By Sarah Elmquist Squires
Alma Law’s kitchen is a busy one. Along with his iconic artisan sourdough bread, there’s always something cooking. On Monday, jars of shimmering pink rhubarb juice lined his table – the product of three plants of the gifted tart staple, a whole local chicken simmered in the crockpot, and on the menu for dinner was a Nigerian okra stew Law’s friend Theo Nsofor was to share.
Next month, Law is opening up his busy kitchen for a communal home cooking class, where attendees can learn how to make a handful of meals via Zoom, cooking alongside him in their own kitchens. It’s a new offering from R-Recreation, and one anyone – from kitchen newbies to families looking to spice up their dinner menus – can learn from.
“I’m in my home kitchen, where I’m most comfortable, and you’re in your own kitchen, where you’re most comfortable,” Law said of the class. “The intended audience is whoever’s going to cook dinner. I think anybody would learn from it.”
This isn’t Law’s first rodeo when it comes to sharing cooking classes online. After teaching language arts online and leading an online cooking club with students, he saw how well the format can work. “Most of the students told me it was their favorite class of the year,” he said, noting although it was an online club, it still stood out for the kids.
There were a few hiccups – one grilled cheese charred to a crisp, an oven or two that didn’t heat up in time to keep up with the class – but overall, it was a neat way to share recipes and trouble-shoot cooking from a distance. And when the instructions were over, the final payoff: “Then we’d sit and talk while we eat,” Law explained.
Law, who sits on the Fremont Market board and is a favorite at area farmers’ markets, started his love affair with cooking as a kid. “I have a big appetite, so I’m really interested in what I put in my mouth,” he laughed. His grandma would cook Sunday dinners for all the grandkids, and while the other kids were out playing, Law was in the kitchen. “I pestered her until she let me cook Sunday dinners with her.”
Whether Law is making one of his favorite staples – homemade pizza or lasagna with hand-made noodles – or a challenging dish he hasn’t yet gotten the hang of, he usually starts by studying different recipes to see how other chefs approach a dish. Then, he’ll combine some of those ideas into his creation. Right now, he’s perfecting his Chinese dumplings and working his hand at trying mochi balls.
“I love to get into different studies and cuisines,” he shared of his cooking adventures. “When I was in my 20s, my biggest dream of a small business was to cater family dinners, so busy families could still enjoy the family connections around good food. I’ve done a lot of professional pursuits since then, but I still go back to sitting with family over a good meal.”
What Law hopes for this R-Recreation class is for it to be a solid success, and one where participants and community members give feedback about what’s to come next. Maybe more classes with a different focus, like healthy cooking or different cuisines from around the world, will be the next step. While he’s still perfecting the menu, this cooking class will likely include homemade pizza, homemade pasta with Alfredo sauce, beef potpies and chicken and biscuits, and each participant will be given a list of ingredients to have on hand for each session.
“At the end of the class, I don’t just want them to have a pan of food – I want them to learn the steps, sink into the steps of the process,” Law explained.
And it’s not just that home cooking can be healthier and less expensive than ready-to-eat or take-out meals. There’s something communal about cooking and sharing meals with the people in your life. Law has a saying – he’s not a fan of politics, the Republican Party or the Democratic one. “I believe in the dinner party,” he said, where the food is so good, conversation and debate is respectful, because you want to be invited back for more.
Law has studied the English language, and recalls an etymology professor sharing the origins of the word “company.” “The very roots are ‘with bread,’” he shared. “So from the very beginning, you get together to break bread and you’re bonded with the people around you. So good food and good people have always been good company.”
If you’d like to sign up for the “Basics of Home Cooking,” register by Friday, September 1, for classes on September 7 and 21 and October 6 and 20 from 5:30-6:30 via Zoom. The cost is $10 per class or $30 for all four, and are meant for people ages 13 and up. Register at https://www.rrecreation.com/basics-of-home-cooking.cfm?fbclid=IwAR39e6fahoFsrfTvJNrB_v032iVxRUcebE5XEFqS45QEindnU3-NAxLQWiU or call 307-855-2015.