CINCINNATI – LaTasha Hambrick signed up for a cooking class with her younger daughter in 2018 so they could spend more time together before the teen went to college.
In the end, Hambrick had a recipe for building closer relationships with their three children.
“We learned how to prepare a table and how – after we are done with dinner – to sit together and talk as a family,” said Hambrick. “I learned a lot about my children. You can come to me and talk to me about anything how I feel now. It’s like they’re not shy – just because we sit down and have basic conversations. “
Courtesy LaTasha Hambrick
LaTasha Hambrick, left, and her daughter, seated, listen to instructions during a 2018 family cooking class.
Emphasizing the importance of family meals is an important part of Cooking for the Family, a St. Seraph Francis Ministries program that also focuses on preparing healthy, affordable meals.
“The idea is that we provide people with food that they may never have tried before. We want to teach them techniques that they may not yet know. And we’re doing all of this to increase your comfort with the idea of cooking at home, ”said LaToya Bridgeman, Program Director of Cooking for the Family.
“If you are comfortable enough to cook these meals at home, you may spend less time in the driveways, as many of us are used to, and cook these meals at home for your family,” said Bridgeman. “This increases the possibility of eating nutritious meals. And that gives you time with your family to create that bond throughout the cooking process. “
Cooking for the Family is now ready to resume in-person lessons that have been suspended since the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020. Classes are scheduled for Saturday morning at the St. Anthony Center in Over-the-Rhine from August 28th and Tuesday evenings from August 31st.
Courtesy St. Francis Seraph Ministries
Each class is two and a half hours, Bridgeman said, and the skills and recipes build on each other throughout the five-week program. Students who attend at least four of the five classes are considered graduates and receive a gift that includes a cast iron pan, chef’s knife, cutting board, and knife sharpener. The total fee for the program is $ 10 per student, and sponsors are available to cover these costs for participants who cannot afford it.
“It took a long time to restart,” said Bridgeman of the program. “We’re so excited and it seems like the community is excited too.”
Cooking for the Family was launched in 2016 and more than 600 students have completed the program to date, said Jamie Stoneham, founder and former director of the program.
Stoneham developed the curriculum to teach participants how to use fresh foods and ingredients that they can grow in their own gardens. Community groups and partners began supporting the program after Stoneham conducted surveys to show how much it benefited attendees, she said.
“The most important question we got after each class was, ‘When is the next one?'” Says Stoneham, owner of FarmChef, a company that teaches the passion for growing and cooking the food that the body needs nourish.
Stoneham said she hoped to develop a curriculum for a second class that builds on the first.
“It just makes me so happy,” she says. “The program and the people who take it are really sticking to what they have learned. And it’s exciting because I learned so much from them and we were able to build this community. “
Before the coronavirus pandemic, each class ended with students sitting down to have a meal together.
Unfortunately, according to Bridgeman, this will not be possible for the upcoming sessions. Instead, participants take their finished meals home with the ingredients so that they can prepare the meals again.
The program is being modified to ensure student safety. The Cooking for the Family teaching kitchen at the St. Anthony Center has plenty of room for students to maintain social distance, she said, and everyone is required to wear masks throughout the program.
“We are taking as many precautions as possible to ensure our safety,” said Bridgeman, adding that the St. Anthony Center also has a new air filtration system.
If there is a point where the class cannot be held in person, the program staff will find the best way to continue.
Lucy May | WCPO
Cooking for the family graduation gifts.
“We’re trying to teach students eight different cooking techniques,” said Bridgeman. “So in this course you will learn everything from sautéing to braising. We teach them basic knife techniques. We teach them how to store food properly. We’re trying to get some safety and hygiene information there too. “
From liver and onions to leafy vegetables
Hambrick said the program changed the way she and her family eat.
“The meals we had before were like real heavy meals, like liver and onions. Even if I still love it. But liver and onions and potatoes, ”she said. “I made a pot of greens for hours when I didn’t have to. Sometimes fast food, more than I eat now. Back then there was a lot of fast food. “
Courtesy LaTasha Hambrick
LaTasha Hambrick, far right, with her two daughters and her son in an undated family photo.
After cooking for the family, Hambrick’s meals include lots of salads and leafy greens. She even has her own garden, she says, and her 9-year-old son likes to pick fresh cucumbers and eat them as a snack.
Hambrick enjoyed the program so much that she became a Cooking for the Family volunteer and later a cooking teacher. That was in addition to her full-time job as a community health worker at Cradle Cincinnati, where she works with mothers to reduce infant mortality and extreme premature births.
Hambrick said she recommends Cooking for the Family to anyone vaccinated against COVID-19 who wants to learn new skills and meet new people.
“This course offers a lot,” she says. “The knife skills, learning different ingredients, learning how to prepare those ingredients, how to be a family.”
Those lessons continue to pay off for Hambrick and her family, she said, even though her daughters are both now in college and she and her son are alone for dinner most evenings.
“He says, ‘Can I sit down in front of the TV and eat?'” Hambrick said of her son. “And I say, ‘No. Let’s sit together. Let’s not break it. ‘”
Courtesy LaTasha Hambrick
LaTasha Hambrick, second from right, with her son and daughters.
Places are available in the family cooking classes that start in August. For more information, contact the St. Francis Seraph Ministries Cooking for the Family team at (513) 516-6113 for more information.
Lucy May writes about the people, places and topics that make up our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State so great and to highlight topics that we need to address. To reach Lucy, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.