Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 24, 2013

SALISBURY — There’s an idea out there that Americans today just don’t have the time, the energy or the patience to cook.
About 650 people at the Taste of Home Cooking School, held Tuesday evening, beg to differ.
They packed the Event Center at Cornerstone Church to hear culinary expert Michelle Roberts and her team offer recipes for all occasions.
The annual event, sponsored by the Salisbury Post, also featured food and kitchenware vendors, free gifts for participants and door prizes – some of them edible.
And some that called for a bit of participation.
“If your name is called, you have to jump up out of your seat and yell, ‘I love food!’” Roberts told the audience.
Along with recipes for raspberry barbecue sauce, and chicken paillard with cherry sauce and parsley rice, attendees got helpful tips and shortcuts.
They learned how to chop parsley and other herbs easily to a certain consistency.
They watched as Roberts prepared a creamy jalapeño soup with Bud Light Lime beer, as well as other foods that are good to give as gifts.
Taste of Home’s recipes are meant to be relatively quick and easy to prepare.
That was good news to Alyssa Moore, of China Grove.
“My family comes almost every year,” she said, “but this is my first one.”
“I don’t cook a whole lot,” Moore said. She’s mom to six-month-old Clarissa, who came with her to the show.
Still, Alyssa said, she knows the beauty and importance of home cooking.
“We have a big family,” she said, “Food is one of those things that, because we are Southern, it does bring us together.”
The show was a good way to learn some new ideas, as well as some shortcuts to help make cooking easier.
For instance, Roberts said, in making the soup recipe one could strain and purée the vegetables, but added, “That is entirely too much work.”
She picked up an immersion blender — a handheld, motorized blending blade — and puréed the vegetables in the pot.
“I use mine for everything!” Roberts said.
Throughout the audience, cooks of all stripes took notes and whispered about the recipes.
“I like all the tips that you learn and the tricks that she shows,” said Amber Hinson, of Rockwell.
She said she was looking forward to trying the recipe for stuffed baby red potatoes. “I’m a potato person!” Hinson said.
The recipes included entrees, side dishes and desserts, as well.
Robin Grimmett, of Mooresville, first came to the Taste of Home Cooking School last year, with her mother.
This year, she came back with her cousin, Chrissy Alexander, of Kannapolis.
“And it’s a lot of fun,” Grimmett said. “I’m going to give my fiancé recipes.”
Alexander said she, herself, cooks at least four times a week.
“I think a lot of it is people don’t have time anymore,” Alexander said. “They’re always going, and they just pick something up (to eat).”
Among the vendors, many don’t agree with the idea that good cooking takes too much time.
Stacey Prater, of Faith, is a consultant who sells Pampered Chef cookware and kitchen goods.
She said that events such as Tuesday’s cooking school are ways to get people involved, not just to sell products.
“There are still those who cook and see the value in having the around-the-table family time,” Prater said.
Ann O’Kelley, of China Grove, has not only a love of cooking, but what she called “a secret family recipe” for butter cookies.
She was at the event to promote her new business, AnnoKookies.
For four months, O’Kelley said, she’s been making and selling those cookies. She’s a nurse by trade.
“We just decided to see what we could do,” she said.
O’Kelley’s friend and former nursing colleague Lori Rice, of The Sweet Life of Concord, joined her at the booth, selling her shop’s gourmet cupcakes.
“I got out of the nursing field a year ago,” Rice said.
Aside from promoting their businesses, they gave attendees a glimpse of what a dedicated amateur cook can hope to accomplish.
And they, themselves, said events of this type are good places to mingle and learn advice.
“You always learn something, even if it’s one little snippet,” Rice said.
Home cooking is best, O’Kelley said, because “you know what’s in your food, you know where it comes from.”
“And it’s a lifelong skill,” Rice said.

Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.