As the cinnamon-enhanced butternut squash caramelizes in the pan, instructor Jenna Hollander demonstrates proper sautéing techniques to the class.
Men and women of all ages sit and watch as she carefully demonstrates each step of the recipe.
But the class does not yet fully understand. They need to try it for themselves.
However, the limited space at The Garden Kitchen prevents attendees from making the recipes in class.
“A lot of people, along with myself, have signed up thinking we would be able to be more involved instead of standing around just watching,” says student Marlayna Tiller.
Soon the standing around and watching will end.
The Garden Kitchen, 2205 S. Fourth Ave., will install five fully-equipped kitchenettes in Spring 2017 to allow for much needed hand-on experience to its courses.
The kitchenettes will model a home-style kitchen and have the appliances necessary for cooking and cleaning. One of the stations will be wheelchair accessible. In addition to the stations, an island kitchenette will be installed for an instructor to teach in front of the class.
The kitchenettes will allow people to chop, mix, bake and wash dishes in the dishwasher for a full cooking experience. Once the instructor demonstrates the lesson from start to finish, student cooks will have a chance to turn to their kitchenette and repeat the process.
“A lot of the problem people have with getting starting cooking is a nervousness,” program coordinator Jacquine Stork says. “Being able to practice is going to make a huge difference for people being able to learn.”
The Garden Kitchen opened in 2011, offering both gardening and cooking classes for Tucsonans who want to learn how to eat healthy on a budget. One of the program’s initial goals was installing the kitchenettes as soon as the money was available. This past year, a Pima County development block grant was provided to fund the installations at an estimated cost of $140,000.
Program coordinator Cheralyn Schmidt often finds people don’t cook their own meals because they think healthy food is too expensive. Fewer than 20 percent of adults in Pima County get the recommended daily serving of fruits and vegetables, according to the Arizona Nutrition Network.
Another main goal of the installation is to bring families closer together while learning to cook and clean.
Jennifer Parlin, an assistant at the kitchen, says the project will teach people how to cook and eat healthier without spending a fortune. The program will also show people how to grow their own vegetables to use in their meals.
She hopes it will bring families closer together. “I grew up cooking with my grandmother all the time, making us form a closer relationship,” Parlin says. “I want to pass that experience onto families.”
The kitchenettes will be completed in the middle of 2017 and The Garden Kitchen will begin to offer classes daily.
“I feel our current participants will get more out of the program with kitchenettes being installed,” says Hollander. “I hope our program can continue to grow and reach more people.”