Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Cooking Class, Revisited

Anyone who has ever spent time around me can attest to the fact that I make an ass of myself on a regular basis. Recently, I have started making an ass of myself on a much more grand (and public) scale. By that I of course mean this blog.

I went on a bit of a tirade about a class I attended at Williams-Sonoma (aka my crack den). I was not a fan, and I was rather vocal about it, at which point the above-mentioned ass-making took place, blogger style. [I keep hoping that one day I will, miraculously, wake up having learned to hold my tongue. I'll let y'all know when that happens.]

Through the wonder that is the internet Jo, a chef, food blogger, and instructor at W-S happened upon the post. Irked by my experience and reaction (and being the kind person that she is) Jo invited me to sit in on one of her classes* at W-S.

It was such great fun! Jo is wonderfully well-spoken, fun, full of knowledge, skill, and interesting factoids. She
gave the history and background of the ingredients (complete with taste tests), explained and demonstrated each step of the recipes, and offered short cuts, alternatives, and funny stories along the way.

The theme of the class was dishes that can be started one day and finished the next. In under two hours, she managed to prepare and serve five fantastic dishes, slightly tweaked following her own expertise and taste. I may be hooked.

- Pasta Rustica with chicken sausage and three cheeses – Three cheeses, melted together. ‘Nuff said.
- White Chili
- Pasta Salad with grilled tuna and roasted tomatoes
- Chicken enchiladas with tomatillo sauce – Gorgeous enchilada sauce with oven roasted chiles and tomatillos, and the most amazingly light and fresh queso fresco.
- Polenta casserole with meat sauce – Polenta layered with a red wine-heavy meat ragu, topped with cheese and baked. Brilliant!

Lesson learned: I do not live and write in a vacuum. Thoughts do well when filtered. I have lots to improve on (Snarkiness
: 1, SND/Anna : Nil). I am hoping that my ass-making will decrease, if not disappear, in the time and blog posts to come.

Thank you, Jo ( and the managerial staff at the Burlington, Mass. Williams-Sonoma) for allowing me to sit in on a wonderful class. It was thoughtful and generous of you. W-S is my friend and crack den, as ever.

* As a disclaimer, cooking classes such as the ones taught by Jo are not free ($50 each). I did not know of their existence (shockingly enough). Had I known, I would have had more realistic expectations of the free technique class offered by W-S. The store is not a charity, public education is not their main occupation, nor their responsibility. It's pretty cool that they offer free classes at all.


Kalyn said...

Probably everybody who blogs regularly has written things they regret, but it's very cool you're willing to admit it. Also great that Jo invited you to the class, and fun reading about it. We have Williams Sonoma here too so maybe I should check out their classes.

Mai said...

dude - i don't think you need to apologize to anyone for anything.

first, you don't have to listen to Michael Ruhlman. yeah yeah... he's famous and shit, but not all that approachable or friendly in my experience.

i love that you're snarky. you tell it like it is, and that's why people are reading your blog. there are plenty of happy, shiny blogs written about people who are smitten with everything. i can't tell if they're liars or just don't have taste.

you were right to be bitchy about the W-S free classes. W-S charges an arm and a leg for their products - some are great, others you can get for $10 in chinatown - so you'd think they could afford to offer *good* technique classes for free.

and anyway, squeaky wheel gets the grease. if you handn't piped up, you wouldn't have gotten invited to the class by Jo.

leena! said...

Another shout out to you, Anna. You did not make an ass out of yourself. I give you props for telling it like it is, and for admitting when you thought you made a mistake. Too many people simply spew out the opinions of others as their own. And if I had a dime for every time I put my foot in mouth (in real life and in blog life), I would own the entire stock of W-S.

Anna said...

One thing I am (very) good at is admitting my wrongs. I have the opportunity to do it a lot :)

Kalyn - Jo was/is super great. She is a lot of fun. I would definitely check out the classes. I learned a lot.

Mai - Weeeellll I may have some things to apologize for. You see, I toned the post down after reading Jo's comment. It was actually way snarkier in its first incarnation. I don't like happy shiny. I am not happy shiny.
I think I had a rather different experience of Michael Ruhlman than you did. I thought him perfectly lovely... which is not the same thing as approachable or easy-going, mind you.

Leena - I keep waiting to get older and wiser but it's just. not. happening. I have way too many opinions of my own to spew out anyone else's. Learning how to do it in an appropriate manner is another story. Thanks for the shout out. Glad I am not the only one with foot-in-mouth disease. [Yes, I am a dork.]

Hillary said...

Anna! I'm glad this class worked out better for you. Jo seems very very nice! I should find out if a Chicago W-S offers these classes...

jo said...

*blush* Awwwwww. Thanks so much Anna,that was a very sweet thing to read after a 12 how day that just ended with 10 very hopped up 12 year olds.
Never lose your snark darling, that is why I tune in! Always tell it like it is and you should never have to backpeddle
More importantly though I hope to bump into you again someday at some event in the city. We really didn't get a chance to talk.
I'm just pleased I could redeem the image of those of us who teach and love what we do.
And thanks for the camera advice, I appreciate it. I am very close to making the final decision.

aimee said...

Christ that's a whole lot of food in under two hours. And it all sounds so good!

I'm glad you're back on good terms with your crack den (I'm convinced we all need our vices), but really, I find the snark and ass endearing!

aimee said...

Ass-MAKING. I meant ass-making :)

JC said...

Yeah, everyone makes an ass out of themselves at some point. At least you had the guts to admit and even post about it! I'm glad that the real cooking class was so much fun!

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna,

Thanks goodness that W-S earned back the points it has lost, and not that long from the time it lost all!!! I believe there is no room you regret your feelings after the first class. How else could one react if the recipe for the chicken cacciatore included: 1) brown the chicken 2) open the jar of sauce!!! If it were me, I would have felt not only disappointed, but also offended. Yes, offended. I totally mean it.

We’ve got a proverb saying that “you’ll get to eat as much soup as you pay for it”. So, may be you expected too much soup for free! Having saying that, you might get great cooking lessons at extremely cheap (or even free) rates. Not very often, but it does happen. Take my word for it!

Good luck!

mystery commenter (aka cheetos lover)

PS: don’t let your snarkiness go away, just use it judiciously!

Anna said...

Hillary - The classes really are fun. You get to eat what the instructor makes - eeeexcelent way to spend a morning. Let me know if you go!

Jo - I do wish we had a chance to speak more! We may have to engineer an occasion - Boston blogger meet-up, perhaps? Your love for teaching and cooking shows. It's wonderful.

Aimee - Suuuure you did, I totally believe you :)

JC - Yep, I am good at admitting I'm an ass. I have had a lot of practice. Hope I get to take another class sometime soon!

Alright, I think I got it. Mystery commenter, are you Sherry? Proprietor of the soon-to-be-open fabulous restaurant in Durham (Six Plates)? Because if you are, hi. It's nice to hear from you!
I a similar saying (one of my favorite, in fact) - You get what you paid for. I am happy to hear that my reaction wasn't entirely crazy and snark-fueled.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anna,

I wish you were right about your guess. I’m just a grad student at Harvard, Longwood; no restaurateur (restauratrice to be precise regarding your guess!).

Mystery Commenter

PS: I love your style of writing. If I dont get a chance to see Nigella Lawson on Sunday morning, I can log on to "Sunday Night Dinner", and be (almost) equally happy.

Anna said...

Hello fellow grad student. I am also at Longwood! Thank you for your kind words about the blog. It keeps me sane through this whole science nonsense. Let me know if you would like to/can meet up for coffee!

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna,

Getting together for coffee is great! Does sometime around evening work for you? If not breakfast at/around the quad could be an alternative.


PS: May be over coffee you could tell me about "this whole science nonsense" thing. (writing up your thesis???)

Anna said...

Hi Mehdi.
Send me an email and we will plan a time to meet up! annakush at gmail dot com. Looking forward to meeting you!