I’ve sat through a lot of cooking instruction in my lifetime, but never with a view of roller coasters and music shows from the windows. Until now, when I had the opportunity to sit through a couple of the new cooking classes at Silver Dollar City and its new Culinary & Crafts Center. All I can say is, this is not your mother’s home economics class!
For those near enough to go, or for those who want to live vicariously, here is the step-by-step of the experience.
First, you register. You can do this online, or upon arrival at the park. An additional fee applies ($10) and covers the cost of tasting the finished products and copies of the recipes that are demonstrated.
Once you have your class time established, I recommend you can go enjoy the rest of the park. However, I recommend heading back with plenty of time to sign in and get a front row seat. You can actually see well from almost any seat in the house, thanks to the dual flat screen TVs that focus in on the range, but there is a pesky beam that you don’t want to have to peer around.
You’ll have your choice of three tiered tables, plus nine seats at the counter and two tall tables – all in all, offering seating for 34 class participants. Upon arrival, you’ll be offered your choice of iced tea or water served from glass pitchers made by Park craftsmen.
The instruction itself is delivered by Debbie Dance Uhrig, who at various times may be accompanied by a guest cook. Debbie wears a face microphone so she can be easily heard from all corners of the room.
The recipes are carefully chosen from some Silver Dollar City favorites. For example, the Ginger Cookies were originally created at the Park by the Joe Carson family, which has had a number of family members working at the Park throughout the years. He provided the recipe years ago and now, Debbie say, “It makes the whole house smell good!”
Debbie is a cook who enjoys showing others how to keep it simple, and says class participants will see her work “warts and all.” She says, “I’ll probably make mistakes in the recipes – like today when I melted the butter instead of softening it. And I’m still getting used to working under the cameras.” Any gaffes just make the experience more homey and charming, and Debbie brings the class members along as she builds each component of the recipe. Her instruction includes the reasons why certain ingredients are used (“salt brings out the flavoring in baked goods” and “molasses is used as an old fashioned sweetener”).
She also takes questions from the audience (“Can I substitute margarine for the butter?” she is asked, and replies, “When we call for butter in a recipe, it does not mean margarine, because the water content in margarine can change the recipe significantly”), and gives tips on tools and short cuts (“use a scoop to shape your cookies, and did you know you can freeze the uncooked dough?”). She even breaks out in the occasional song, as when she offers a happy anniversary serenade to a young couple celebrating one year of marriage.
“People are looking for simplicity in the kitchen,” she says. “I give them that.” She also gives advice on mixers, use of parchment paper, convection ovens, vanilla bean, salted versus unsalted butter, making recipes with less sugar, quantities of Mexican vanilla, and baking bacon so that it comes out straight. In other words, throw out your questions – she’ll have an answer!
At the end of the lesson, after everyone has had a taste and a chance to ask a question, she ends the class saying, “Don’t be afraid to try. It’s been wonderful to have you in our home.”
It’s a cooking class like none you’ve seen – and you’ll want to see this if you are anywhere nearby. If not, hang on – this is a prototype and could well pop up at other attractions around the country. In the meantime, check out the related stories and recipes below and remember – keep it simple.