Dickie’s Cooking School has been years in the making. I grew up in a big family with a mom at the head who insisted on home cooking. Sunday dinners were always roasts, accompanied with vegetables, biscuits, gravy and of course pie. My mom taught me how to roast, make stock, make pastry and use leftovers. She made her own bread, crescent rolls and even jumped on the fondue bus in the 70s along with everyone else. She also let me cook with her. She gave me pastry to make my own “pies”. She let me experiment and become familiar with a kitchen. Experimentation is key. Of course we want every recipe to be a slam dunk. It won’t. It’s about honing skills.
These skills have been invaluable to me. They gave me a base of confidence and experience to build on. As we continue to get busier and more stretched, it’s more and more natural to lean on prepared foods or take out. I do it too. But from a health and economic point of view, cooking for yourself is just so much better.
I really, really love eating and this has inspired me to regularly source new recipes and methods and try to replicate food I have tried. It led me to work as a freelance caterer and as an assistant to a vegetarian chef preparing packaged goods and cook butter tarts and muffins for local cafes in my neighborhood.
While I was cooking, I was also teaching. I taught ESL in Japan for a year, worked in language schools in Toronto and also taught Special Education for the TDSB. I incorporated cooking regularly when I taught Special Education. I think knowing how to cook for yourself is an essential life skill.
It’s also something you never master. There’s always something new to try: whether it be a food or a technique. The possibilities are endless. Tastes change. Interests change. And there are endless possibilities to combine, flavour, bake and spice. For these reasons, I find cooking endlessly creative and interesting. I have never missed a chance to ask a Nonna how she prepares her tomato sauce, her meatballs and her homemade pasta.
Each one of my classes starts with an opportunity to sample and compare: could be different breads, spices or olive oil. The goal is to get in the habit of tasting ingredients, compare texture and flavour and get to know what you really like to eat. Because, if you don’t like your own cooking, chances are you won’t eat it.
I really do want you to love your home cooking!