Cooking round the world brings cultural, culinary experience to seniors

ENCINITAS — For many seniors, their days of trotting the globe and tasting fares from different countries are a memory.

A new program offered through the city of Encinitas hopes to bring those memories a bit closer to the forefront.

Starting in November, Cooking Round the World, a program that marries international culture with cooking, will make its debut at the Encinitas Community Center.

Seniors will learn about a different country each class and cook a meal or a dish that is popular in that country.

The program is an offshoot of a popular program in the Bay Area that focuses on both seniors and children run by Mindy Myers, an entrepreneur whose 87-year-old mother lives in Seacrest Village.

Encinitas’ Cooking Round the World will be only for seniors for the time being, Myers said.

Her philosophy: make the different embraceable.

“Seniors get an opportunity to travel, in their minds and with their taste buds,” Myers said. “And it reminds us of the commonalities that we share around the world, as well as the differences.”

Myers believes the program is one of the most unique cooking courses because of its educational and cultural component.

“It is a chance for seniors to be stimulated and learn about countries around the world, using food as the, pun intended, entree for discovering the world,” Myers said. “The concept came about because there are a lot of seniors who are retired, but still want to be stimulated and challenged.”

The classes cater to two main groups: people who used to cook but don’t due to changes in circumstances and age, and those who used to travel but aren’t able to anymore.

“People really love the opportunity to get their hands into and physically go at it and cook an elaborate kind of meal,” Myers said. “And people who used to travel…it sparks memories for those people who had an active travel life, and reminds them of the wonderful days when they used to travel.”

Each class, which will be limited to 12 people, begins with a slide presentation of the country in which they will learn about the customs, culture and trends there, followed by a lively discussion about the country.

“The slides have a lot of the cultural highlights, marriage customs, family life and education, the food that people eat, street art, street food, more of those things as opposed to the historical highlights,” Myers said. “It really gives context for the food that we will be cooking at eating afterward.”

Then, Jeannie Albaladejo, a chef instructor who works with the Encinitas Union School District, will lead them in cooking a dish from the country. Albaladejo divides the class and teaches each half a different dish.

For example, the first class Nov. 12 will be “visiting” Korea, and the class will learn how to make Japchae, a stir-fried noodle with vegetable dish, and Gyran Bbang, muffins with egg and maple syrup, which is commonly sold by Korean street food vendors.

“I have seen how this class really adds to the lives of seniors,” Myers said.

Cost for the two-session course, which includes an apron, recipe handouts and the meals, is $53 for Encinitas residents and $56 for non-residents. The classes are taught in two monthly sessions with the exception of November and December, which only have one course each due to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Seniors interested in registering should visit encinitasparksandrec.com, click on “Register for Programs” then enter the course number (#5312).

If a senior has a food allergy beyond nuts, contact Director Mindy Myers at (510) 593-5285, before registering.

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