The Cookbook Confessions

Sienna Walker - Ecuador


June 15, 2012


Three. I have spent a total of three hours watching Food Network and I’m supposed to lead a cooking class? I’ll have it known that those three hours did, in fact, take place in the gym, without option, while working out. Now with it established that I am no Rachael Ray or Bobby Flay or Aunt Jemima, I can’t possibly answer the question as to how I talked myself into hosting a cooking class for my last fundraiser.

Well if I had to guess, I’d say it all started with a happenstance interaction with a family friend innocently asking what the cuisine was like in Ecuador. (To this day, I’m not sure whether it was before or after she noted the expansion of my waistline.) It was that simple question which fueled my fundraising train so to speak. Because suddenly it all made sense. I was going to show people in my community what and how we ate, share with them the things we talked about while we ate, and inspire them to make similar dishes and conversations at home through tasteful, traditional, and easy-to-follow recipes neatly partnered with opened ended questions. No, but really, I thought to myself, this could work.

Step One: Brainstorming

In the blink of an eye, I turned into a brainstorming fiend, to put it gently. My neighbors, doctors, and friends all became potential nucleuses for the golden ticket that would grant me access into the world’s pocketbook. I peppered them with expense and finance related questions; where did they spent their ‘fun money’? On average, how much ‘fun money’ were the accumulating monthly? Did they want a tax write-off? I was tactful, if I do say so myself. And after two weeks of invitation distribution and follow up, we filled attendance at all three Saturday sessions.

Step Two: Cooking

This was the hard part. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I couldn’t come up with a single recipe from memory nor a single recipe I had made or attempted to make within the past 6 months. I prepared a basic breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast for my host family on occasion but that hardly counts. So I put on my thinking cap and apron and went to town. I came up with La Cuasa, a mashed potato and chicken filled casserole, for the entree. For the side, we would make vegetable ceviche, less expensive than the typical seafood filled version; plus I’m allergic to all things shellfish. In addition, we would serve yuca tortillas, cheese empanadas, and coffee for the starters. We would finish off the class with the heavenly cake of tres leches. Who could resist the tempting donation after enjoying such a meal and exchanging in such a rich cultural experience? (We created quite an ambiance complete with music, dancing, and art all of Ecuadorian decent. Not to mention, we had wonderful local latin help.)

I’ll admit, I didn’t foresee the amount of chopping, mincing, and washing we could have to do. Remember that magic number three? Three hours worth of preparation the night before yet I learned how to slice onions a la julienne and how to sautee mushrooms in record time. It was worth every ounce of effort, even if our fridge did make your eyes water from all the onion every time you opened it.

Step Three: Collection and Recollection

And before we knew it, the guests were arriving. As the photos prove, we had a blast! I presented my capstone video, the recipes, gave a general overview of my experience and answered the inevitable questions that arose. The checks seemed far too practical and real world for the amount of fun we had! Surprise surprise…We ran over time, by three hours. Just kidding only by one. Needless to say, my cooking class gave William Sonoma a run for his money.

Sienna Walker