By Lisa Shrewsberry
Locals with a palate for home cooking enjoyed the aromas of pumpkin spice and everything nice as the official culinary kick-off to the holidays, the Taste of Home Cooking School, arrived at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center. Thursday evening, 450 attendees filed in from a full parking lot of people with a common passion — food, and new, easy ways to make it with pizzazz.
Sign-ups for the night’s gamut of giveaways as well as tastings began at 4:30, preludes to the main show led by Taste of Home culinary specialist Cheryl Cohen. Cohen brought the magazine’s newest and best reader creations to life on stage, beginning with dessert first, Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes.
Cohen introduced tips and product shortcuts like Dorot pre-portioned and flash-frozen herbs, to shorten preparation time for home chefs; ease was the common denominator for the show’s entire recipe line-up.
Best Seat in the House winner of a La-Z-Boy recliner Linda Dooley, of Beckley, thought she was only going from coach to first-class for the show’s duration. “You mean I get to take this home?” she asked, twice, before settling into her comfortable seat for the show. Her prize was sponsored by Grand Home Furnishings. Other notable winners included Annette Henderson of Harper, who took home a microwave sponsored by Sears of Crossroads Mall. Junie Williams of Beckley was the Grand Home Furnishings Grand Prize Winner of a dinette set.
Show sponsor Gutter Pro of WV was one of many product and service providers promoting their businesses to the group of food-enthusiasts, in addition to goodie bag sponsor Chick-fil-A, and vendors Dickey’s Barbecue and Sam’s Club. For those who didn’t walk away with prizes, they received more than their ticket’s worth of discounts, coupons and samples.
Many repeat “students” in the crowd at Taste of Home Cooking School admitted to coming for the food ideas, but just as many consider it an annual way to unwind with family members, best friends and loved ones.
Mom Betty Castle of Beckley, a Taste of Home Cooking School alum, convinced daughter Vicki Castle to join her for her first cooking show. “I always enjoy coming here. It’s a social thing,” stated Betty. Vicki agreed more for the time with her mom than anything, but the degree of doability to Taste of Home’s recipes appealed to her. “I usually like very simple recipes — like the microwave,” she said, laughing.
Friends since high school, Monica Britt of Crab Orchard and Melissa Boyce of Lester, decided to make it a scaled-down girls’ night out, with the potential for a trick or two to take back to the kitchen. “I’ll try something different for the holidays, but I will have to keep my traditional dishes, too,” Boyce stated.
Ann Neice of Bluefield is the holiday meal planner for her immediate and extended families. This was her first visit to the Beckley Taste of Home Cooking School, and she brought her niece Lauren Brown, who she predicted will one day take the helm in holiday preparations.
Women were the visible majority but a number of gentlemen added variety to the audience. Retired coal miner Roy Petry of Glen Daniel came with wife Ethel, whom he proclaims Best Chef in the House. “There’s no one favorite thing of mine that she cooks,” he said. Since his retirement, Ethel has allowed Roy more time in the kitchen and so the two decided to come together to the show. They made it a date night, following closely after their Oct. 28 anniversary of 46 years. “I love food and I love to eat,” he said, adding, “and she can cook anything.” Consider theirs a real-life recipe for success.