OAKHURST—Winter weather in the Sierra Nevada foothills begs for comfort, good food and great friends. A collaboration between the Sierra Senior Center in Oakhurst and Bruce and Lori Howard, also of Oakhurst, brings those elements together.
On a monthly basis, Bruce and Lori present seminars entitled “Cooking with Friends.” The next in the series takes place on Friday, February 23, 2024, at the Sierra Senior Center. To accommodate those not as comfortable driving at night, especially in winter, the event time is 2 pm to 4 pm.
Cooler temperatures call out for soup, so the topic for February is Homemade Soups. Bruce and Lori couple the soups with Rustic Bread Making, taught by special guest Jerry Rehard, the Baker Man.
Masters of Preparation and Presentation
Masters at the art of graceful preparation and presentation, Bruce and Lori honed their skills during their ownership of Yosemite Sierra View Bed & Breakfast in Oakhurst. During ten years there, they served elegant breakfasts and occasional dinners to guests from around the world.
World travelers, Bruce and Lori have taken cooking classes aboard ship and on land. In Italy they learned the art of making pasta by hand—the subject of next month’s Cooking with Friends. (According to Lori, you don’t have to invest in a fancy, expensive pasta machine to make delectable pastas.) As far as structured classes, the Howards have taken four in Italy, one in Portugal, some on cruise ships. Lori has also studied Chinese, Japanese and French cooking, with one whole semester dedicated to “How to make the Perfect Béchamel.”
While they no longer possess the majestic Sierra Nevada view, they still have the cooking skills and enjoy sharing them. Perhaps even more, they love presenting the cooking classes to augment the amazing contacts they made with visitors from all over the world.
Cooking as a Way to Communicate
Lori says cooking is a way to communicate without words. “I used to work with foreign students (about 600 per year). In 1991 I found myself in 15 different countries living in homestay situations and finding food and cooking as common denominators. Cooking does not require verbal communication, it just requires a presence. There is insight and a sense of closeness when sharing a ‘personal’ experience with someone. Stories can be told without words, and new tastes and appreciations can be built through cooking.”
A Variety of Soups
The Howards plan to present information on a variety of soups which they describe as the following three main types: Brothy, Chunky and Pureed. They also hope to offer a contest among participants to determine the best refrigerator soup using ingredients provided. Lori defines a refrigerator soup as what you find in the refrigerator at the end of the week that still has shelf-life in it, changes its original purpose and becomes “renewed” in an awesome new variety!
Brothy soups are like a consommé or egg drop soup. These soups are “clean,” where restraint is the essential ingredient. Use good quality water and limited ingredients to be fished out when their flavor has infused into a broth.
Chunky soups develops flavors, softens vegetables, reduces liquids and thickens with starches. Most of Lori’s “refrigerator soups” turn into chunky soups. Some generally-known chunky soups are black bean soup, clam chowder or minestrone.
Pureed soups (such as creamy tomato, salmon bisque or creamy potato) are simple yet refined. These soups start with a base of onions, add a few additional ingredients and enough liquid to cover and cook. Immersion blenders become “your new best friend” with this type of soup-making. Blend, taste and adjust seasonings, and you have a smooth, silky refined treat!
The class fee of $25 per person includes all ingredients. Senior Center members pay $20 per person. Lori encourages participants to bring storage containers to take home “leftovers” since dinner isn’t usually that early—even for seniors. Even though the class is held at the senior center, you don’t have to be a senior to attend. Everyone is welcome.
Bruce and Lori limit class size to a maximum of 12 participants. This allows for personal attention and sufficient space in the senior center kitchen. Preregistration is a must to ensure sufficient supplies for the event. To register or for further information about this or future Cooking with Friends classes, call Bruce at 559-683-7650.
Cooking with Friends is only one of many special activities offered at the Sierra Senior Center, located at 49111 Cinder Lane in Oakhurst. For further information about Sierra Senior Center and the goings-on there, call them at 559-658-2200 or sign up for the center’s monthly newsletter. To become a member you “only” have to be 50 years old, but you don’t have to become a member to participate in many of the activities offered.
Photos courtesy of Bruce and Lori Howard.