Jan. 1, 2007

DC student's sense of taste, smell make her a winner

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Martha Fonseca of Dassel has an unusual ability. Just like some musicians have perfect pitch, Fonseca, a ninth grader at Dassel Cokato High School, has a perfect sense of taste.

Fonseca won first place in dairy foods against eight schools Nov. 19 because of her ability. DC junior high school students competed in a Career Development Events day at Buffalo Lake-Hector Junior High. Sarah Harmala, another DC student, took third in dairy foods.

Fonseca, who was born in Mexico, smelled and tasted 10 different flavors in milk, and 10 different kinds of cheeses. She could identify, for example, if the milk was bitter, rancid, acidic, malty or had a garlic or onion taste.

The samples of milk all looked exactly the same.

The cheese sampling was a little easier because different kinds of cheese look different. She could identify both mild and sharp cheddar, provolone, Swiss, and cream cheese for example.

Also, Fonseca didn’t have much time to prepare for the competition. She just moved to Dassel in October from Lakefield, where she went to school in Okabena. Her parents, Rosalio and Martha Fonseca, are both in the poultry business, she said.

Fonseca’s older brother and sister, Rosalio and Maria, attend college in Worthington, and major in business management. They both will graduate in May, Fonseca said.

Fonseca’s teacher, Seena Glessing, coached her as much as possible in the time before the competition. Fonseca also studied written tests about dairy food’s marketing and production from earlier competitions, she said.

Fonseca’s parents know how to make their own cheese. The Fonsecas make a dry cheese they grate that is similar to Parmesan. They sprinkle it on beans, she said.

A second type of cheese they make tastes similar to Parmesan except that it melts. The Fonsecas use it in quesadillas.

The third type, panela, is a soft, acidic cheese. Panela tastes similar to solid buttermilk. The Fonsecas put it on corn tortillas.

Fonseca loves to cook. Someday, she would like to have a career in food inspection, she said.

Her favorite recipe also requires generous amounts of sour cream and Parmesan. It is called Green Enchiladas.

Fonseca starts by cooking tomatillos and green peppers until they are tender. She puts the cooked tomatillos and green peppers into a blender and blends them into a green sauce.

Next, she dips fried tortillas into the green sauce, and places them down on a plate. She fills the center with cooked chicken, cheese and chopped onion, and then rolls them up.

Finally, she smothers the Green Enchiladas in sour cream and Parmesan cheese.

For Christmas, however, the Fonsecas will have tamales, which are meat and salsa wrapped up in corn husks. The Fonsecas like to have something simple for Christmas, so the mother doesn’t have to spend all day in the kitchen, she said.

They will have a traditional Christmas soup, pozole, as well. It is made from corn and pork, Fonseca said.

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