There was a party going on in Columbus Saturday, a family pasta party. There was plenty of entertainment, what with mixing mounds of flour, eggs and olive oil by hand, chopping herbs like a TV chef, and the ultimate — running sheets of dough through the mixer’s pasta attachment to cut strands for spaghetti or fettuccine, or smooth, flat pasta for lasagna. Six participants in the Family Pasta Class at the Mississippi University for Women Culinary Arts Institute did it all from scratch. They prepared sauces, Italian salad, vinaigrette, bread with garlic cheese butter and gelato, too.
The class, and others scheduled for the academic year, are part of the CAI’s community outreach. A Culinary Certificate Program open to the public will allow individuals to master an array of cooking skills and earn a culinary certificate. More on that later.
A smile spread slowly across Sarah Irvin’s face Saturday as the 8-year-old Heritage Academy student from Lackey pushed her fingers into a mini-mountain of flour. Her assignment was to form a “well” in the center, one for the eggs the dough recipe called for. First with caution, then with growing confidence, she got the hang of mixing by hand, up to the palms in the gooey mixture. Her grandfather, Robert Irvin, was by her side, her partner in this lasagna-making quest. She calls him Big Daddy.
Similarly occupied at the commercial kitchen’s prep table were Lucy Willcutt, 9, with her grandmother, Janice Hollis of Columbus; and Jacey Haynes, 9, with her mother, Kelley Haynes of Columbus. All three school-age girls had previously attended The W’s Kids Culinary Camp, so had some experience to call upon. MUW’s Chef Mary Helen Hawkins led the family class, with assistance from 2014 CAI graduate Brooke Reese.
“Hands — they’re the best tools in the kitchen,” smiled Kelley Haynes, watching Jacey, a student at New Hope School, mix dough. The two enjoy cooking together at home.
“It’s important to her father, Steve, and I to get both of our kids in the kitchen, knowing where their food comes from,” said Kelley. She’s always wanted to learn how to make pasta, and saw this as the perfect opportunity. “And it’s girl time with my daughter, doing something we both enjoy,” she added.
When each team’s dough was mixed, formed into a ball and stored in a zip lock bag to “rest” for 20 minutes, there was the matter of cleaning up.
Chef Mary Helen explained, “Whenever you have dough on your hands, don’t go to the sink! You’ll become your plumber’s best friend.” Dough balls up and clogs pipes, she cautioned. Instead, the chef showed how to vigorously rub hands together over the trash to get rid of most of the dough. Throughout the class, Hawkins seamlessly guided participants through each step, all the way to a culminating luncheon, where everyone sampled spaghetti and meatballs, fettuccine Alfredo and lasagna, along with the salad, bread and dessert they had prepared.
Janice Hollis and granddaughter Lucy, a student at Columbus Christian Academy, prepared spaghetti and meatballs.
“Lucy was so proud she could make the whole thing pretty much by herself,” said Janice. Lucy’s favorite job may have been using chefs’ knives on herbs, rolling up basil leaves and practicing the rocking motion the pros use to chop.
Her grandmother appreciates MUW’s outreach to the community, the connection between the university and public. Whether it’s cooking classes, concerts or Life Enrichment Program courses, the interaction makes both the school and town stronger, said the W alumna.
Robert Irvin expects the pasta class to lead to more teamwork in the kitchen back home in Lackey, where he lives within a mile of his granddaughter, Sarah.
For Kelley Haynes, it was a “fabulous opportunity” to bond, to nurture the “joy of creating something for yourself and your family.”
On Sept. 12, MUW will begin teaching Culinary Certificate Program classes, open to the public. Offered on Saturdays, topics include Culinary Basics, Meats and Fish, Pastries and Desserts, Basics of Entertaining, Regional Cuisines, Chocolate and Candy and many more. Take one, or all of them — for personal growth or to prepare for the culinary profession. Let the cooking begin.
For more information, contact the Culinary Arts Institute at 662-241-7472.
FRESH PASTA DOUGH
Makes 1 pound
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
(Source: Chef Mary Helen Hawkins, MUW)
EASY VANILLA GELATO
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups half-and-half
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
Chocolate chips, optional
Various candies, optional
(Source: Chef Mary Helen Hawkins, MUW)
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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