table&spoon online cooking club
What started as a small idea to get friends together every few months has developed into a source of comfort and connection during the global pandemic.
Getting people together around a table to enjoy great food is what makes me happy. Exploring new recipes, understanding different cuisines, setting a beautiful table, and inviting friends over is how I spend most weekends. Some people think of entertaining as a chore, for me it is all pleasure.
My starting point for the table&spoon cooking club was grounded in the idea to explore and learn together. To share my love for cooking and entertaining with others, but not necessarily a group of like-minded participants. Everyone who joined brought something quite unique and meaningful to the group- thorough recipe followers, aspiring table-setters, wonderful conversationalists, avid gardeners, world globetrotters, but only a few could be defined as enthusiastic home cooks. The common thread was a desire to connect to food, family, friends, and the fun and enjoyment of making a meal together in a comfortable and relaxed way.
Samin Nostrat (one of my favorite chefs) quotes the 20th century philosopher, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “where the goal is not be have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share.” (Let Us Gather for Lasagna, April 2020). Many people in the hotel and restaurant business work with that philosophy.
With eight members, we started cooking together on March 5th, 2020. In hindsight that date seems like a long time ago.
We had no idea that in just one week we would be in a “lockdown” with any type of personal interaction or freedoms no longer possible. After about two weeks into shelter-in-place, the time had come to see if we could move our offline class in my kitchen, to an online class in everyone’s kitchen.
After a quick email determining if this could work, the unanimous consensus was to give it a try. We would have to schedule for a weekend given heavier than ever work-family schedules during the week. I heard consistently that cooking three meals a day was becoming tedious but twas compounded by the pressures in managing online schooling and different new work structures made it all the more challenging.
The mission of the cooking club shifted.
The primary focus became to support one another and ease the stresses of everyday cooking. Rather than cooking alone, we started cooking together. One person leading the recipe, the others following along while chopping, boiling, roasting and tossing. At the end of an hour and 15 minute session, dinner for the family ready, done, finished.
But aside from the utility in our new objective, an unexpected outcome has resulted. We have been able to bring back a joy to cooking in a time of great uncertainty. We are connected, finding comfort, sharing while still learning, laughing and becoming more confident. The underlying mission remains in tact but takes a less significant.
The biggest difference between a cooking club and an online cooking class taught by a professional chef is the balance and appreciation of all skills in the session. When someone asks a question there are often many answers, all helpful in some way. There is more of a willingness to experiment in real time by adding more garlic, or using a different type tomato.
Learning with a chef is linear, learning with home cooks is more random leaving space to enjoy, relax, explore and resulting in greater confidence.
With two clubs now online, and three more starting, there is more to come. All for the love of sharing, learning, discovering more about food, friendship and connection.