By Christina Commisso, METROLAND WEST MEDIA GROUP
A dinner for four featuring a meat, vegetable and carb for a whopping $10.
It’s a promise Eva Eaton makes to her students in hopes of swaying them away from their McMeals and introducing them to cheaper and healthier home cooked alternatives in her community cooking class.
The Flamborough resident, a self-proclaimed bargain hunter, grew up in Germany, where she learned the ins and outs of the kitchen from her grandmother. “If she wanted to have a steak, she couldn’t care less if it was on sale or not. But she wouldn’t waste a thing. After she died, I was 18 and I was on welfare and I ran out of money. I became a bargain shopper. I didn’t want to look at things I couldn’t buy.”
That mentality stuck. So when Eaton noticed her stepson, who’s on Ontario Works, spending most of the little money he had on fast food, it irked her – so she decided to do something about it. She set out to establish a community cooking class that teaches the very basics on a budget.
Beginning May 12, Eaton will embark on the sixth edition of her free, four-week cooking class. With the help of some start-up funding from the Rotary Club of Waterdown and volunteers from Bethel Christian Reformed Church, Eaton got her idea off the ground.
“People are so busy now, the really, really basic skill set isn’t being passed down from grandparents to parents to children,” said church volunteer and class facilitator Alicia Hutchings. “People generally don’t cook together anymore and there are some individuals in their early to mid 20s who’ve never had to put a meal together before.”
While the class was initially intended for young adults, Eaton’s been surprised with the students who’ve gone through her rigorous training. “We’ve had people in their late 30s and 40s, some who didn’t know how to use a knife.”
The course begins with a class on kitchen safety before tackling chicken, pork and fish. Eaton estimates the cost for most meals at around $2.50. During week two, students whip up chicken soup, chicken roulade, chicken-stuffed ravioli and chicken à la king while brewing chicken stock to use during pork week. The class is free and the chefs in training go home with the meals.
Helena Hearn heard about the class through a single-mom support group. “I used to cook for fun with my husband. After I had a child and became a stay-at-home mom, it became expected of me to cook,” she said.
Hearn began to resent her role as cook in the family and decided to stop cooking, a decision that continued after her marriage ended. “We ate packaged things which were a lot more expensive,” the mother of one said, estimating a meal for two would cost her about $20 from the grocery store hot table. “I ended up gaining a lot of weight because of all the packaged, frozen, processed stuff that for the most part is garbage.”
At 84 years old, Norman Patrickson decided it was time he gave his wife of more than 60 years a break in the kitchen, so he enrolled in the class. “Being a woman, she knows best, but she’s quite willing to say, ‘You carry on in the kitchen,’” said the Burlington resident, who plans to treat his wife to a home-cooked meal on their 61st anniversary this summer.
Eaton hopes to expand the community cooking school to Hamilton, where there’s a greater need for cooking on a budget.
The Community Cooking Class at Bethel Christian Reformed Church runs on Saturdays between 1 and 3 p.m. beginning May 12. For more information or to volunteer visit www.waterdownbethelcrc.com, phone 905-689-7796 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.