Soulful Stirrings

Bernardsville’s own  Meryl Streep delivers a delicious performance as Julia Child in Julie & Julia.Consummate queen of cuisine Julia Child once declared, “I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.”

Those words are divine inspiration for those among us who desperately seek to escape the quagmire of microwavable entrees and take-out chow. So, ladies, crack open those cookbooks, sharpen your paring knives, and take your turbotière for a test drive. If you’re adept in an apron, you can aspire to offer up restaurant-quality fare. And if the only thing you know how to cook is toast—well, it’s never too late.

As we learned in the newly released film, Julie & Julia (starring Bernardsville native Meryl Streep), anything is possible when you open your mind—and your refrigerator.

Whet Your Appetite With Cooking Classes
Whether you focus on cooking basics or more advanced techniques, just find an area that interests you and it will be amazingly easy to learn.  Head for the bookstore; go online and check out popular foodie sites like and; or start a neighborhood gourmet club.

If you’re really serious about becoming an amazing cook, sharpen up your skills (and your mandoline blades) and sign up for one or a series of classes.

Photos_com30461130Bernadette Armiento of Shining Life Nutrition in West Orange teaches privately and also instructs at the Kings Cooking Studios in Short Hills and Bedminster (, as well as the Adult School of Montclair and the South Orange/Maplewood Adult School.

She notes, “Mostly women, but more and more men, are interested in expressing themselves through cooking. Many people get stuck in a rut, cooking the same foods all the time. I try to inspire my students to be confident and enthusiastic when trying new ingredients and techniques that might seem intimidating, but are really very easy to manage.”

Cooking classes also can be found at Whole Foods Market (, and Classic Thyme Cooking School in Westfield ( where chef/owner David P. Martone offers classes in a Tuscan-style cottage environment.

Martone observes, “Our students realize the value in learning how to cook versus spending money in a restaurant for a one-time meal. Individuals as well as couples appreciate a fun and educational night out as they learn proper cookingand baking techniques. Best of all, we offer new skills that people can take home and carry forward as they cook for their families or entertain friends.”

Accomplish the Amazing in Your Apron
Chin up! This isn’t rocket science. Even if the last stove you stood over was an Easy Bake Oven, there are lots of reasons to improve your cooking skills.

1.    Eating in is less expensive than eating out—in fact, it’s often less than half the price. And all that money you’ll save on restaurant food and gratuities can be put to better use, i.e., that amazing pair of shoes you’ve been dreaming of.
2.    Cooking for yourself is liberating because you don’t have to get in the car and forage for food. It’s more fun to stay home and eat in your jammies!
3.    It’s healthier to prepare your own meals from fresh, natural ingredients. And it’s easier to limit salt, fat and sugar—and control your portion sizes.
4.    Making nutritious and delicious meals in your own home sets a good example, encourages sensible eating habits, and might even inspire your husband and children to join in the fun.
5.    After you master a recipe, you can prepare it in bulk, freeze half, and save a lot of time and effort.

Once your culinary skills soar to dazzling new heights, your ego will bask in rave reviews from all who relish your cuisine.  And that can be just as therapeutic as a new pair of those gorgeous Manolos.  Bon appetit!

What Julia Says:
^    “The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.”
^    “In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport.”
^    “Cooking is not a chore, it is a joy.  Dining is not a fuel stop, it is recreation.”
^    “Life itself is the proper binge.”

This Takes the Cake

64717495Don’t want to dirty your kitchen?  Take heart and check out this ingenious hybrid service offered by Maplewood-based DinnerSmith Meal Prep Studio (973-763-2333;

DinnerSmith shops for the food, assembles the recipes, and gathers the utensils for you to prepare a fresh meal to take home and pop in the oven. Since so much of the up-front work is already done, the prep time is short—so it’s a snap to visit the studio and, under proprietor Mary Meade Smith’s supervision, prepare up to a dozen family meals during a single two-hour session. And, of course, DinnerSmith handles the clean up. (Pretty nifty… You dirty someone else’s kitchen, but still reap the praise for putting a nice meal on your dinner table.)

Each DinnerSmith meal serves 4-6 people and comes with a vegetable and a starch side dish. And if you’re just too busy to pick up a pot, DinnerSmith’s Personal Chef Series will drop off lovingly prepared dishes like chicken marsala, steak merlot, and tilapia puttanesca on your doorstep.

“Business is brisk,” Smith says. “You wouldn’t believe how many locals eat our meals every night. It’s like TiVo for food—it will change your life forever because you don’t have to scour the stove, clean the fridge, or spend time shopping.” We agree that it’s an ingenious idea, but Ms. Child might have raised an eyebrow or two.—SB

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Author: Issue: Sep/Oct 2009