Looking at the world from my small rural acres in the Blue Ridge.



Leni in the new kitchen 2012

So many folks today do not have a grandmother to turn to for cooking advice– or even an aunt or uncle with kitchen skills. Many of our mothers have worked full time jobs for most of the years since World War II – and were glad to have escaped the boredom of the kitchen. Even in rural parts of the country, farmers and farmer’s wives have come over the last 50 years to depend on the supermarket for quick and ready-made foods. In an odd cultural turn it seems that hands-on kitchen learning is having a resurgence at the very same time there are fewer people to pass on those very skills.

My skilled and creative husband built me a kitchen that is wonderful to cook in and especially fun to teach in. It has lots of soapstone counter space, deep cupboards and drawers for my various collections of cooking utensils, numerous shelves for my cookbooks and many windows that look out into our yard and garden with the barn peeking above the trees. This is the setting where you and I and our fellow students will play and learn cooking skills that your grandmother would have been proud to pass on to you!



Classes have a 6 student minimum / 10 maximum.

My classes are scheduled by request rather than set dates. Because I need a minimum number of students to set a date for a class I encourage friends or several couples or members of a group who are interested in a particular class to decide on one or two dates that work for them all and then contact me.  My teaching time is very flexible and most of the time your first choice for a class date will work for me as well although I would prefer not to teach on Sundays.  Kids as young as 12 (as long as they are willing participants and not dragged kicking and screaming) are welcome if accompanied by an adult.

Registration and payment:

Unless otherwise listed all classes are $65 per student.  In order to schedule a class I require a $30 deposit so I may set a firm class date and get supplies.  For all our convenience I prefer payment via PayPal but will accept checks or cash.

Class deposits are non-refundable.  If you cannot attend a class for which you have registered and paid a deposit, you must call or email me at least 48 hours prior to the class in order to receive a class credit (434-960-8439 / lenithecook@gmail.com).  You may send someone in your place if you cannot make it to class.

Directions: I live 16 miles west of Charlottesville, Virginia; and my postal address is Crozet but our house is 4 miles north of White Hall. Go figure!  Living in the country has so many wonderful features but it means that to my new students it can seem a real distance to drive! (For those of us who regularly make the trip to town it is usually a 25 min trip from Barrack’s Road Shopping Center – but we country folk tend to drive like bats out of hell!) LINK to PDF driving instructions.



Putting By #1: Hot Water Bath Canning: $65 per student

The students in this class have a hands-on canning experience whether they grow their own vegetables or buy local produce.  They explore the history of food preservation as part of the delightful resurgence of saving the bounty of the summer harvest in jars.  The students in this class will learn the basics of the boiling water bath method of canning tomatoes and peaches with applesauce later in the season when the peaches are over.  Students will leave class with full jars for their pantry.  Class 9 am-2 pm.

Putting By#2 Pressure Canning: $65 per student 

The students learn the use of the pressure canner, issues of safety, and recipes for the more complex foods that can be preserved by this method.  We will process green beans and sweet corn.  Large pressure canners became a tool of the prosperous farm kitchen as early as 1917.  But the pressure cooker, as we know it today, was perfected for home use in the late 1940s.  It allowed cooks to prepare meals quickly and when used as a canner to put up low-acid vegetables and meats in safety.  Class 9 am to 2 pm.

NOTE: Class #1 or previous experience with the boiling water bath technique is necessary to take Class #2

Flat Breads: $65 per student   

Students create – and eat – examples of some of the most ancient of breads created throughout human culinary history; pita and naan.  Some of these breads are baked and some are griddle-fried but all are simple and fun.  Unleavened and lightly yeasted breads make great additions to meals of soup or salads, summer or winter.  We will also create a fresh hummus to enjoy with our fresh breads. Students will take home samples of their baking and recipes to continue in that baking tradition.  Class 9 am to 4 pm.

Yeasted Breads: $65 per student  

Producing a beautiful sandwich loaf is the ambition of many a family cook and that is the student’s goal in this class.  Whether a simple loaf or one dotted with sprouted grain, a braided eggy Challah, or a French-style baguette students will mix, knead, form and bake a variety of loaves to take home along with recipes for more baking.  Class with be from 9 am – 4pm.

Mexican Tamales: $65 per student

Tamales are part of ancient Mexican cuisine.  Students will prepare both bean and chicken filled tamales and also the red sauce that goes so well with them.  We will make enough for each student to take home samples of hand-crafted tamales to share with family and friends.  The recipes for the fillings, red chili sauce, and the masa dough mixture will help the student recreate this wonderful menu at home.

The Aztecs, the Spanish and Us: Hand Made Chocolate Craft:$65 per student 

Our day will be spent exploring all things chocolate.  The students in this class start by making a basic chocolate paste using authentic New World ingredients and the same lava-stone tools as the Aztecs; the metate and the mano.  The Aztec rulers drank their chocolate dark and bitter but after 1530 the Spanish added sugar and spices creating a drink for the European aristocracy.  We will enjoy an Aztec-inspired mole sauced lunch.  Heading back to the metate we add European inspired spices and sugar to create that modern sweet essence we all love to drink and nibble.  Everyone takes home a sample of our class chocolate production.  Put together a group and contact me to schedule a date.

Historic Cooking from The Virginia House-wife: 1824 recipes for the modern cook

We will cook seasonal recipe/s while learning of the lives of the antebellum cooks (slave and free), the duties of mistresses of antebellum households, the technology of cookery in the early 19th century, ingredients of the era, and styles of presentation.

Southern Foodways: A Journey:

Long before the 1960s invention of the phrase ‘soul food’ black cooks were primary innovators of the Southern plantation culinary tradition; in this class we’ll make our own lye-hominy and cornbread, explore a variety of traditional greens, prepare candied yams, and cook a Southern-style chicken or pork dish.  Having cooked our lunch the students will leave with the recipes for those dishes to add to their repertory.

Dairy: making butter, ghee, yogurt, and soft fresh cheese.

Meat: buying and processing beef, pork, chicken.

Thinking Ahead: meal planning, efficient use of freezers, large batch cooking.

Kitchen Garden 101: 

This class examines garden planning, care, and harvesting through the seasons; parsley, sage rosemary and thyme.  Lettuces and spinach.  Sweet cherry tomatoes.  Sounds good, yes?  Create your own kitchen garden plans for the new season or seasons to come.  The class will cover the basics of kitchen garden planning, soil needs, cultivation, raised beds, and plant sources. By request in April, May, Oct 

Raising chickens for eggs and meat: from ordering ones first hatchery chickens to putting home raised dressed birds in the freezer.