Bristol spices up summer meals with cooking classes

BRISTOL — The Bristol Recreation Department will offer a series of fun cooking and nutrition classes for members of the community this summer, some designed for children and others for adults.
“We are constantly trying to poll the community to find what they are looking for,” said recreation director Darla Senecal, noting that the recreation department distributes surveys at the March town meeting and regularly solicits suggestions on its website and Facebook page.
“This program is a response to that feedback,” she said. “People want cooking and nutrition classes, and Bristol Rec tries to encourage lifetime fitness — preparing good, healthy food is a life skill.”
Teaching the courses will be Christa Gowen, the food services director at Beeman Elementary School in New Haven. Aside from running that school’s food services program, Gowen has experience teaching cooking classes with Beeman students, and classes aimed at adults through the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union Food Co-op.
“She has an incredible energy, a passion for food and a way with kids,” Senecal said of Gowen.
A class for adults called “Spice It Up!” is an introduction to blending spices and ramping up the flavor of favorite dishes in new ways. “Cooking for Two” is an exploration of favorite family recipes that discusses proper serving sizes and how to scale down recipes. “What do I do with that?!” introduces would-be chefs fun ways to incorporate unusual vegetables into recipes. The final class for adults, “Homemade Pasta,” teaches participants how to make their own egg noodles and tortellini from scratch.
Gowen will also run a daytime kids’ culinary camp in the Bristol Federated Church on North Street. The church has donated the space in support of the project.
The children’s classes will teach practical skills that Gowen hopes will empower them to value cooking — and maybe even take some pressure off the adults in their lives in the process.
“There’s no reason a 10-year-old can’t make themselves a grilled cheese sandwich,” Gowen laughed. “They should know how to do that.”
The Recreation Department is offering scholarships and financial assistance for anyone interested. Priority goes to Bristol residents, and to people from the Five Town Area. There are also payment plans, so no one who is interested need be deterred by financial concerns, Senecal said.
“We always try to make things as accessible as possible,” she said.
Gowen and Senecal both hope that the classes will make people of all ages more at home in the kitchen, and more confident about producing healthy, home-cooked meals for themselves and their families.
“I hope everyone will walk away excited,” Gowen said. “I hope they walk out of class and into their own kitchens. It’s empowering to be able to cook by yourself, it can be a fun, creative outlet and a great way to feed yourself and your family.”
The adult courses begin next week, and will be held each Monday evening in July.Those interested in signing up for courses should contact the Bristol Recreation Department at 453-5885. Spaces are still available in most classes. Places in the kids’ culinary camp are also available; for schedule and registration, contact the Rec Department.

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