Taste of Home Cooking School
Audience relishes chance to add to kitchen repertoire
DERRY — While most of us relish a homemade meal, very few of us have endless hours to spend at the stove these days.
Fortunately for the several hundred "home cooks" attending Thursday night's Taste of Home Cooking School at the Stockbridge Theatre, professional help arrived in the form of regional culinary expert Michael Barna and master of ceremonies Rob Dionne.
Ipswich, Mass., resident Sue Pitman, who recently retired from her 35-year career as a culinary arts instructor at a North Shore high school, said she was beyond thrilled to be attending her first Cooking School.
Pitman, who said she regularly referred to her trusty Taste of Home magazines to inspire her classroom lessons over the years, was even more excited that she convinced her husband, Bob Covert, to tag along.
"I don't mind it so much," said Covert, who admitted he's no cook himself. "She keeps me company when I go to my truck shows."
"I may have had to bribe him with a homemade dinner," Pitman said with a grin. "This is the first year I could make it up here because when I was still teaching it was too late past my bedtime."
Derry dad Dan Boyle said he enjoys cooking meals for his family, and hopes his 13-year-old son, Alex, an eighth-grader at Hood Middle School, would one day share his passion.
So far Alex, whose favorite show is "Diners, Drive-ins & Dives" on the Food Network, is showing much promise.
"He's learning fast," Boyle said, noting that they'd prepared a lobster macaroni and cheese recipe together the previous evening. Both agreed it was a huge success.
"So delicious," Alex said.
Nashua resident Sylvia Babcock said she's a huge fan of the magazine, though it was her first time attending the annual Cooking School, noting that she recently shared a tasty batch of the publication's rhubarb squares with members of her church group.
Babcock arrived with her dog-eared Taste of Home cookbook and a small group of close friends, including fellow Nashua resident Cheryl Cummings and Betty Hauchwit of Merrimack.
Waiting in line, the ladies finished each other's sentences the way longtime friends do.
"We're always swapping recipes," Cummings said.
"Whenever I entertain, I can always count on these ones to come over the day before and help me get ready," Hauchwit said, motioning to her pals.
Thursday night's program, which was sponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader, held plenty of delicious tastes in store. Mouth-watering scents filled the auditorium as Barna got down to business.
Over the course of two hours, the charismatic chef led the packed house through step-by-step instructions on how to make German chocolate cake, spinach stuffed chicken, caramel apple strata, onion Yorkshire pudding and pumpkin pie cupcakes.
Being a culinary expert certainly has its perks, but don't ask him what he makes for dinner on his days off.
"Does a plumber do all his own pipes?" Barna joked. "No, I don't do all the cooking at home. But I do still like to cook."