Nutrition and Awareness Focus of Project SHARE’s Classes
Cooking Made Easy has done just that at the Farmstand kitchen, filled with community family members learning how to prepare and share nutritious, delicious dishes for themselves and their loved ones. The series of 6 evening classes began on February 13th and concluded this evening with graduation for 18 enthusiastic students. The room filled with palpable enthusiasm as the team launched into preparing French string beans while one student consulted Wikipedia for a more detailed explanation of the French variety.
Taught by SHARE’s Nutrition coordinator, Weston Petroski, 23 students began classes with the goal of learning how to prepare a great meal in under an hour. “I wanted to offer this course because I could see folks coming to the Farmstand for offerings which, at times, confused students as to how to prepare them once they were home”, stated Petroski, as he reflected on the 6 weeks of programming that were concluding. “Healthy, nutritious foods such as kale, cauliflower, canned salmon and even common items such as carrots and cabbage, still presented a challenge for those who were looking for a hand in their skills.”
Brian Kane is a recently retired shop manager who said that he joined the class to learn new things. “You are never too old to learn something new. I do a lot of cooking at home and now I have lots of new ideas from this class. I’ve got two granddaughters and am teaching my 7 year old.”
Project SHARE created the Farmstand location as a way of reaching out to the community. Petroski said that he enjoys the community setting and that it provided a vehicle for nutritional education about which he is particularly passionate. Weston majored in Nutrition and Foods at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina before coming to Project SHARE. He also has an Associate’s degree in Biology, which adds to his focus on nutrition and a healthy body. “I just want people to take at least as much care about themselves as they may about their cars or appliances. Many of us forget that we are not renting but we own our bodies and likewise our health.”
Health is one concern that brought a number of participants to the classes. Ailments such as Diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol were viewed from the nutritional standpoint. Fats and Carbohydrates, complex versus simple, were examined; yet dieting was not a focus of the series. The stress was on quality rather than quantity of the foods we eat. The right foods and life style changes led the discussions. “Mindfulness is the new catch phrase yet it is applicable to the way one eats.” Eating with intention, why are we eating, was another focus of Petroski’s approach. Is it because we are bored or watching TV or because we crave a nutritional imbalance? “Mindfulness is an approach to life that I try to incorporate into the classes.”
Sandy said she joined since she is a diabetic. She heard about it through Farmstand’s fresh produce days. “I really enjoyed the class and I learned a lot. I learned what foods contain, such as vitamins and proteins and how to do the cutting. I also learned about things like sweet potatoes being good for you. I have a lot of the recipes back home. I even learned how to cook an Ethiopian dish from a recipe Weston gave. The salmon cakes we made here were awesome. I never would have thought of that before. I have new confidence in my abilities.” Sandy was at no loss for words and added “I even learned to make mango salsa and diabetic friendly foods. Weston was wonderful!”
“The teaching method and the positive results are reflective of Project SHARE’s vision of “Nourishing the Community….Awakening Hope” stated Bob Weed, Interim CEO for SHARE. “I know that our class also brings people together for a time of fellowship with their neighbors.” Petroski added, “…it models the family dinner where all sit, share and build friendships around food.”
Brian G., a local computer instructor and his friend Rosa E. are taking the class together. Rosa said, “Cooking is really relaxing. I get into a trance; it’s a good stress reliever.” They have taken other cooking classes but noted that they did more real cooking in this class. They are both volunteers at Project SHARE as well.
Other exclamations filled the room as the evening drew to a close including “I never thought I would like garlic”, to “…real guys can cook quiche, I did and I liked it!”
Graduates remarked that they look forward to increasing their cooking and preparation skills even more in weeks to come. A new sense of kitchen confidence will now be made easier, thanks to Cooking Made Easy!