#22 – Take a Cooking Class

My mother would tell you that I learned to cook when she sat me up on the countertop as a kid and had me watch as she prepped the family dinners.  No, I wasn’t sitting in some kind of specialty made countertop foam enclosed baby chair.  I was there near the knives, the flames and the bubbling oil.  Cause back when I was a kid…etc, etc…get off my lawn and so on and so forth.

It is true though.  I first learned to cook by hanging out with my Mom in the kitchen.  She, in turn, learned to cook from my Grandmother.  Now, this is when things get a bit odd.  We’re a German-Irish family.  Two cultures whose list of great cuisine could fill, well, a pamphlet, I suppose.  But, that wasn’t the stuff I grew up learning to cook for the most part.  See, my family comes from what was once an Italian neighborhood in the Bronx.  While she was living in a big ole apartment building, all the little Italian grandmothers took pity on my newly married obviously-she-can’t-cook-she’s-not-from-the-old-country Grandma.  This is all just a round about way of saying that I learned to cook Italian.  We have rather closely guarded family recipes for things like Irish Soda Bread and Corned Beef, but these are more the “heavy artillery” when it’s a certain holiday in March.

The point is, I’ve been doing this awhile and, honestly, I’m pretty good at it.  But, the one thing that I haven’t ever done is take a formal cooking class, so it was time.

Meet Nikki.

Say "hi" to a few dozen people, Nik.

Nik is a friend from MATPRA who learned about my list and ended up creating one of her own.  As it turns out, we both had “Go to a cooking class” and figured it would be fun to find one together, which is how we ended up at La Cucina at The Market deep in Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market.

I don’t cook much French cuisine and Nik doesn’t cook much more than chicken breasts and egg whites, so this was bound to be at least some kind of experience.

On the menu:

  • Gougere (translation: baked cheese puff)
  • Supreme de volaille a blanc (translation: chicken in butter and cream)
  • Tarte Tatinn (translation: apple upside-down pie)

Each student was given their own little set up.  A nice big, sharp knife, an apron and a towel that we were instructed on how to wear and “my, my someone isn’t wearing their towel correctly, tsk tsk.”  Right.  Lady, I’m a hoopy frood who always knows where his towel is at, so back off.

Second “issue” with the class: Lack. Of. Wine.

She noticed sharp knives and no wine.

Oh sure, there were wine glasses which gave the impression that we might sip upon mashed and fermented grapes, but no no.  This is when I almost lost Nikki.  That there was no wine to be had at a French cooking class rankled something inside her.  I’m not even talking about pounding back bottles of Bordeaux, just something to sip on while we watch what was rather rapidly going from class to demonstration.

I made her help.

“Here, have some ice water, it’ll have to do.”  AWESOME.

I’ll save you a foodie/writer’s descriptions of each thing and just hit you with some pictures.

Egg washing the gougere.

Delicious little cheese pouf (French: I don't speak it)

Apple tarte, waiting to be flipped and consumed.

I don’t have a picture of the chicken dish because it was white on an equally white plate and thus photographed like blaaaah (also, I was busy eating other things).  The chicken was tasty though; I’ll give them that.  Of course, if you soaked my sandal in a stick of butter and half a cup of heavy cream it would be tasty too.

Overall thoughts on the class? I would have liked it to be a bit more hands on versus standing there watching, but I think that’s just because I learn by failing spectacularly in the kitchen.  Ask Chelsea about the time I launched the majority of a whole roast chicken across the kitchen in frustration.  Roast chickens, by the way, are not aerodynamically sound.  Little heads up for ya there.

As a nice cap to the day, we ended up finding our way to a French Bistro (topical!) just off of Rittenhouse Square.  While there we put back some delicious Moules Frites (mussels and French fries) and, I love this, macaroni gratin.  It’s macaroni and cheese, you beret wearing bastards.

Oh, and we finally got a few drinks into our hands and all was well with the world.

Bone Appetite.

That’s right?  Yea?  Close enough.

#22 – Take a Cooking Class:  DONE.

3 Responses to “#22 – Take a Cooking Class”

  1. Nikki May 12, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    Thanks, Steve! I actually picked up dry vermouth and lots of butter and heavy cream at the store this week. I might try the chicken dish this week. Only, I’ll be drinking wine while cooking! :)

  2. Rachael Norman June 2, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

    I really want to take a cookery class, but I have to agree – no wine at a French cookery class…that’s just not right! Maybe I’d better pick a different cuisine! :)

    P.s. Nice Hitchhiker’s reference there!

    • SZimmermann June 3, 2011 at 10:57 am #

      To this day, I still find it rather unbelievable. I have since made up for it though, trust in that.

      And, so far you’re the only one to catch the Hitchhiker’s reference and comment on it. Well done!

Leave a Reply