“You are what you eat.”
It’s an old adage that I embrace wholeheartedly. As I’ve traveled around the country, I’ve had the opportunity to take numerous cooking classes, which not only introduced me to cultural flavors, but added to my culinary repertoire. And those local gastronomic delights, like my travels, have become a part of me.
Consider the following classes in your travels, inspired by home-grown specialties.
Among Silver Dollar City’s many attractions are fun rides, entertainment, great crafts, a variety of foods, a cave, and the Culinary and Craft School. Based in a butter-yellow, farm-house-style building with a huge, front porch, visitors open the door to smell the aromas of home-cooking.
Led by Master of Culinary Arts Debbie Dance Uhrig and a cadre of cooks, each hour-long demonstration takes you step-by-step through dishes ranging from savory cornbread waffles with sausage chili, cinnamon rolls, barbecue-in-a-bag, and sheet-pan fajitas, to special desserts like chocolate pecan pie. One of the most popular recipes is succotash – a Southern favorite dating back to the time of the pilgrims.
Classes can accommodate up to 34 people. Lucky guests get seats around the counter, but all may view the class on with large video monitors. Take-home samples are a part of the class, too, along with a copy of the recipe.
Classes currently cost $15 and fill up fast. It’s best to reserve ahead online but you can always take a chance walking up.
Silver Dollar City is closed during January and February with limited openings in March and April. Always check the calendar at www.silverdollarcity.com.
Fredericksburg, in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, is noted for its unique German heritage, wineries and for the proliferation of peaches available in the area. One of the town’s coolest companies is Fischer & Wieser Specialty Foods.
The business, besides growing peaches, produces 170-plus sauces, jams, jellies and other gourmet food items. And they have the Culinary Adventure Cooking School. Two- to three-hour classes are scheduled regularly with prices running between $65 and $100 dollars. Primarily demonstration, classes feature multi-course meals with wine pairings. One of their most popular classes is the Hill Country German Feast featuring heritage foods like rotkohl, jagerschnitzel, and käsespätzle.
My favorite item from the class I attended was a peach and tomato salad – an unexpected combination comprised of peaches, heirloom tomatoes, red onion, feta, toasted pecans and fresh basil leaves with dressing made from Fischer & Wieser’s Harvest Peach and Hatch Pepper Sauce, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The cooking school web site is www.fwcookingschool.com.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
With so many things to do in this area, it’s easy to overlook a real treasure – the International Culinary Institute at Horry-Georgetown Technical College. Like Frances-Tuttle here in central Oklahoma, the school’s culinary arts program also provides short courses for the public.
I lucked into a class on shrimp and grits. Who knew there were so many varieties of the ground corn goody? We tried Jimmy red, blue, speckled, Guinea flint and Carolina Plantation grits.
In his demonstration, Chef William Twaler prepared five different shrimp dishes to accompany the grits: shrimp, sausage and mushrooms in a brown gravy; shrimp with country ham and garlic; shrimp with bell peppers, onion and tomatoes; poached shrimp with fine herbs; and shrimp and brisket gravy. The tasting here could have served for a whole meal.
Classes vary from demonstration to participation, taking from two hours for cookie decorating to two days for barbecue, and range in price from $45 to $150. The facility is first-class. Even if you don’t take a class, check out the schedule for the student-operated Fowler Dining Room. Go to https://www.hgtc./edu/academics/academic_departments/culinary_institute/ for more information on continuing education and dining room reservations.
If you’ve read many of my articles, you’ll notice I love Wisconsin. Cheese and beer – can it get better? Yes! Here are two more cooking schools – both of these are hands-on classes.
In Ellison Bay, Savory Spoon Cooking School’s home is an 1879 schoolhouse, refurbished and furnished with the latest in kitchen equipment. Classes run from mid-June through the end of October. Also check out their culinary tours – www.savoryspoon.com.
I’ve been to L’ecole de la Maison at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake twice. The first time I took a French pastry class. This year, it was cast iron cooking. Other classes included Championship Cheese Dishes of Wisconsin, French Bistro, and more. The three- to four-hour classes feature multi-course meals and are limited to twelve participants. The web site is www.cookingschoolosthoff.com.
The 405 has cooking classes, too – my experience has been at Francis Tuttle. Even if you’re not traveling, you can have a taste of far-off food favorites in your own kitchen.