Cariboo families had the chance to discuss the age-old question ‘what’s for supper?’ this month as part of the Cariboo Cookbook Club: 100 Mile House.
The online program, run through Facebook by the Cariboo Chilcotin Partners for Literacy (CCPL), invited families throughout 100 Mile House and the South Cariboo to have some fun trying recipes from chef Michael Smith’s cookbook Family Meals. The group was organized and run by Kimberly Vance-Lundsbye, the CCPL’s immigrant settlement services and family literacy worker. The program was funded by the Community Foundations of Canada by the federal COVID response – Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF), is intended to create a program that would promote community connection during COVID-19.
“I had this idea that cooking was something we’re already doing at home and I thought of a way of doing it kind of collectively but apart,” Vance-Lundsbye said. “So through the Facebook group, Cariboo Cookbook Club, what we do is every week I put forward a couple of ideas and recipes from the book – I bought 30 copies of it – and people can try ones I’m doing that week or other ones throughout the group.”
Over the course of November, Vance-Lundsbye said the group of about 40 families, collectively made 54 of the 100 recipes in the book, sharing pictures of the process, the end product and their reviews with one another as they went. The group is very much geared towards cooking as a family and Vance-Lundsbye said she encouraged parents to involve children of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers, in the kitchen. This allowed them to not only learn new skills, she said, but also try new foods.
The group had suggested Chef Smith, who is not only Canadian but uses recipes with common ingredients that most Cariboo households already have in their pantries, Vance-Lundsbye said.
“His recipes are just different enough to be interesting but also familiar enough to not be totally strange for family cooking,” Vance-Lundsbye said. “He’s all about cooking good food that is also healthy and also affordable. I think that’s really important right now.”
Tanya Parchomchuk and her son Reid were one of the families who took park in the Cariboo Cookbook Club. Parchomchuk said Reid has been interested in helping her cook for a while now and this club offered them the perfect opportunity to make that happen.
“I enjoyed the time together,” Parchomchuk said, while Reid agreed and said he also liked cooking with his mom.
“There wasn’t much of a challenge at all, it was actually pretty easy,” Reid said. “Cutting prosciutto though was pretty hard.”
Their favourite recipe was the pizza salad which included homemade croutons, crispy prosciutto, cherry tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, a little bit of oil and mozzarella balls. Parchomchuk said their family really liked it, as it was a variation on the type of salad she usually makes for them.
Parchomchuk said Reid loves being in the kitchen with her, something she really appreciates. The club also took some pressure off her in November when it came to making dinner each night as she had a list of recipes to try and an enthusiastic helper on hand.
“It’s a great way to encourage family time while developing skills with the kids,” Parchomchuk said.
Getting the chance to connect with people while cooking the same recipes has been a bright spot for Vance-Lundsbye during November and has given her and the members something positive to focus on. Vance-Lundsbye said people have also been growing tired of “intense virtual experiences” due to the pandemic, which is why she chose to run her program through social media and give people a week to go through the recipes on their own. This allowed people to participate at their own comfort level and keep it light-hearted and fun.
Vance-Lundsbye said she loved hearing about and seeing everyone’s experiences cooking with their children and how they changed the recipes to suit their family. She intends to organize another Cookbook Club in March with another one of Chef Smith’s books. She’s hoping to see some new faces and interest from the community as she feels there’s not a limit to how many people can join the group, just on how many books she can buy and give away.
“So long as they live in the Cariboo, enjoy cooking and want to be a part of it they’re welcome to join,” Vance-Lundsbye said. “I’m so happy with how it turned out because you never know what to expect when you start a new program. You don’t know if people will participate or if it will work like you imagined. This group has been really a group that runs itself, the participants run this group as much as I do.”