As with many things in life, you can never truly know everything about cooking. There are so many different cultural nuances and techniques… it’s why I love going to cooking classes and learning from people who have dedicated their lives to food. And I finally made my way over to the beautiful Farm Cooking School in Titusville, NJ to do just that.
While I view cooking as therapeutic, I also view it as a way to challenge myself by continuously learning. It’s too easy to get comfortable at a certain level of cooking and to keep going back to the classics. And while there’s nothing wrong with cooking what you love, there’s something extra fun about trying new things in the kitchen. These classes also give me the confidence boost to step outside of my cooking comfort zone – something all home chefs can use more of!
Chef Ian was our fearless leader at the Farm Cooking School last Thursday. This was one of the few classes at the Farm Cooking School that did not have the menu published, so it was a bit of a surprise when we received it Wednesday morning. A good surprise! The class was to highlight the best dishes from Gourmet magazine throughout the last 5 decades, starting in 1960. When I read that, my mind instantly traveled back to the only references I have of that time period – shows like Leave It To Beaver… when the woman’s place was in the kitchen. My, how times have changed 😉
As Chef Ian pointed out, the earlier decades focused solely on seasonal produce, because that’s what was available. It wasn’t until later on in the century that world trade enabled us to eat things fruits & vegetables (like red peppers) all year long. Here’s what we made:
- Cailles Judic (Quail with Braised Lettuce) (November 1962)
- Baked Eggs with Creamy Leeks and Cabbage (January 1984)
- Celery Root in Mustard Cream (February 1974)
- Rutabaga and Cheddar Soufflé (February 1991)
- Mussels with Fennel and Roasted Red Pepper Butter (March 1991)
- Fried Apple Pies (January 2008)
If you think about it, it’s pretty amazing how these recipes (some from over 50 years ago) are still relevant and incredibly tasty today. I can even imagine ordering some of these dishes at a local restaurant today. Especially as we get back to our seasonal roots. And while the food science may have improved for some of the dishes (we cut out a few unnecessary steps in one or two of the recipes) the simplicity reminded me that food really does shine when we don’t overcomplicate things. Especially this time of year, when it can feel like there’s nothing to eat besides stews and soups – this menu showed the diversity of winter’s root cellar produce. Even the humble cabbage had my fellow cooking mates raving!
As for embracing a challenge, chef Ian made everything feel so easy, and I’m excited to challenge myself at home with some of these dishes that I had previously been too afraid to tackle. Soufflés might be one of the most intimidating dishes to a home cook (especially ones that doesn’t like to measure, like moi). But when you have all your ingredients ready to go, focus & take each step at a time, it’s a fairly easy to make dish! And might I also add, oh-so-delicious…
So I invite you to come on over to my neck of the woods (Titusville, NJ) and experience one of these classes for yourself. Located on some stunning farmland by the Delaware River, it’s worth the trip no matter where you live!