. But a pretty long time.

Who knew that vintage bottles could teach you all about the human legal system?

Who knew that vintage bottles could teach you all about the human legal system?

My next goal? To strike it rich by traveling back in time to the Gold Rush era!

My next goal? To strike it rich by traveling back in time to the Gold Rush era!

Send in the clowns -- and a zebra!

Send in the clowns — and a zebra!


Listening to music from different eras gets me really jazzed!

Listening to music from different eras gets me really jazzed!

As the rain drummed on the roof and trees danced in the summer wind, we listened to music from the eras when the bottles were made. Cole Porter. Buddy Holly. The Beatles. And lots more.

We took a break for pizza — and Liz told stories about SoFAB and all its exciting events and collections. If you want to read about them yourself, just visit the museum’s website.

After dinner, the humans got back to work–and so did I, after a quick nap to recharge my stripes.

I do my best to rest up in between vintage encounters.

I do my best to rest up in between vintage encounters.

And then the moment came when all the cabinets were empty — and boxes were stacked almost to the ceiling. It was a little sad, because the bottles had been here for so long  — and the room looked kind of forlorn.

But the happy part was much more powerful: the collection would be going to a place where anyone who wants to can enjoy its beauty and explore its meanings.

After we were done, David brought out a guitar that looked like it was from a faraway galaxy made up only of music and stars. He played one of my favorite old songs: Stairway to Heaven.

Which seemed exactly right.

ZeBot Guitar

For information about donating cool culinary stuff (including ANY and ALL cookbooks) to the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, please visit southernfood.org.

SoFAB logo


A Sweet Striped Surprise for ZeMom & ZeDad

ZeBot & Buddies Mise En Place for Shortbread

In the human world, there are special days to celebrate moms, dads and all the amazing things they do.  Zebras have pretty much the same custom — but because we have so much energy, we try to do something special for our parents every day.

My latest surprise for ZeMom & ZeDad was creating a special hoofmade treat just for them. Because ZeMom is the sweetest zebra ever, I wanted to make her something sweet – preferably with stripes. She’s very big on healthy foods, so that was also a factor. As for ZeDad, well, he’s one of those guys who LOVES any kind of desserts, especially decadent ones with stripes.

The question was: could I make something that was striped, decadent and still reasonably healthy?

I also wanted to be able to use lots and lots of imagination, as I think that is one of the best ingredients ever invented.

Chef Nora can teach anyone to bake--even zebras!

Chef Nora can teach anyone to bake–even zebras!

To get some expert advice, my favorite zebra kitchen pals and I went to visit our pastry chef friend, Nora Tong. If anyone knows how to make the ultimate desserts, she does!

Chef Nora was nice enough to invite me and my buddies to come a class that she was teaching to professional bakers and super-great home bakers from the Bakers Dozen. She was sharing her secrets for making perfect tarts, but she said that we could use our imagination to transform the recipe into almost anything else we wanted—including something striped!

I was wondering whether zebras could make a perfect pastry when it seems we’re all hooves. Chef Nora said, “Of course, you can, ZeBot—anyone can make wonderful pastries. The trick is to use the right recipe, then learn how to make it just the right way.”

Well, in this case, the right recipe had to be super-easy, striped and totally zebraproof. Chef Nora had the perfect one: she said we could turn her super-buttery shortbread tart crust into super-buttery striped shortbread cookies. Those could be the decadent part of our surprise. For the healthy part, she advised us to use even MORE imagination.

Mise en place is a great start that guarantees a happy ending!

Mise en place is a great start that guarantees a happy ending!

But first, we had to learn how to make the shortbread. Chef Nora said the first thing that both zebras and professional bakers need to do is to get out all our ingredients and baking tools, then re-read our recipe to make sure everything is clear.

This is called “mise en place,” which is French for “to put in place.” Why was Chef Nora using a French term? Because LOTS of the world’s great chefs are from France, so other chefs and bakers do this out of tradition.

Mise en place is a great way to make sure that you don’t end up in the middle of preparing your recipe, only to realize that you’re missing an ingredient, forgot a tool or don’t undertand all the steps.

Shortbread dough looks all crumbly before you press it into your baking pan.

Shortbread dough looks all crumbly before you press it into your baking pan.

Next, we learned how to mix a shortbread dough. It’s just the way you’d think you would do it: put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix them up! We used a KitchenAid stand mixer, but you could also use a hand mixer, a big spoon—or even your clean hands (or hooves).

If you want to make chocolate dough, you need to melt chocolate first. Chef Nora showed ZoeBot how to do it on a burner, but she said you can also melt chocolate carefully in the microwave.

By the way, if you’re a kid or a zebra, you ALWAYS need an adult’s help with this–or anything else that involves heat. If you want, you can substitute cocoa powder (which is very healthy and super-chocolaty tasting). This is one of our favorite zebra tricks—you’ll find it in our recipe.

Yum: melted chocolate!

Yum: melted chocolate!

After everything is mixed, you need to know what to do with the dough. Chef Nora said you just take it out of the bowl and gently press it into your baking pan. The dough will look kind of crumbly in the bowl, but it sticks together when you press it into the pan. If you want to make sure your dough doesn’t puff up during baking, you poke it all over with a fork to make little holes. This is called “docking.”

See the little holes in one  tart crust? That's called "docking" and it's the same for cookies.

See the little holes in one tart dough? That’s called “docking”- and you use the same technique for cookie dough.

Then you bake your dough until it turns into a tart crust or cookies or whatever you’re making. If it’s a batch cookies, you cut them into little squares (just like in the photo below), then top them with whatever yummy thing you like best.

That sounded super-easy to us. Now we had to think of something ZeMom-healthy to go with our ZeDad-decadent cookies.

This is what shortbread cookies look like after they're baked.

This is what shortbread cookies look like after they’re baked.

And THIS is what they look like with yummy toppings!

And THIS is what they look like with yummy toppings! Chef Nora topped hers with a mocha cream and fresh berries.

When we got back home, we looked in our refrigerator to see what was in there. We wanted something sweet and creamy and healthy and somehow striped. My cousin ZoeBot had the brilliant idea of mixing up cottage cheese and yogurt and honey and vanilla.We put it in the food processor to make it creamy.

What did we do for stripes?

We love the way super-creamy treats feel in our mouths, so we used a food processor.

We love the way super-creamy treats feel in our mouths, so we used a food processor.

Well, we added cocoa to part of our sweet, creamy stuff. Then we made black and white stripes by layering it all in beautiful tall glasses. ZoeBot reads a lot, so she knew that the striped, creamy, layered desserts are called “parfaits.” Guess what language that is? Yep: French!

And guess what it means? Besides being a dessert, it means “perfect”! And that’s how we knew we’d found the perfect dessert for our parents. They’ve done more than anyone else in the whole universe to make our lives perfect—and also sweet, imaginative, healthy and striped.

This is what being a zebra is all about—and we wish the same for you.

Happy Mother’s and Father’s Day (every day) to parents and kids and zebras (everywhere)!

Hurray for striped cookies and parfaits!

Hurray for striped cookies and parfaits!


RECIPE: ZeBot’s Striped Parfait with Shortbread cookies:

A note from ZeBot: Because it’s hoofmade, my dessert shows how much I love my mom and dad. And it really describes them: striped & parfait (French for “perfect”!).

ZeDad’s Super Buttery Shortbread Cookies (adapted from an amazing recipe by Chef Nora Tong)

 What you need:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup melted butter, cooled to room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

What you do:

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Mix the flour and sugar in a KitchenAid stand mixer that’s fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the melted butter and vanilla, then mix until everything is combined. (If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can also use a hand-held mixer or a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients).

With clean hands (or hooves), press the dough onto a cookie sheet. It’s okay if the dough seems a little crumbly – just smoosh it all together.

Put the cookie sheet into a pre-heated oven, then bake until the shortbread is a deep golden-brown (this should take about 12-15 minutes).

Let the shortbread cool a bit, then ask an adult to help you cut it into whatever shapes you like – you can use either a pizza cutter or a knife to do this.

Note: If you want zebra stripes on your shortbread, ask an adult to help you melt some semisweet or milk chocolate chips (on the stovetop or in the microwave). Then use a spoon to drizzle the melted chocolate onto your shortbread shapes.

Makes about a dozen small cookies to go with your striped parfaits.

ZeMom’s Super Healthy Zebra-Striped Parfaits

What You Need:

2 cups low-fat cottage cheese

1/2 cup low-fat Greek yogurt

2 tsp. vanilla

1/4 cup honey

2 tbsp. cocoa

Strawberries for decoration

What You Do:

Put the cottage cheese, yogurt, vanilla and honey into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Make sure the top of the bowl is on tightly, then push “start” and watch everything spin around until it’s completely mixed and velvety smooth.

Using a big spoon, carefully move half of the creamy mixture into a small mixing bowl (this will be the vanilla part for white stripes). Don’t worry about measuring – it doesn’t have to be EXACTLY half.

Add the cocoa to the fluffy, mixed-up stuff that’s still in the food processor, put the lid on and mix everything up until it’s dark and chocolaty.

To create your parfaits, use a small spoon to make creamy layers of white and chocolate in clear dessert glasses. You can start with either chocolate or vanilla – and make the layers as thick or thin as you want.

Decorate the parfaits with sliced strawberries and some of the shortbread cookies. Make it look really cool!

Makes four small, two medium or one GIANT parfait.

Make a sweet treat for your parents today!

Make a sweet treat for your parents today!

ZeAdventures of a Great Truffle Dog (& his Zebra Apprentice)

ZeBot the Truffle Zebra

There’s something a forest that brings out the adventurer in dogs and zebras alike – and when you add truffles to the scene, the ultimate companion for woodland discoveries is my canine pal, Rico.

What’s a truffle, you ask? Good question! Truffles are a kind of ‘underground mushroom’ that grow on the roots of certain kinds of trees. To a great cook, a truffle is one of the most amazing foods around – and Rico will explain why.

Like many of the world’s great truffle dogs, Rico is a Lagotto Romagnolo – a rare Italian breed that originated with the ancient Etruscans. Rico was born into a distinguished family of truffle hunters in the Sicilian village of Mazara del Vallo, arriving in America as a puppy with a keen nose for exploration. 

This is a painting of one of Rico's ancestors by the famous Italian artist, Guercino.

This is a painting of one of Rico’s ancestors by the famous Italian artist, Guercino.

Like many Sicilians, Rico has an amazing talent for storytelling. He agreed to grant this exclusive zebra interview if he could recount the truffle tales in his own words – read on for our question and answer session!

Rico, do you think a zebra could ever learn to hunt truffles?

 ZeBot, as long as you have a good nose and love treats anything is possible!  You’re on the right track to becoming a truffle-finding zebra.  The best thing is to start  with fresh truffles, like in your picture.

The secret to finding truffles? A great nose!

The secret to finding truffles? A great nose!

How did you first learn to hunt truffles, Rico?

When I was a tiny puppy in Sicily, the only toy I had was a tartufo (that’s Italian for ‘truffle’) sewn into a cloth bag called a borsa.

Mario, my first tartufaio (truffle hunter), started my training by throwing the borsa for me to retrieve – and giving me a treat when I brought it back to him.

When that got really easy, Mario started hiding the borsa so I’d have to search for it with my nose. Next, I learned the secret of being a champion truffle dog: you have to really dig truffles – literally.

Now, when I wanted a treat, I had to sniff out the borsa wherever Mario had buried it. He didn’t make it easy, but it turns out I’ve got a great nose and tireless paws.

These days, I’m a truffle hunting pro who travels all over the world – if there’s a truffle (or even truffle spores) anywhere around, you can count on me to bring you the treasure!

Here's Rico as a puppy in Sicily, learning to hunt truffles from his mom, Gaia.

Here’s Rico as a puppy in Sicily, learning to hunt truffles from his mom, Gaia.

 Can you tell us a little about your work as a truffle dog?

When I was about three months old, I started truffle hunting with my mamma, Gaia – she’s the dog who taught me everything I know. She said the first rule is make il tartufaio look good. Truffle dogs always have to put on a good show, even if there are no truffles.

First, we scent the air for the general vicinity of the truffles, then we sniff out the ground scent to determine their precise location. Next, we scratch the earth to show il tartufaio that we’ve found the exact spot – then we dig until we find the truffle. It’s tempting to eat it like truffle-hunting pigs often do, but we truffle dogs prefer gourmet canine treats.

As you can see, Rico really DIGS truffles!

As you can see, Rico really DIGS truffles!

 Do truffles only grow wild – or can they also be cultivated?

There are indigenous truffles growing wild all around the globe. On the west coast of North America, we have several flavorful varieties that grow all the way from California through parts of British Columbia.  However, to increase the traditional culinary truffle supply, increase their freshness, reduce transportation costs from Europe and help develop green businesses, there are groups throughout the world who plant truffle-infused trees in truffle orchards.

My buddies Robert Chang, MBA and Charles Lafevre, Ph.D. help people who want to start their own truffle orchards — they’d help a zebra, too, if you decide to grow truffles!

Rico & his Sicilian-American tartufaio, Bill, search for wild treasures at the Oregon Truffle Festival

How do growers cultivate truffles?

There are a lot of well-kept secrets to the truffle-orchard trade, but the simplest version imitates nature. Mycologists take a collection of their desired ripe truffles, then make a slurry by placing the truffles and some secret ingredients in a high-tech blender. The slurry is infused on the roots of nascent host trees – usually oak or hazelnut trees. Cultivating a truffle orchard is an extremely complex process, but I’m keeping my paws crossed for all the would-be growers.

Before Rico goes truffle hunting, he gets a good whiff of a fresh truffle!

Before Rico goes truffle hunting, he gets a good whiff of a fresh truffle!

Exactly what is it about truffles that makes them so irresistible?

You might be surprised to learn that the allure of the truffle is not its taste, but its aroma. Truffles actually have a limited flavor, but what they do to food is pure magic. The bouquet is difficult to express in words – people have described truffles as smelling like everything from fresh earth to old socks (which may be why we dogs are so good at finding them).

Even though it’s challenging to find the right descriptors, there’s one thing everyone agrees on: truffles are a rare luxury, like vintage champagne or caviar. In fact, next to saffron, they’re the most expensive food in the world.

What’s the simplest way to use truffles in the kitchen?

The secret is learning to make the most of truffles’ irresistible (and powerful) aroma. This lets you enjoy all sorts of wonderful homemade truffle products without necessarily using the truffle itself – and it’s what many tartufaios do to enjoy these magical tubers without having to give up the profits of selling them.

Rico loves ravioli with scrambled eggs & fresh truffles!

Rico loves ravioli with fresh truffles!


Could you tell us how to make truffle-infused foods?

It’s easy – you can ‘truffle’ all kinds of foods (and if you forget to keep your truffles in an airtight container, everything in your refrigerator will taste like truffles). My favorite foods for truffling are eggs, cheese and butter.

Start by cleaning fresh truffles with a mushroom brush under running water, then dry them with a cloth or paper towel. Next, loosely wrap the clean truffles in a paper towel to absorb any extra moisture.

Now make a nest of paper towels in a glass or plastic container with an airtight lid. Gently arrange the freshest organic eggs you can find in the nest, along with fresh butter and/or your favorite soft cheeses. Place the loosely wrapped truffle in the container, be sure the lid is tightly secured – and refrigerate.

Depending upon the size of the container and how generous you are with truffles, you’ll be enjoying truffled eggs, butter and cheese within 24 hours.

One of my all-time favorite truffle dishes is truffle-and-wild mushroom ravioli topped with truffle butter, scrambled truffled eggs and fresh truffles!

Check out the truffles Rico found, right in his own neighborhood!

Check out the truffles Rico found, right in his own neighborhood!

Where are your favorite places to find truffles?

Well, my motto in life and cooking is ‘hanno sempre una zampa avanti,’ which means ‘always have one paw forward.’ So my favorite way to find truffles is simply to go for a walk.

These days, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area with my Sicilian-American tartufaio, Bill Collins. Within 30 yards of our urban home, there’s a tree where I can sniff out truffles the size of a quarter all the way from late fall through mid-spring!

Rico always finds great truffles at the Napa Truffle Festival!

Rico always finds great truffles at the Napa Truffle Festival!

Since I understand that not everyone is an expert at sniffing out local wild truffles, here are some other places to find them:

If you want to be a forager, you can look up indigenous truffles in your area in one of my favorite guidebooks – or join your local mycological society.

For a culinary truffle experience, go to a festival.  My favorite ones on the west coast are the Oregon Truffle Festival and the Napa Truffle Festival. I also love visiting the truffle orchard at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, where I forage with local plant pathologist, Dr. Tom Michaels.

10 Rico & Friends

What do you like to do when you’re not hunting truffles?

Well, like most dogs, I love to chase tennis balls and play frisbee – but I also help Bill with his other important work. When he’s not being a tartufaio, Bill is a psychologist who works with military veterans returning from overseas – and I’m a certified therapy dog. It’s my job to sit with them, listen to their stories and share my puppyhood teddy bear whenever they need it.

I’m also assisting with studies at the Walter Reed National Medical Center, where researchers are pioneering programs that will find jobs for returning military personnel by teaming them with dogs who do everything from bomb sniffing and search-and-rescue to truffle hunting.

To help promote eco-friendly truffle practices, another favorite pastime is supporting my friends at Northwest Truffle Dogs. If you’d like to learn more about sustainable truffle harvesting (and learning to train your own truffle dog), please check out their program, Hound Found.

Happy truffle-hunting – and buon appetito!

11 Truffle Dog License Plate

In the mood for more doggy fun? Meet my magical canine buddy  Kero (and watch her in action) in The Kero Chronicles!

ZeAmazing DIY Cracker Caper


Have you ever noticed that food tastes better than ever when you make it yourself? I learned this from some really savvy 5th graders the other day, when I was invited to a supercool DIY class with CUESA’s Foodwise Kids at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market in San Francisco.

Our kitchen mission: learn to make our own fresh-baked crackers with seasonal market toppings. I was kind of worried about attempting all this with four clumsy hooves, but the kids told me that if they could DIY, then I could DIZ (which means: “Do It, Zebra!).

Sound like fun? If you can’t wait for a taste, you can watch our movie starring the super-chefs at Longfellow Elementary School right NOW!

And now, back to ZeBlog!
Continue reading

ZeGreat Abalone Adventure

ZeBot AbaloneIf you’re a kid, you’ve probably heard of baloney (I mean, even zebras know about that stuff). But have you ever heard of abalone?

I never did—until I got to visit a super-cool Bay Area aquafarm with some buddies from the San Francisco Professional Food Society.

This is the sign on the docks that pointed us toward our adventure.

This is the sign on the docks that pointed us toward our adventure.

Our adventure starts down on the docks at Half Moon Bay’s historic Pillar Point Harbor, where Google Executive Chef Olivia Wu and California Abalone Company owner Doug Hayes team up to explain the ABCs of abalone (you say it “a-baloney”) – from farm to table.

Meet my friends Olivia & Doug!

Meet my friends Olivia & Doug!

Olivia says Doug’s abalone farm is “sustainable aquaculture at its best. This is as fresh and local as you can get – and a true labor of love.”

“What I’m doing is so labor-intensive that you might question whether it’s worth it,” Doug admits. “But this is probably the only way people will be able to enjoy abalone in the future.”

Why does he say that? Well, wild abalone (a kind of shellfish known as mollusks) have become very rare –the Monterey Bay Aquarium calls them a “recovering population”.

Doug cares a LOT about sustainably farmed abalone – and so do I!

Doug cares a LOT about sustainably farmed abalone – and so do I!

That’s why Doug decided to start an aquafarm where he could raise abalone sustainably, so that the wild population can keep on recovering.

At the farm in Pillar Point Harbor, only the best is good enough for Doug’s abalone. Every Saturday, he drives down to Monterey to harvest a ton of kelp in the three tasty varieties that make up the mollusks’ favorite menu, then hauls the fresh seaweed out to the farm to feed his gang of shellfish.

The smallest abalone are about as big as a nickel – and will take up to 14 years to reach the largest size that Doug sells off his boat (the “medium” ones are about nine years old).

Introducing: the abalone! Aren't they cool looking?

Introducing: the abalone! Aren’t they cool looking?

When you’re buying something as rare and valuable as abalone, you want to make sure to prepare it properly – so Doug and Olivia provide all the details.

“In the Asian cooking tradition, abalone is sliced very thinly, stir-fried, poached or steamed,” Olivia tells us.

“You want to keep it really simple so you don’t overpower the abalone’s delicate flavor,” Doug adds.

I figure that, when it comes to cooking, simple is always good. I’m still working on the basics, so easy recipes are the ones I go for.

Ahoy, sailor! Did you know zebras were such nautical naturals?

Ahoy, sailor! Did you know zebras were such nautical naturals?

After we’ve have been clued in on the how-tos, Jim Anderson of the Half Moon Bay Fishermen’s Association makes a surprise announcement: he’s arranged for a vintage 1920s fishing trawler to take us out to the underwater farm for a close-up look.

The aquafarm is just inside the harbor breakwater, where water conditions are perfect for abalone.

We cruise by the 3000 square foot platform that marks the top of the farm – and use our imaginations to envision the cages deep underneath the water. Each cage is as big as a car – and home to hundreds of happy abalone.

You can just see the top of the abalone farm here — the car-sized cages are underwater.

You can just see the top of the abalone farm here — the car-sized cages are underwater.

Another cool thing we learn about while we’re on the boat: besides being good to eat (and good for you because they’re high in protein and low in fat), abalone have beautiful shells.

On the way back to the dock, our new friend Tom (who also owns an abalone company) shows us some of the amazing examples of magical, multicolored shells – check them out in the photos below.

Abalone shells are some of nature’s amazing works of art!

Abalone shells are some of nature’s amazing works of art!

When we get back from our voyage, we head over to the nearby Maverick’s Event Center for more briny seaside fun.

Gaston Alfaro, Executive Chef at the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, shares his secrets for prepping, cooking and serving abalone meuniere. Chef Gaston dips the abalone in a little flour and egg, then fries it quickly in butter.

I learned lots of great kitchen tricks from my buddy Chef Gaston.

I learned lots of great kitchen tricks from my buddy Chef Gaston.

I’m trying to learn everything I can about human food, so I’m anxious to sample a tender, golden piece of Chef Gaston’s abalone.

What does abalone taste like? Well, not at all like baloney, but it’s really good. To me, the shellfish tastes very light and delicate, with a rich, buttery goodness that blends beautifully with faraway flavors of the sea.

Chef Gaston's Abalone Meuniere

Here’s Chef Gaston’s abalone meuniere — doesn’t it look yummy?

So does this make you hungry for your own home-cooked abalone?

If you find yourself near Half Moon Bay, just stop by Doug’s boat at slip F-22 in Pillar Point Harbor – he’s there most weekends from 11 am-4 pm (depending on the weather and his mood). If you see him, be sure to say hi from ZeBot!

Stay tuned for more exciting zebra culinary adventures!

Stay tuned for more exciting zebra culinary adventures!

© 2013 Laura Martin Bacon

Introducing ZeBot (That’s Me)!

ZeBot Veggie Bin

There’s a new zebra in town (that would be me: ZeBot)!

Everyone seems to be getting into food these days, so I thought: why not a zebra? Granted, I’m all hooves and know nothing about anything culinary – but what I lack in dexterity and knowledge, I make up for in zealous curiosity, playful imagination and the humble willingness to learn whatever humans have to teach me.

Plus, I figure if a zebra can ZIY, anyone can DIY!

You’ll find me everywhere from restaurant and home kitchens to farmers’ market vegetable bins, artisanal cheese shops, undersea aquafarms and country barnyards. My mission: to take food way beyond black and white, exploring it from every possible perspective.

ZeBot the Truffle Zebra

With this in mind, some of my favorite subjects include:

Food Sources: From growers, ranchers and fishermen to artisanal food producers and chefs.

Food Ecology: Sustainable food production, the ethics of eating – and cooking up a “green kitchen.”

Food Prep: Ingredients, recipes and culinary techniques.

Food Craft: Culinary DIY (or, in my case, ZIY) – celebrating the fun of homemade.

Food Science: Portraying the kitchen as a cool chemistry lab.

Food Legends & Lore: The stories behind the world’s favorite foods.

Food Art: Encouraging kids to learn by drawing, painting, sculpting and filming culinary subjects.

Food Geography: Exploring the world using food as a vehicle.

Food History & Culture: Tracing foods back through time and exploring regional food traditions.

Food, Fitness & Nutrition: Food as supercool fuel and a delicious way to stay healthy.

How am I going to learn all this? Well, I’m working with kids (who, I’m learning, tend to know everything), plus some expert organizations who have offered to assist me as I explore the wild world of food!

Meet some of my cool partners:

CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture)

DooF (‘food’ backwards)

Green Ribbon Schools

IACP (International Association for Culinary Professionals)

The Southern Food & Beverage Museum

The Culinary Trust