How long does it take to learn to cook?
If you’re Robert (Bob) Hitchcox, a decade isn’t enough time. Bob has run a cooking class for the past 10 years. To last so long, something must really make his class special. For his part, Bob wonders why every community doesn’t have such a fine gathering.
Always a good neighbor, Bob arrived, many years ago, in a small community of a few hundred folk, where there was little more than a grocery store and a mail box drop. There was not even a gas station. There were no big name singers, no country Willie Nelson or Miley Cyrus types among the residents back then.
Soon, almost everyone in the neighborbood was baking cookies and brownies to be sold at events like the July 4th parade. The parade was only two blocks in length, but nobody cared.
Bob worked diligently to organize a few horn players, drum majors and anybody else he could cajole into walking along Scripps Ranch Boulevard. It wasn’t actually a boulevard, yet the little road did have a big name.
Between the scant few paraders, Bob proudly drove his 1966 Corvair convertible – manufactured by Chevrolet for any car non-affictionados.
With the passing of time, Bob eventually got 3 good looking chicks in the back seat of his car to wave to all 39 parade viewers.
Pastries were made and sold for every event. With parade donations plus matching city funds, Scripps today boasts a splendid library, good for more than reading. At the opposite end of its Computer lab are huge meeting rooms. One contains a commercial 8 burner gas stove sporting two ovens.
Each Thursday morning, more people than attended early Scripps holiday events, assemble in the meeting room to learn or practice culinary skills directed by San Diego City school district teacher Judith Ewing.
Judith, with 28 years of mastering the pan and spoon under her belt, is but one of several teachers to shepherd these cooking classes.
I had to wonder where this crowd comes from, and why they keep returning. I mean, how tough can it be to boil an egg?
It seems people drive good distances to get to cook here and they arrive for various reasons, some to learn that egg thing, some to polish meal-planning skills. Some, like Bob, attend to socialize as well as go home with additions to his supply of recipes knowing they’re not likely share a fancy souffle or Creme brulee with the Food Network’s Rachel Ray or Bobby Flay.
Attendees come from all walks of life, an airline stewardess, lots of at-home moms, a few retirees, a chef who has his own restaurant.
Each class morning, the teacher arrives with a 3 item menu, veggies, main dish, and dessert. When I was there, we sorted out grocery requirements, then some of us took off to shop.
Once necessities were onsite, we split into 4 groups, preparation, assembling, cookers and bakers. All necessary to compose a meal of salad, lentil soup, and coconut cookies. When cooking was completed, we shared the meal, each divvying up a pittance to pay for the groceries required to orchestrate it, around $3.00.
As Helen Bragg and Ellen Elgin worked diligently together, this week, it seemed like opportune time to find out how long they have been doing this.
Their response was, “A long time.”
Back to Bob Hitchcox, his training now approaches the 10 year mark. His reward for consistency, along with Floyd Kellerman and Kate Rigby, is learning time-saving kitchen tricks.
This event began when the small Scripps community, a dozen miles north of downtown San Diego, California, worked together diligently for several years to build their library.
Sitting next to some RSVP (Retired Service Volunteer Program) helpers, police neighborhood protectors, Bob laments, “Most come here principally to learn something about cooking they didn’t know before. It’s an extremely varied group.”
I guess so. To keep coming back year after year for a decade it dare not become boring. That’s what Scripps Ranch cookers know the rest of us have yet to discover, never let a learning event become dull.
Which has to be a #1 rule for a ten year cooking class. Bob has worked in the garment industry, been a theater director, written a successful play “Email Affair,” a good book “Love, Sex, and PSA.” Today, Bob the theater writer reviews for a number of publishers yet has time to wash his own pots and pans. What a guy!
And back to that opening question, why don’t many more communities have a regular cooking get-together? Well, I think many more should – it is a great experience.