Hays Public Library offers enticements for the eyes and ears on a regular basis, but Saturday morning it added some allure for the nose and taste buds as part of its first Hays Herb Day.
Hays Medical Center Executive Chef John Fitzthum kicked off the day’s presentations using herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage to make pesto and mirepoix — a mixture of diced, sautéed vegetables that can be used as a base for soups or stews.
“I’ll even eat this as a side dish for a steak,” Fitzthum told a crowd of about 30 in the library’s Schmidt Gallery.
Fitzthum has worked at Hays Med since 2014 and has revamped its food service to include more fresh foods, often locally grown when they are available. He told the crowd the hospital last month planted its first seeds for its own vegetable and herb garden.
“The fresher we get our ingredients, the better our food is going to be, and the better your health is going to be,” he said.
Eating commercially canned or processed food is convenient, Fitzthum said, admitting sometimes even he eats fast food, but it adds too much salt to the diet, he said.
“Salt is not the problem. It’s the amount we consume that’s the problem,” he said.
He demonstrated how to make the mirepoix with diced onion, celery and carrots with thyme and rosemary.
At the end of the demonstration, he added a stock made with vegetables as he prepared the other dishes to make a soup. By making a roux with the stock, flour and butter, the mirepoix becomes stew, he said.
Cooking for yourself means being flexible, the chef said, proving it at one point by using a carrot when he realized he’d forgotten a spatula.
“We always think cooking is about taste. But I can start to hear it sizzle, I can start to smell it, I can see it and then of course I'm going to taste it.
“We follow (the recipe) by the book and it’s terrible because we’re not hearing, we’re not seeing, we’re not tasting,” he said.
“We don’t take enough chances with our food,” he said.
Other discussions throughout the day included using lavender, brain health, growing mushrooms, hops and brewing, and honey bees.
At the Downtown Pavilion, 106 W. 12th, an open air market offered plants, natural products and crafts from vendors including Morford Lavender Farm, Kanopolis, Jensen Farms, Delta Zeta sorority and Herb Haus. The library featured a spinning prize wheel, giving away mugs, notepads, tote bags and other items with the library logo.