Lessons I Have Learned as a Library Cooking Teacher

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by CARLIN BREINIG

I am a library performer and have been for about eight years now. I present cooking classes, in libraries, to a maximum of 25 people. This summer I had 20 classes booked. The theme this summer was Build a Better World. I developed my program on cooking and eating together to build a better world. Specifically, we would build macaroni and cheese and a fruit salad.

It sounded good to me until I started printing the recipes and gathering equipment. Suddenly the program sounded too simple! Too late, already promoted by the 20 libraries that had hired me. This summer I was reminded that what sounds easy to me (and probably you) is not easy and basic to most other people.

Macaroni and cheese was great for basics! Cooking takes muscles and with macaroni and cheese there is a lot of whisking. They made roux, added milk, beat eggs, tempered eggs and whisked constantly. Some people grated cheese and we discussed pre-grated versus block and additives. Then all of the cheese went into the sauce.

Everyone participated and there was something for every age. Some people halved grape tomatoes, some pulled parsley leaves. Some chopped ham, some blanched broccoli. Very young people crushed croutons with a wooden spoon and put bacon in a bowl. They cooked pasta correctly and tested it for doneness.  Once done, each person built their own bowl of macaroni and cheese.

One woman said, “I have been married for sixty two years and I never thought of adding to macaroni and cheese; you can have a complete meal”.

Fruit salad basics started with a watermelon. We talked food safety and learned about avoiding e-coli by washing melons well. I then showed how to cut in by making flat sides and then cutting off the sides. Several people told me that a flat side makes so much sense when cutting. I know, basic, but not to everyone.

Grapes and blueberries went into the basic salad. Everyone participated in creating the toppings. Some quartered strawberries, some chopped mangoes, lemons were zested, oranges were segmented, feta crumbled, fresh mozzarella diced, mint leaves pulled and torn, kiwi and plums chopped. Each person then built their custom fruit salad bowl.

Actual comments “I never thought of watermelon and strawberries together.” “I never tried kiwi”. “Feta is great with watermelon and kiwi but not with blueberries.” (This person was 4 years old)

Once I did the first class and saw how happy people were, stress was gone.  The libraries promote the classes and classes were full when people saw the description of build a better macaroni and cheese and fruit salad. The biggest thing – people of all ages had fun, cooked together, ate together and enjoyed the library.

Excerpted from the Summer 2017 edition of the IACP Cooking Schools and Teachers newsletter. Read the full newsletter here


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