“What is it that you really love to do? What is the first thing you remember loving to do?” my friend M asked as we talked about my quest for something new in my life. She has this way of asking good questions that help people see thing logically. As it turns out, these questions probably have different answers.
As a child I loved to sew. From the time I was given free use of the sewing machine at age 6, I designed and made doll clothes, and then my clothes, making virtually every thing I wore by the time I was in high school.
But sewing for the most part was a fairly isolated activity that took place at home with the radio for my companion. Occasionally I would get together with a friend to sew, but that meant that we had to keep re-threading the machine and changing the bobbin every time we took a turn. So I was mostly on my own.
My mother was a good cook, one who followed the recipe explicitly and specialized in desserts. But she never taught me to cook. I’ve often wondered why that was. Did she worry that I would compete with her in the one place where she reigned supreme? Whatever the reason, it was not until I went away to school and had an older roommate that I learned to cook.
Through the years, I have enjoyed cooking, often making up recipes to fit whatever we had on hand. My measuring spoons have often remained in the drawer in favor of pinches and handfuls of ingredients.
Although we have always tried to buy fresh, wholesome food, we have increasingly gravitated to organic food. But it was our entry into a CSA last year that really piqued my interest in fresh and local, offering me things to cook that I had never even seen before.
In the process, cooking has become one of the most enjoyable parts of my life. Instead of eating to live, I am living to cook, living to eat. There’s a weekly challenge to use what we receive in our CSA delivery, supplementing as necessary from the local farmer’s market and from Whole Foods. But the results have taken us to a new level of eating enjoyment.
So the answer to M’s question is simply “I love to cook.” And I love it when people like the things I make. I share cooked food with M as a part of our CSA partnership and she tells me I should be a personal chef.
I don’t think I’m up to hiring myself out for catering, but I do think I would like to teach people what I have learned about cooking. I have no diploma from a renowned cooking school. I have actually taken very few formal classes myself. But I have discovered a lot on my own that I could share.
My husband, who has always been my biggest supporter, was quick to come up with a name for my new business: Cooking2live. He also offered his help in building a website for me.
Assuming “if you build it, they will come”, what do I do when people show up for class? Assuming these classes would be given in my house, do they sit on high stools around my kitchen counter and watch me do things or do I give everyone a knife and a cutting board? Do I charge money for more than the ingredients and if so, how much? Does everyone need to sign a waver up front so that I can avoid being sued if there were a problem? So many questions.
My initial thought is to focus on things that aren’t too difficult, but things that people might not have learned in Home Ec or in their mothers’ kitchens. The emphasis will definitely be on food for good health, food that both looks good and tastes good. I want to sing the praises of foods like beets and fresh figs. I want to teach people how to grind their own curry for Indian flavors. Maybe we will make fresh pasta. And definitely marinara sauce with lots of fresh herbs. I want to explore how to use the more bizarre CSA offerings, like kohlrabi and okra. I want to teach dog-lovers how to make “Jake’s food,” which our new vet totally supports.
I am obviously doing a lot of brainstorming. I will need to develop “lesson plans.” I will need to do some trial runs; my friend M has volunteered to be a guinea pig. I will need to decide whether this is going to be a totally social activity or whether I want to make a profit. I need to think about whether I want to do this with another person or by myself. I need to consider “guest teachers,” people who could impart knowledge and experience I don’t have.
I’m glad I don’t have a timetable for this project. But I do feel excited about this idea and hope something comes of it.
If you were to take a cooking class, what would you most want to learn?