How to teach cooking

For the last ten years I have been teaching people how to cook.
The first day of the first week of classes I taught, I pressed my whites, tied my hair back, wrote out my syllabus, sharpened my knife, set my watch, and was ready for no talking, and no messing around.
I was serious. I was going to teach them everything I knew. My husband drove me down from our house on the side of the hill in Corgna. “You might want to try and have some fun” he said. “We can’t have fun, I have three hours to teach them two menus. How am I supposed to get through two full menus, roasting pork, rolling pasta, making a roux for a white sauce, simmering meat sauce, whipping zabaglione, packing a fish in salt and HAVE FUN? THIS is no time for THAT.”
My husband is nothing if not patient.
He let me out at Louis’ house, the house I had rented for all my students to sleep and study. I got out of the car and then came back.
“What am I supposed to say?” My brother in law was in the back seat. “Tell them a joke,” he said. “Be light.” Panic crept in around my starched, pressed self like water.
“There is nothing light about me. I am a rock formation.” They laughed at me and left me. On the plus side, I knew they would come back. Ferdinand was only four months old and I was his rock formation and only food source. On the other plus side, what are you going to do, not go in there and teach? I tried to think through what was the point of cooking at all. I thought about who was my favorite cook, my grandmother who had never had a cooking class, who made things like slices of avocado on a plate with a little salt or a vegetable soup with smorbolles (dumplings.) Her point, her whole mission in life was to make you happy. To make you laugh from the inside out. To tell you that she loved you. She didn’t care about knife skills; I am sure she bought her knife at the CVS when they first got their kitchen section. What she cared about was feeding people food that she made with her own two hands, that they ate plenty of it, that they were comfortable wherever they were sitting in her teeny tiny one bedroom apartment, on the couch or shoved up against a two foot Christmas tree, that they had everything they needed and that they were happy.
So I switched. Instead of the Carl Henry approach of “you must learn everything there is to know, with no mistakes and no sneezing in public” I went for hugging, encouraging breathing, and squeezing in the cooking wherever and whenever possible.

Leave a Reply