Calder Hudson reviews his experience at The Fine Food & Dining Society’s Cooking with Leftovers class, which took place on the 9th of October.
Fine Food & Dining’s weekly cooking classes never have any problem booking to full capacity; this class was a perfect example of why that’s the case. Though I am relatively new on the scene, I found week 4’s Cooking with Leftovers class to be the most efficient and edifying of the Fine Food & Dining classes that I have attended.
As there’s typically nothing particularly fine about dining on leftover food, I was curious to see how this class would be managed—especially in regards to what recipes would be used. Thankfully, instead of presenting recipes based off of any particular ingredient, our instructors compiled a number of recipes that could be modified to suit a myriad of leftovers. This approach meant that the recipes relied not on a store-bought list, but on learning to be flexible with whatever is available and preferable. Our instructors stressed that many ingredients in each recipe could be tagged out for alternatives, as long as palette compatibility was kept in mind.
Committees, especially ones in charge of societies as large as Fine Food & Dining, are occasionally distanced from newer members, but this one doesn’t suffer from any such affliction. Daisy Zeijilon and Phoebe French (Fine Food’s President and Treasurer, respectively) led the class with auxiliary support from Stephanie Belenkov and Samantha Evans (the Events Officer and Publicity Officer). All four teachers were eager to share their passions for the society with the class, and this created a friendly dynamic throughout. Additionally, Pheobe and Daisy were able to work in impeccable tandem while cooking and teaching—the class’ pace never lulled, despite its two-hour length. Though Pheobe and Daisy were usually working on different recipes, each knew when and how to take over when the other needed time to chop vegetables or to put food in the oven.
It’s very difficult to try to choose a best dish of the night. Chicken and mushroom pie, banana bread, and frittata were but a portion of the highlights. One of the nicest things about the Fine Food and Dining classes is sampling the class’ labors at the end of the session; come closing time our instructors served up a smorgasbord of delicious rewards for our hard work. I’ve learned that I gravitate towards the ‘Dining’ side of Fine Food & Dining, and not a single dish went to waste after the eating efforts of the other students and myself. One great advantage of Fine Food’s classes for ‘Dining’-oriented members like myself is that you leave with a knowledge of not only how to cook dishes, but also a knowledge of how all those dishes taste; you have a clear motivation to put in the culinary work when you know the gastronomic reward.
It is customary to allude to both pros and cons when undertaking a review, though as I continue to write I am finding that process increasingly difficult. There’s very little that could have been improved in the class. One notable distinction between this class and the previous one (Gourmet Fast Food) was the decreased amount of prep work done by each student. The class reminder recommended bringing a cutting board and a knife, but there wasn’t much need for either. Although it is often both fun and useful to use a hands-on approach, it wasn’t particularly feasible in this case given the recipes. The prep work for banana bread and frittata, to use two examples, isn’t easily split between fifteen simultaneously working chefs. Still, Daisy and Pheobe managed to get the class involved by frequently calling on volunteers, and insured some hands-on time with a fish cake recipe (a la Darina Allen). Such focused, hands-on participation assured that everyone was involved, but kept the class on-track and organized.
The Fine Food & Dining Society has received numerous commendations during the past few years, including both the University of St Andrews’ Best Society Award and the University of St Andrews Town & Gown Award, and it doesn’t take much time in one of their classes to understand why. The skills required to lead a class of this size and type are laudable, and Fine Food & Dining operates at a near-professional level. The Cooking with Leftovers class was noteworthy for its creativity, its coordination, and its cordiality, but my experiences have proved these traits are a common ingredient in The Fine Food & Dining Society.
The Fine Food & Dining Society hosts cooking classes on a variety of themes most every Wednesday in the St Andrews Episcopal Church. They also host a myriad of other food-related events. See what they’ve got going on via Facebook or their website.
‘Leftovers’, Maria Sisci
All other photos, Calder Hudson