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October 04. 2012 12:54AM

Taste of Home serves up crowd-pleasers


Culinary specialist Michael Barna creates a dish during the New Hampshire Union Leader's "Taste of Home" Cooking School at Pinkerton Academy's Stockbridge Theatre in Derry on Wednesday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
DERRY — Whether it was their first or 33rd time attending the Taste of Home Cooking School, Wednesday night's program held plenty of tasty surprises for cooks of all ages and abilities.

Grandmothers held their grandchildren by the hand alongside husbands and wives, friends and neighbors as they filed into the Stockbridge Theatre, where most of the auditorium's seats were filled with eager students.

For Hooksett resident Jo Ann Brady, attending the annual New Hampshire Union Leader-sponsored event has become a family tradition.

Her daughter, Laura Larkin, who sat alongside family friend Patti Jovin-Carey, said she's been coming to cooking school with her mom “probably since I was in the fifth grade.”

Brady clutched a faded “Homemakers' School” cookbook from 1979, the first year she attended.

“It's been a mother and daughter thing for us, forever,” she grinned. “But it's definitely changed over the years. I've seen a lot more men here lately.”

A 1991 winner of a Union Leader-sponsored recipe contest, Brady's spiced apple tofu ball recipe earned her a very special prize that year: an Old Man of the Mountain jacket signed by the late, legendary chef Julia Child.

“They're both gone, but not forgotten,” Brady said of the culinary icon and Granite State landmark.

Manchester residents Kim and Frank Carpentino jotted down notes as Taste of Home culinary expert Michael Barna and Master of Ceremonies Rob Dionne of Manchester's Majestic Theatre took to the stage.

This week's event was a first for the couple, who hoped to get some new ideas for the culinary arts classes Frank teaches for the Derry Adult Education program.

“He's the cook in our house and he's Italian, so he definitely cooks a lot of Italian food,” Kim said of her husband.

Barna, who is Taste of Home's newest culinary specialist and a native of New Jersey, has worked in restaurants, hotels and casinos all across the nation.

He regularly travels all over the country to demonstrate his talents at similar events.

Hannaford Supermarkets and The Common Man restaurants served as event sponsors.

For Manchester resident Ann Vaillancourt and her 17-year-old-daughter, Sarah, cooking is a way for the pair to enjoy some quality time together.

“We're both soup people, so this is our kind of weather,” Vaillancourt said.

Barbara Cotton said she'd attended a previous cooking school “around 20 years ago,” so when her Hooksett neighbor Shirley Stuart approached her with tickets, she didn't hesitate.

“I wouldn't miss it,” Cotton said.

As the evening progressed, the smells of chocolate chunk coffee cake, braised beef short ribs, sausage stuffed mushrooms, pulled pork tostadas and pineapple chicken salad wafted to the back row as audience members anxiously waited to hear which of them would get to take home some scrumptious leftovers.

Guests also were treated to goodie bags filled to the brim with coupons, samples and gift certificates.

They also qualified for door prizes that included Hannaford gift cards, Lia Sophia jewelry and a KitchenAid mixer.

aguilmet@newstote.com

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