Sacramento Natural Food Co-op's new cooking classroom

Since it's opening in October, the new Sacramento Natural Food Co-op has been a busy hive of activity. So much so that they even extended their hours till 11 p.m. While the downstairs is abuzz, there's great things happening upstairs as well.

The second floor houses the Co-op's business offices but also has a wonderful new classroom. The room itself is probably at least four times the size of the old classroom. It houses a demonstration kitchen with all the latest appliances and plenty of counter space. There are a number of tables with wheels that can be moved around for events or set for class. Behind all this is more kitchen where additional grilling, cooking, and prep can done, as well as the washing of all the dishes.

Not all of the classes that are taught are cooking classes. There are also wellness seminars, gardening workshops, and special events. While learning how to make gnocchi is always popular, there are opportunities to take a class on nutrition or how to create a terrarium. 

I was offered the opportunity to check out one of the cooking classes at the new digs. I opted for Indian Fusion Cooking because it was being taught by my friend, Shankari Easwaran. Shankari and I had been members of a dinner group years ago but lost touch. I hadn't seen her in over five years and so I was excited to take one of her classes.

Not all classes are the same and so I cannot say how others are run. Shankari has four or five dishes and she has the class split into groups and each group preps a dish. Basically getting the mise en place ready with chopping vegetables and grinding spices. After each dish is prepped, the group gathers round as each is then cooked by one or two students and Shankari supervising.

Because this is a class on Indian cuisine, Shankari did take the time to discuss spices and preparation. Instead of using ground spices in jars, she encouraged us to get whole spices and grind them ourselves in a mortar and pestle. She demonstrated toasting the spices first to release the oils and essences and then how to grind them, explaining how long you can generally keep these spices in your kitchen.

Pilaf and paneer picata at the top, tacos left, chili right

Co-op staff were also on hand to fetch things, wash dishes, and generally assist with class. When dishes were all finished, they plated and served them to us. Wine and beer tastings were available and glasses were available for purchase.

I left with a full stomach, reconnection with old friends, and a packet of recipes. I also left with a new excitement about the wonderful classroom facility of the Co-op.

A list of current classes is located here.